Saat Samunder Paar by Kamlesh Chauhan
Sundari is uprooted from her Indian background, loses her lover, is married off to the uncle of her lover, much older than her and has been thrown into a whirlpool of quirks of fate. As such a quest for the lost love and compromises permeate the novel. Whether it is in India, America, England or Canada, the protagonist Sundari keeps frantically looking for true love and while she is doing this she goes through trials and tribulations, mental and physical tortures, frustrations and all numerous harrowing experiences through interaction with circumstances, characters, cultural ethos, wrestling with socially acquired do’s and don’ts. But the love she is looking for is illusive except the short period spent with Aakash. “Pyar ki bhook pyar se hi miti hai, baaton se nahin.” And then in the end of the novel she says to Anup, “Is saat samundar paar ki dharti ki bhul bhulayan mein kabhi khone na dena mere pyar ko.” The reader feels as if she has found her love but the insecurity and uncertainty continue. This love is a mirage and life is a maze of compromises. There is little likelihood of quenching of the thirst for love and peace. This gives the reader a feeling as if the novel were autobiographical as it often happens with most artists.
To describe the predicament of Sundari and most other characters I would like to quote from one of my poems, “The finger can’t reach the itch. Life is such a bloody bitch.” The hunger for love is overbearing, love is unrequited; it is a biological hunger; it haunts as physical vs. emotional dilemma. It is love in all its facets. If at one point a loveless marriage forces a lovelorn woman to seek it outside wedlock, at another point attempt is made to trade physical love for emotional love, the genuine love, which is difficult to define and can only be experienced if one has been so lucky. Sundari’s spirit like Tiresias haunts every woman character, so much so that even male characters are not exempt. The woman kind, irrespective of nationality hunger for this love. Kamlesh is boldly vocal for their cause and has hit the mark. One feels shaken at the predicament of the suffering victims.
Love, in various aspects finds expression. Indian hush hush attitude towards matters of sex and love, the question of faithfulness in the Indian context, man and woman relationship going round and round without a defining point, the question of sex before love in Indian and western context etc. all find expression in the novel. There is candid assertion for the freedom of expression of woman’s sexuality. There is juxtaposition of Indian and western perspectives of love but there is no denouement. Sometimes it appears as if diversions away from the main concern were only obstructing the narrator from continuing with the main concern, i.e. love. In this hide and seek game, all men and women suffer one way or the other.
The love of lucre urges the parents of daughters to marry the girls off to NRIs with the belief that the daughters were sure to find heaven in the west little knowing that in fact they were sending them to hell in most cases. They sacrifice the girls’ happiness, disrupt her studies and pack them off as hurriedly as they can. In India restrictions are put on their studies and work. But the fate of Sundari and her ilk awaits them and life keeps bobbing up and down as a rudderless boat does in the sea. In a few cases parents think that marrying their daughters to NRIs is a matter of status and all along the hapless girls are the victims whether they are uneducated like Sheila or educated like Sundari, Nisha or Chandra. The Author has acutely felt the pain of the helpless victims of the foreign culture and their social tensions forcing them to resort to smoking, drinking and using drugs, almost alien to Indian girls. In interpreting this scenario the reference point is always our Indian culture. Almost all Indians face the problem of inability to assimilate themselves into the western culture.
But Kamlesh Chauhan has pointed to the flaws in our culture too. Indian culture has some chronic ailments such as gossiping, backbiting, interfering into others’ affairs, finding fault in others’ daughters so on and so forth. Credulous women are exploited easily and suffer at the hands of the unscrupulous persons. Blood sucking evil pests like Randhawa too chase the Indian girls and their presence adds to their misery. But the introduction of Randhawa has been successfully used by the author to enhance the dramatic tension in the story. His presence creates suspense in the novel and adds to its readability. Then the sufferings of the westernized Indian Community, especially the women, are also highlighted by the author. Divorced wives, emotionally wrecked orphaned children, uprooted families, experiences with step fathers and mothers, all find expression in the story and leave a lasting impression on the readers. Here money seems to be all important and makes the mare go, though not always so. The consequences of this fragmented world naturally lead to communication gap between parents and their offspring.
I had covered about thirty pages of the novel when I was reminded of Prem Chand’s Karam Bhoomi and Rang Bhoomi. The influence of Prem Chand was very clear but then the language did not suit the narrative and the originality of the author’s style took over. It is certain that with the passage of time the language will further evolve. The novel has been an eye opener for me personally. I had never perceived of the life of the NRIs as it really is and it is frightening. I am sure the novel will make parents of sons and daughters think twice before they decide to send their children with rosy dreams. The hardships that wait in the west should not be lost sight of. Kamlesh has done a commendable job not only as a writer with a purpose but also as a teacher for thousands aspirants who intend to go abroad in the search of a life which is Utopian.
Prof. M. S. Verma
11 January, 10