A MATTER OF RATS : Tourist Guide Cum Transcript of a coffee table conversation

Posted by Reyaz-ul-haque on 8/03/2013 01:53:00 AM

अमिताभ कुमार की हाल में ही आई किताब A MATTER OF RATS के बारे में हाशिया पर शुभम श्री की यह टिप्पणी, जिसमें उनकी यह बात वाजिब है कि इस किताब को सैलानी के नज़रिए से लिखा गया है और यह पटना के बारे में भले ही हो, पटना की जीवनी तो नहीं है, क्योंकि पटना में जीवन ऐसे नहीं जीया  जाता. न ही यह किताब ऐसे इन्सान द्वारा लिखी गयी लगती है, जो खुद पटना में रहा हो. आखिर हम विदेशियों को पढ़ने के लिए किताबें कब तक लिखते रहेंगे? 

A MATTER OF RATS : Tourist Guide Cum Transcript of a coffee table conversation

Shubham Shree

You write some books because you feel like writing them. Some books are written because publishers demand something or market goes upside down. A matter of Rats is the brand new product of this season especially meant for poor souls tired of metropolitan chronicles. Indian writing in English somehow manages to love Indian metropolis. Writers fall in love with metro cities. There are number of Mumbai diaries, Delhi delights and Reminiscences of Kolkata penned by the privileged lot affording luxuries of signing amount beforehand. Till now, only lesser mortals like writers of Indian languages used to honor the bustling bazaars of Lucknow, streets of Bhopal or pavements of Patna. You might smell biasness against Indian writing in English but I’ve genuine reasons for that.

I belong to Patna, I read this book, I get disappointed. It’s not for me, not for those who live in Patna day and night with their dreams, hopes and despair. It’s a tourist guide for those who settled abroad, a memoir for those who left Patna in Shramjeevi. Now they come directly to the airport. It’s a transcript of nostalgic coffee table conversations about a city. It says: Look, this is Patna, it’s not what you think. It constructs a new identity. An identity which elites of Patna feel comfortable with. Its dirty, it stinks but its changing. Look! We had a glorious past. There is a hidden inferiority about the present, the belonging and a subtle superiority conferred by the language in which they express. It’s not a mere difference of languages, it’s about two different perceptions, two different sensibilities altogether. One Patna comes in Renu’s writings, the epic Rinjal-Dhanjal, another comes here. “Affection! Respect for half-naked, nameless toiling figures!” A typical Renu line translated into English. Then the writer used to spend hours gazing out of the window of St. Michaels’s High School (Patna’s best convent school).

Then how Amitava’s Patna is different from Renu’s, Dinkar’s or Nagarjuna’s Patna? The front cover itself unfolds the difference featuring a gloomy, filthy, dirty city full of rats. You open the first page with an embarrassed Upmanyu Chaterjee in quotes:

‘I was born in Patna. I can’t efface that from my history. It’s in my passport.’
 Yes, this books talks about Patna but it’s not a biography. Rather an autobiography which depicts a popular image of Patna by Someone who is no more a ‘pataniya’. One who came out of that stinking city which makes you feel ashamed. Rats, musahars, history, super-30 and malls. Is Patna all about newspaper reports, tv shows, You tube videos and memoirs of writers who remember this city as an earthly hell? You don’t need to write ‘affection’ if you have it.

Every city has her own rhythm, delights and sorrows. Patna is not different. There are rats but ratcages also. What comes in popular weekend features of Dainik Jagran-Hindustan is a city of handful. Toiling masses are shown better pictures of super-30 and experts claim acceptance of rat meat as Dalit liberalization. What else is left to be said the? How does it affect the Musahars of Naubatpur if babus of Patna start eating rat meat when they don’t get land and equal wages they are fighting for?

Again you blame me for being unjust but I can’t help it. This book is recklessly courageous but what hurts is not the writer being an outsider or insider, it’s the attitude which makes a difference. Why an English writer needs to add that Ravish Kumar is not good at English but his Hindi is impressive. Can’t he be appreciated without mentioning his English skills? What gives authority to a writer of similar or less caliber writing in English to one who writes in Indian languages is the very language which has its own class and power equations. Teju Cole is apt in saying this book sophisticated as being a non-fiction, this book very cleverly introduces fictious characters which is of no use.

English readers might be ignorant of Hindi Poet Alokdhanwa but Amitava should be asked why he gave fictious names Raghav and Leela to Alok and his wife Kranti Bhatt? 

A Matter of Rats is a book for gossipy journalists, rich and middle class pataniyas, successful people. Mostly those who left Patna. They have their cities to associate their bright present, patna is a nostalgia, past! They can remember it with passion but can’t go back. Patna is still waiting for someone to write about the grave sorrows buried inside this city. Someone like Renu who is truly affectionate, someone like Nagarjuna who doesn’t feel ashamed of this city, someone whose fierce criticism is accompanied by a warm heart to hold the hands. Patna, will it ever be a beloved city despite rats, filth and dirt?

A Matter of Rats : A ‘Theth Pataniya’ might ask “kahe, patna me bilaiya nahi rahti hai kya ji ki muskal nahi milta hai?

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“मुझे अक्सर गलत समझा गया है। इसमें कोई संदेह नहीं होना चाहिए कि मैं अपने देश को प्यार करता हूँ। लेकिन मैं इस देश के लोगों को यह भी साफ़ साफ़ बता देना चाहता हूँ कि मेरी एक और निष्ठा भी है जिस के लिए मैं प्रतिबद्ध हूँ। यह निष्ठा है अस्पृश्य समुदाय के प्रति जिसमे मैंने जन्म लिया है। ...जब कभी देश के हित और अस्पृश्यों के हित के बीच टकराव होगा तो मैं अस्पृश्यों के हित को तरजीह दूंगा। अगर कोई “आततायी बहुमत” देश के नाम पर बोलता है तो मैं उसका समर्थन नहीं करूँगा। मैं किसी पार्टी का समर्थन सिर्फ इसी लिए नहीं करूँगा कि वह पार्टी देश के नाम पर बोल रही है। ...सब मेरी भूमिका को समझ लें। मेरे अपने हित और देश के हित के साथ टकराव होगा तो मैं देश के हित को तरजीह दूंगा, लेकिन अगर देश के हित और दलित वर्गों के हित के साथ टकराव होगा तो मैं दलितों के हित को तरजीह दूंगा।”-बाबासाहेब आंबेडकर

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