Taslima Nasreen’s sequel to her banned work “Lajja” will be published in 2020 and talks about communal tensions in India and the deep scars they leave on individual lives.
“Shameless”, originally written over a decade ago, has never been published in Bengali, or any other language, until very recently, when a Hindi translation was published.
The sequel to Nasreen’s controversial and bestselling novel “Lajja” (Shame) was written during the time she lived in Kolkata before she had to leave the city forever.
“Lajja” dealt with the persecution of Hindus in Bangladesh after the demolition of the Babri Masjid. At the end of the novel, Suranjan Datta and his family relocated to Kolkata, hoping to find a safe haven.
“Shameless” takes forward the story of Suranjan and his family – his mother Kiranmoyee and his sister Maya – as they struggle to eke out a living in Kolkata, poor, rootless, and the victims of a violence so brutal that it has scarred them forever.
Their inner turmoil is reflected in their relationships. Kiranmoyee has lost her husband Sudhamoy, who committed suicide after they moved to Kolkata and were swindled out of all their money.
Suranjan and Maya have both broken off their marriages (to Hindu Bengalis) – Suranjan then starts seeing Zulekha, the survivor of a gang rape, while Maya is dating the upwardly mobile Sibohan (whose name she first thought was the Hindu Shovan).
Into their lives comes the real-life Nasreen, living in exile in Kolkata under police protection herself. She tries to understand these people as they try to adapt to their new world, and as she tries to adapt to hers.
The book, translated from Bengali by Arunava Sinha, will be published by HarperCollins India in January 2020.
Nasreen says the troubles of Suranjan and his family did not end with a change of location.
“For the patriarchy, misogyny, communal disharmony and religious intolerance that hinder humanity are just as prevalent in India as they were in Bangladesh. We cannot escape these traps we set for ourselves by fleeing from one country to another; we need real solutions to these real problems,” she says.
“Readers of ‘Lajja’ might have felt that the experience of religious persecution was something that happened only in Bangladesh; with ‘Shameless’ you will have to confront the fact that the horrors of communal tension and violence are just as prevalent in India as they are elsewhere in the subcontinent,” she adds.
Sinha is excited about his first translation of a full-length work of Nasreen, who had to leave Bangladesh after the publication of “Lajja” in the 1990s, and has never been able to return. Subsequently she has lived in Europe, and in Kolkata. She now lives in New Delhi.
“I remember vividly the impact that ‘Lajja’ (Shame) had, and I know that its hitherto unread sequel is something readers will be awaiting with great anticipation,” he says.
Udayan Mitra, publisher (literary) at HarperCollins, terms “Shameless” as a novel about what the politics of religion does to human beings and their relationships.
“It is a ruthless, uncompromising, heartbreaking tale of ordinary people’s lives in our times. This is a ‘Lajja’ set in Calcutta – it is a book that holds up a mirror that we might be horrified to look into, especially since we know that what we will see in the mirror is the truth,” he says.