Sukanta Rout’s Novella “LULLABY” Reviewed By Pradipta Kumar Parida
Sukanta Rout’s Novella “LULLABY” Reviewed By Pradipta Kumar Parida
Sukanta Rout’s novella “Lullaby” is a perpetual mother–son–daughter-in-law conflict and echoes love, longing, fear, grief, guilty, and repentance of a beloved and bereaved son for his aggrieved and anguishing mother ill-treated by her daughter-in-law. Rout has exteriorized his repressed subconscious mind through this short novel realistically depicting suspenseful emotional family feud with vivid expressions of hatred, lie, and conspiracy hatched by a daughter-in-law to satisfy her hubris towards a mother-in-law to denigrate her and intending to make communicable and relevant to the society we living today with radical cultural destabilization and decadence in humane values.
Beautifully described in third person narrative, protagonist Chandan’s straw-thatched, mud-walled ancestral home, his mom splashing cow-dung water around the house to keep evil eyes away, Tulsi plants sitting on the squared alter in his courtyard, ancient massive banyan tree at the upper end of his village, Linu, Chandan’s wife, playing video games, talking on phone, or watching TV, and his grandfather’s recitation of lines from The Bhagwat Gita take us to cultural context of 1970–1980s of Odisha’s rural as well as urban experience of a remote village surrounded by hillocks and woods.
Lullaby portrays the conflict between the existing old order and freshly conceived new order and both trying to dominate over the other. The clash we see here a mother’s meaning and mission of life lies in the selfless sacrifice for others and in contrast, a daughter-in-law’s selfish and inclined behaviors for her own wellbeing and wellbeing of her daughter and husband. Readers can compare and contrast the unconditional love of a mother and selfish desire of a son and his wife to fulfil their family’s wishes living in a city amid luxury life and little time they have to spare a moment with mother even in her last days.
The daughter-in-law’s accusation against mother-in-law’s stealing necklace of her grand-daughter, Soma, here shows Linu’s wearing of educated mind. The forlorn relationship between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law in this modern days is the most critical relationship in any family system has been depicted realistically in this Lullaby. Son being right in the middle of the battle in between his wife and mother is definitely in a no-win situation and not taking sides and getting grief from both. Apart from these, the love and lost relations between grandmother and grand-daughter are portrayed exemplary in this novella.
Lullaby eagerly and authentically recounts a “suspenseful emotional family feud” where Chandan lives in a constant state of fear and disbelief. The sheer lie of Linu accusing mother stealing necklace torments him throughout creating an atmosphere of fear, distrust and disquiet what drives him to think always of mother’s silence and he pretends to live in the horror of that anxiety lifelong. Chandan won’t be able to read his mother’s mind whether she has pardoned Linu, herself not being the culprit drank the poison with her humility, or with her broad heart forgiven her for her sin. Despite being incriminated of ignominy and puzzlement, mother has read Chandan, his unbecoming behaviors, his remorseful frights, leaving behind her honor forefront that she is innocent and done nothing wrong as accused, and to save Chandan from shame, suspicion, and puzzlement, she has played becoming of a typical mother praying welfare of his son and his family; what else a mother wishes?
The readers will find solace and relate themselves to the descriptions of the exaggerated despair city, love making scene and fright of losing Linu by Chandan, robot like modern people practicing the principles of consumerism, conspiracy of being a loyal global consumer, rituals such as washing the clothes on one’s demise, the meeting of mother–son in fantasy—telepathy dream sequence, sacrifice of Jaga bhai, unflinching love between Minu and her Grandma, and above all the nostalgic feeling of Chandan wishing he were a child again, hiding in the folds of his mother’s sari, and mother buying him a candy from the peddler reminding the golden days of childhood longing for the lullaby for ever
Fall asleep, my beloved solid gold son, fall asleep,
Darkness closing in, fall asleep!
I’ll keep you hidden in the folds of my sari!
Where you’ve nothing to worry!
To my mind, Rout has expressed his inner helplessness and psychology of an aggrieved son, sandwiched between mother and wife, losing his beloved mother due to sheer negligence and blind eye toward plight of a mother. This regret has been reflected through this short novel: how he is so engrossed in his urban profession and busy in day to day mundane materialistic selfish life fulfilling one desire after other like a machine devoid of time left to think for others’ welfare. Rout pierces into inner space of realism of a modern human being choosing a space and time in between past and future and depicts void and hollowness of modern city life and degeneration of human values. The correlation between individual choices we see here while essaying our social responsibility and behavior, our duty and obligation towards older generation, especially our parents, and disrespect for our culture, tradition, social values, and most importantly, genuine humane values reminisces the moral degradation of society.
Though English is Rout’s second language, he has tried his best renditioning his plots, inner thought processes of his mind, with subtle coherence and fluidity of language with realistic delineation which is definitely convincing. Narrative is moving and engaging and it is so arresting that readers will glue to the novella to complete it in one go. Although he has written a naked just socio-psychological reality of modern society, aesthetically, Lullaby witnesses the freshness and novelty in portrayal and storytelling method of the conventional plots.
The conclusion of Lullaby is convincing and pertinent with abstract thought though Rout has chosen a mundane and common place theme. The novella despite its thematic experimentation achieves greater simplicity and directness. Hope readers will appreciate it. The novella accomplishes Rout’s intimate understanding of human psyche. Common man can relate to any of the characters in the story. The novella is written in a simple and lucid fashion and the favorite part of the Lullaby is its conclusion. I will recommend this small novel for every literature enthusiasts.
About the Author
Sukanta Rout was born on 13th June, 1965 at Jajpur, Cuttack, Odisha. After completing his Master’s degree in English from Ravenshaw College, Cuttack, he pursued his Diploma Degree in Screen Playwriting from UP Govt Film Council. Currently, he teaches English Language and Literature at Choudwar College, Odisha. He was a compere for Youth Programme YubaVani, AIR, Cuttack from 1984 to 1988. He owns a Theatre Troupe named Shadows and has written, directed and performed plays in National and International Theater Festival across India. He has written and directed dramatized version of our Odia classical stories such as Revathi, Sariputa, Budha Sankhari, Andharua, Patadei, Gopapura, etc. and also directed and written his own Odia plays such as Haripur Chaka, Vote, and Jajapuria Bandhu. As a theatre activist, he conducts theatre workshops throughout the year and a regular at . “Novella” is his first short novel. He has worked as a sub editor for a quarterly tabloid named "The Indus Valley Times" published from Bhubaneswar and contributed articles on art, culture, tradition, vocation, and film to the magazine "Stet" published from Delhi. He lives in Cuttack.
About the Reviewer
Pradipta Kumar Parida is the editor of The Bhubaneswar Review.