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No `Alvida' to old values

Sharat Kumar's Hindi novel, "Lal Kothi Alvida" is all about upholding the old values, says RANJANA NARAYAN.

Sharat Kumar.

SAMAR IS true to the values he has been brought up with. He resists the overt charms of Saroja, realising fully well she is trying to snare him into a relationship. After all, he could not betray the trust his cousin Virendra had in him by succumbing to his wife's charms. Samar, the protagonist of the Hindi novel, "Lal Kothi Alvida", is pragmatic and clever, but he never loses track of the values he has been taught to uphold.

Sharat Kumar's second Hindi novel "Lal Kothi Alvida" (Farewell Red House), tells the story of Samar's parents and the idealism and love that went into building the palatial house in Meerut. Samar's parents, Professor Samarendra Sinha and his wife Rukmini, are thrown into the vortex of the Independence movement - the daily meetings with members, the fervour of burning all foreign-made goods, sacrificing the good things of life for the sake of the motherland, and long months in jail. Samar loses his mother early and grows up with her memories. After the death of his father the problem of what to do with `Lal Kothi' begins to bother Samar. In the events leading to the selling off of the house, Samar sees the greed and duplicity of people around from close quarters.

The novel, in a way is autobiographical, says Sharat Kumar. His parents owned a house in Meerut. His mother died when he was five. After his father passed away the house had to be sold. "I have drawn on people I have seen while fleshing out several characters. I have tried to show how small town officials behave like rulers."

"In the 1930s there was a different spirit in the country. People were willing to give up material things for the sake of the Independence," says Sharat Kumar. "The relationship between Samar's parents is rich and fulfilling. In contrast, in the 1980s there is more affluence, there are more material goods available, but it is directionless. People are groping for the meaning of existence."

In the book, Saroja is the "product of her own circumstances". "She is a tough woman and determined to go to any lengths to get the house. Samar manages to checkmate her moves but without corrupting himself. He upholds the nobility of his character."

Sharat Kumar, who has to his credit the well-received book, "Mind Your Management", started writing the novel in English initially. "I called it `The Red Brick House' and wrote 15 pages. Then my friend Bhisham Sahani asked me to write one page in English and one in Hindi to see in which language I could work best. In Hindi I did not have to struggle to find the right words. When you grow up in a language, you have an emotional feel for the words." Well-known actor Parikshat Sahni, who is a friend of Sharat Kumar, is planning to make a television serial on "Lal Kothi Alvida".

Now, Sharat Kumar is working on a sequel to his first Hindi novel "Shikhar Aur Seemayen" (translated into Orange Moon in English). "I have written two chapters of the book, which is based in West Bengal in the 1960s," says the writer, who is an avid photographer too.


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