Book Review Song Of The Soil | Hamro Patro

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Book Review:Song of the Soil

   Rushav Paneru - Oct 14 2022

Song of the Soil is set in bucolic Kalimpong, a small town in the Himalayan foothills of West Bengal, against the background of a revolution for the individual state of Gorkhaland within the Indian union. This book brings back the story of the Revolution for the separate state of Gorkhaland in the late 1980’s. The beating heart of her majesty Darjeeling a.k.a Queen of the hills carries the life of people who died for their land. Truly the Song of the Soil deserves to be sung and to be listened to.

A major earthquake has just rattled West Bengal. Landslides have swept down homes and blocked roads. Telephone lines are dead and there are frequent temblors. Amidst the chaos, a youthful man receives a phone call. His nonage friend Ripden is stressed to have been swept by a landslide. This is how the tale Song of the Soil begins with the death of Ripden, a vital character. Set in the hills of Kalimpong and Darjeeling, along the Teesta River, Song of the Soil, the lately released English restatement of Chuden Kabimo’s Nepali- language tale Fatsung, tells the story of the Gorkhaland Movement through individual gests of loss, fellowship, and family. The narrator, who remains unnamed throughout the tale, has not been home for many days. Yet, recollections of his childhood stick around — of him bunking school with buddies, of his father telling him off for doing so, but especially of the times he spent with Ripden, who he adored as a child.

As the narrator returns to his village and tries to come to terms with Ripden’s passing, he takes the anthology back in time to grade five when all that weighed to him was Ripden. And what Ripden needed further than anything was to find out where his father was. To seek the verity behind Ripden’s father’s loss, the two boys dash down from home to Lolay, where it's rumored that Ripden’s father’s buddies still live. In Lolay, the two boys meet Nasim who in turn tells the story of how he and Ripden’s father, who's called Norden, came to be a part of the Gorkhaland Movement. This movement is at the crux of this tale. For the ignorant, the Gorkhaland Movement dates back to 1907 and demands the creation of a separate ‘ Gorkhaland ’ state in India for ethical Nepalis abiding in Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kurseong and other hilly sections. Nepali- Indians in these hills have long been arguing that they earn a state of their own since their artistic identity is distinct from that of the mature Bengalis in West Bengal. The movement had long remained peaceful but it took a violent turn in the 1980s, under the banner of the Gorkha National Liberation Front, led by Subhash Ghising, performing in the bloodiest conflict ever witnessed in these antique hills. Estimates suggest further than 200 people lost their lives in 1986. The same time when this tale is set.

Song of the Soil, the freshly unleashed English translation of Chuden Kabimo’s Nepali- language novelette Fatsung, tells the tale of the Gorkhaland Movement through individual empires of loss, friendship, and family. Song of the Soil tells us how peace is the solution to everything. How love can change one’s life and how violence can take away someone you admire or love. Written nearly entirely in remembrance, Song of the Soil is a tale of friendship, identity, affection, and loss. Set during the heart of the Gorkhaland Movement, the novelette exhibits how revolutions are born in the brains of a few but set up on the backs of thousands. The novelette is the narrative of revolutionaries who believe in the reason, like Raju Sir and Chief, for whom the battle for identity and respect and a better life is genuinely real. But the novelette is also about other people, teenagers like Norden, Nasim, Surya, and Rachela, who glamorize the idea of a revolution and acquiescently get entangled in a swamp of chaos, politics, violence, and ambition — eventually losing everything.

The novelette also touches on how the Lepcha people, despite being endemic to the area, have historically been marginalized and are still differentiated against being ‘ beef- consuming illiterates ’, forced to eat individually from Bahuns and Chettris during conjoint gatherings. The Lepcha people’s craving for a conjoint identity is also illuminated in the environment of the movement, which fails to admit their matter-of-fact and artistic significance. Possibly by naming the novelette ‘ Fatsung ’, a Lepcha term which literally translates to ‘ song of the soil ’, Chuden Kabimo is illuminating the Lepcha people’s affinity with the hills of Kalimpong and their unfulfilled desire for respect as a people.

I recommend this book to readers who take books seriously, interpret and Critically analyze the book. The book is kind of explicit so it’s not age friendly for everyone. But, people over 12 or 11 can read this book. This book teaches us many things in Abstract. An abstract is something that is simple but, if you understand it you will discover a whole new world behind it. This is how this book is. You may not understand this book but if you read it carefully you will truly find a new meaning to life. Nevertheless, the novelette is an important bone. It tells the stories of people and neighborhoods who have long existed blackened, burdened, and cast elsewhere for the sake of the ‘superordinate good’. As I mentioned before; the Song of the soil truly deserves to be Sung and to be listened to.

Rushav Paneru
Grade: VII, ‘Pumori’
Book Review: Song of the Soil
Title: c)
Author: Chuden Kabimo
Translated by: Ajit Baral
Published Date: 2019 in Nepali as फात्सुङ (Translated and published in English on 2021)
Cover Design: Maithili Doshi Aphale
Cover Photograph: Laurentiu Morariu on Unsplash
Genre: Fiction

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