Samaresh Majumdar—A rebel to look up to
When Dipaboli from Shatkahon was asked what kind of friends Bishu and Khokhon were to her, she answered "আমরা কখনো ভাবিনি কে ছেলে আর মেয়ে". Loosely translated, that means, "We have never thought of each other as girls or boys, just friends."
My teenage self found answers to so many excruciating societal questions that day, answers which I still keep close to my heart. It is after all the "civil" society that imposes a thousand gender norms that children could not care less about.
Born on March 10, 1942, the West Bengal-based author went on to write novels in which he always made his characters walk against the current. He pointed out the complicated theories societies uphold and how they strangle the innocence in people. At the same time, he also pushed his readers to see beyond the façade of a "civil" society.
Samaresh exposed us to strong female characters like Dipaboli but did not give us unrealistic expectations of happy endings because he knew how the society cringes at the face of a woman who aspires to live up to her potential. While it is extraordinary to see how much the author's thinking was ahead of his time—he was one of the very few who explored topics of gender equality and feminism—it is disappointing that women still have to navigate such conservative social norms today, when the author has neared the end of his life at age 79. Not only does this make Samaresh's characters still relevant today, but it also inspires readers to chase their dreams.
The author introduced many of us readers to communism and its complicacies when we could not totally grasp the ideas. He discussed the different groups within communism and their relationships with each other. When I read the Animesh trilogy in my early teens, I understood the intricate connection between different societal and political classes and their desires to differentiate and discriminate through Animesh's interaction with his comrades. For many of us, Samaresh shaped our thought process as teenagers and as adults and made us feel that we could be the agents of change in society, just like his characters in the trilogy were when they established a community kitchen so that everyone could eat.
He inspired us to think out of the box and bring justice with his portrayal of Sudip, Joyeeta, Kalyan and Anando. He walked us through the story with his protagonists bravely bringing down dishonest rich men and women. He assured us that it is perfectly fine to dream of a better world. With Garbhodharini, Samaresh nudged his readers to ponder if the society was really moving towards the better and if it was even ready to do so.
Leaving Dipaboli, Animesh, Madhabilata, Joyeeta, Sudip and so many others with readers, the writer has sailed his ship—perhaps towards a world of justice—on May 8.
Sharing the world at the same time as such a rebellious writer like Samaresh Majumdar has been an honour. Though the next generation will not have the same privilege, they will certainly find a corner in the bookshelf adorned with Samaresh's books, which are waiting quietly to change their readers' outlooks and show them a road with nothing but opportunities to bring change.
Oyessorzo Rahman Chowdhury is a humanitarian analyst.