Tuesday, 26 October 2010

The Adorable Boy

This was published in the books page of the Sunday Supplement


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When I was in college, the most-talked about book was Prakash Sant’s Vanwas, or ‘exile’. I was staying in a hostel and was always homesick; and I didn’t want to read a book that would have proclaimed my state of mind loud and clear. It was a chance conversation with my roommate, four years later, that I developed an interest in Lampan or Lampu, the boy character (Sant himself), on whom the books — Vanwas, Pankha, (Fan) Sharada Sangeet and Zumbar (Chandelier) — were based.
A highly imaginative and sensitive child, Lampan lives with his maternal grandparents (Narayan Sant and poetess Indira Sant) in a small village near Maharashtra-Karnataka border. He’s a gifted musician: he can sing, compose and play all the musical instruments; but scores a duck in Maths and Geography. Lampu speaks Marathi with a distinct Kannada lilt. His favourite words are “Mad”, Tantotant and Kay mhantat na... tyatli gat. He “measures” his happiness and sadness in numeric terms, like “don hajar charshe chhappan”, or 2,456 times.
Lampu has the ability to become friends with children and adult alike: Mhapsekar Master and Jamkhandikar in Sharada Sangeet; Savkar (landlord) in Pankha; Baburao (Ajji and Ajoba’s Man Friday). The only exception is Sumi or Sumitra; Lampu is not sure about his feelings for his next-door neighbour. The emotional sea-sickness of the adolescence stage is brought out beautifully in the sequels. Sant later weds Sumi.
I loved the way relations and relationships are described in Sant’s works. The warm bickering between his grandparents speak of love and respect they have for each other. Lampan’s parents too are good friends; that knowledge unknowingly found its way in his thinking — married couple need to be friends first.
Sant was a master of portraying emotions in few short sentences. He describes Lampan’s separation from his parents and Mini, his younger sister, when they come to drop him at his grandparents’ house. After they leave, Lampan feels restless; his eyes shine with unshed tears. He feels he has been “exiled” and wants to hide in some corner of the house.
The situation is trying for both Lampan and his grandparents until the boy is taken to the room his mother lived in as a child; Lampan finds his mother’s old photographs, prizes and certificates that she had won as a student. They offer him solace: he feels ‘reunited’ with his mother; he belongs to this house.
Sant beautifully describes the emotions of his grandparents when their grandson comes to stay with them. Ajji and Ajoba are not sure how to deal with the boy. They try to reassure Lampan with their queries and kind words.
Lampan is also very fond of his father; he is left emotionally shattered with his father’s untimely death. Sant wanted to write a book on this incident exploring his feelings, but instead he wrote a heart-warming story, Sparsh, on his father.
What appeals to me the most is that Lampan and his friends understood and grasped so much of worldly life: death, suicide, passion, separation and fair-weather friends. The summations about the ‘adult affairs’ were made in crisp, staccato, one or two sentences and hit home the truth that not much can escape a child, even if they don’t know the whole truth.

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