Jisme atmabishwas ki jitni kami hogi woh utna hi bada sahityakar hoga. Jisme atmabishwas jarurat se zyada jhalakta hai, jo zyada chatur aur hoshiyar vyakti hai weh apna sahitya nahi rach sakte.
This was Govind Mishra’s reply, when he was asked about the writing process. To him, lack of confidence does not signify the indecisive, vacillating, insecure self; rather it means acknowledging the other sides of the story, the multifacetedness of truth. Therefore, it was quite obvious that the word Rang in Kohre Mein Quaid Rang would get translated in plural.
Indeed, the novel talked about plurality. The complex spatio-temporal structure, the intersecting temporality and the juxtaposed narrative did not demand a space for an individual to be the structuring force of the novel. The whole narratorial space of Colours Caught in Mist does not have any single protagonist. Though it is a first person narrative, and the story revolved around the narrator, he could never become the central character of the whole novel. The novel, like a compilation of short stories, portrays multitude of lives and their interconnectedness. The narrator merely played the role of the artist who painted the series of lives the novel narrated.
In 1965, when Mishra started writing, he got attracted to the genre of short stories. He would pick up incidents from his life and shaped them into stories. But instead of narrating the mundane affairs of everyday life, he used to philosophise the ‘ordinary’, observe incidents from various perspectives and try to explore the intricate nature of human existence. Like his short stories, his novel also deals with‘universal values’ and the subjective nature of truth. It is always an ensemble of diverse characters depicting the central theme in myriad ways. Kohre Mein Quaid Rang is no exception.
Mishra said that he sometimes gets influenced by the writings of Jainendra Kumar. Jainendra Kumar is called the founder of psychological novels in post-Premchand Hindi literature. He put more emphasis on the psychological development of his characters in place of focusing on the exterior self. Likewise, in this novel, Mishra also tried to delve into the psyche of his characters rather than exploring the external forces that control human existence.
“In this novel, I don’t want to explore social and political conditions or analyse their causes. I want to tell life stories, the stories of small, insignificant people who lead their lives despite these conditions.” (Mishra, Colours Caught in Mist 99)
He tried to explore the interconnectedness of culture. By telling the story of the Aunt in the Ghat, Nana, Dada, Mehrajin, Rameshwar Bhai and so on, he addressed the extended familial space. He set up his story in past and present simultaneously so that the contrast between the unified household of Dada and Nana and the alienated family of Reva gets prominent. To him, time is never linear. ‘Past’ never fades away with the advent of ‘present’. Past is something to be re-analysed and re-visited again and again. That is why his novel turns meta-diegetic. The characters of the novel started discussing about the novel itself. The past events which were told in one novelistic form, were reviewed by another character from another novelistic space, set in another temporal location. This complex structure was created by Mishra to locate this narrative in the crossroad of various intersecting spatio- temporal locations.
River, being the near-perfect analogy of this complex model, plays the central motif in this novel. The book-cover designed by Chaitali Chatterjee, also, quite intelligently captured the essence of the novel by depicting river. The novel began with an analogy of river Narmada. Her bends and turns signified the multitude of paths taken by human, the complex nature of their being and the different shades of their characters. The whole plot of the novel was summarized in this analogy. The two main female characters were named after rivers too: one is Saraswati and the other one is Reva. Both of them were related to creation and creativity. In this novel, both the characters played the role of Muse in the narrator’s life. Like the river, all the characters depicted in this novel, are not fully developed. They are continuously in the process of making. The hues of their persona are not clearly visible. Reva, the ‘modern’, ‘independent’ friend of the narrator, who often contemplated the characters the novel portrayed, often argued that the characters are incomplete. To her, the novel could have been less crowded. Instead of portraying too many lives, the narrator could have told the story of his friend Saraswati and himself. The novel, while dealing with too many lives, actually lost its track.
But Mishra did not want to make all the characters of his novel fully developed and complete. As the name suggested, he did not want to use vibrant colours. The colours, being confined in mist, are pale, faded, intersecting and overlapping like a wash painting where they get smudged, cross their boundaries and mix up with other colours. Pratik Kanjilal, while translating Mishra, quite successfully captured this essence of multihued texture of the novel. He made his sentences short and broken, as if the incompleteness of the characters is reflected in the use of language, as if the narrator is not talking to his readers,
rather he is retrospecting to the past years and composing a monologue. Novel, according to Bakhtin, is an ever-changing genre. It is always incomplete since it cannot finish its journey. Hence, the characters of novels are constantly in flux, changing their paths and chronotopes. The world of the novel is an open-ended world. It is the world of prediction unlike epics where the world is full of prophecies. Kohre Mein Quaid Rang reiterates Bakhtin’s formulation.
-Review by Dr. Gourab Chatterjee
Authored by Govind Mishra
Translated from Hindi by Pratik Kanjilal
New Delhi 2014
(Dr. Gourab Chatterjee works as Assistant Professor (English), School of Languages, KIIT Deemed to be University, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India)