Sudeep Chakravarti sets out to write a book on the left-wing armed movements in India. He’s called it Red Sun. Someone added ‘Travels through Naxalite Country’ which confuses you into expecting a bit of a travelogue. Its not an easy task the man set for himself. To paraphrase him “it is easier to report a fait-accompli than a work in progress”. Since the movement in India is work in progress, his book cannot help but be the same.
A lot of history lessons and quotes from maoist literature are mixed into reported conversations from various participants – other journalists, bureaucrats, policemen and leaders of the various MLM (Maoist-Leninist-Marxist) parties. The ‘voiceless’ participants of the movement themselves don’t find much place in the book for obvious reasons (their voicelessness?!) but for all that the book is a decent introduction for someone who is not acquainted with the movement.
Besides some of the basics of the movement, this book provides an insight into how a journalist works. Where his contacts come from, the extent of ‘off the record’ and what goes on in his head that never quite makes it to paper (or camera) .
The highlight of the book for me though were the few translations of poetry from the movement. I’d become naxalite too if I heard words like these:
'When in love, Do not become the moon. If you can, Come as the sun. I'll take its heat And light up the dark forest. Whe in love, Do not become a flower, If you can, Come as the thunder. I'll lift its sound And pass the message of battles to every corner. The moon, the river, the flowers, the stars, the birds - They can be watched at leisure Sometime later. But today In this darkness, The last battle is yet to be fought. What we need now is The fire in our hovel. -- Murari Mukhopadhyay
My cribs in P.S.
a) For a book from Penguin, the book is miserably edited. Basic spelling, grammar and factual errors make one doubt the authenticity of the rest of the story on occassion. (E.g. Mera Joota Hai Japani is iconic song from Mera Naam Joker).
b) The quality of paper is more worthy of rip-off Flora Fountain editions than a first edition hard-back for which you pay more than what some people that this book is about make in a month.