Indian Literature on The Reading Life
Satyajit Ray (1921 to 1992-Calcutta, India) is a towering cultural icon. He came from a very distinguished family know for its accomplishments in the arts and literature. He is universally acknowledged as the greatest of all Indian film directors. He was given an honorary Academy Award in 1992 for the body of his work. (There is a detailed article on his life and accomplishments here.) He was also a very prolific writer. He wrote numerous highly regarded children's books as well as twelve collections of short stories.
" The Indigo Terror" is a brilliant story that combines an account of the life of a man in contemporary Indian with some fascinating history lessons and a brilliant dream sequence that seems very real as we read it.
The lead character Aniruddha Bose works in an office but his real passion is for his work as an amateur short story writer and his studies of the history of indigo production in India. He read everything he could find on this topic and really was an expert. In order to more fully appreciate this story I think it helps to know that during the 19th century the British had a monopoly on the production of indigo dye. The workers on these plantations were kept in virtual slavery and treated with the utmost cruelty. Almost 10,000 square kilometers in India were devoted to the production of indigo. Before synthetic dyes this was a very lucrative business.
"The Indigo Terror" does a really good job of making the central character seem real. He is a single man who lives a simple life of work, reading and writing and time with his family. One day he gets a letter from an old friend five hours a way by car inviting him to come stay for a week. He has a car so he takes some vacation time and sets off to go to the house of his friend. The route will take him through the heart of the old indigo plantation area.
The scenes on the road are fun. I really felt like I was on the road in rural Bengali. He ends up with two flat tires and one spare, in the middle of the night, so he is forced to seek lodging along the way. It is dark and there are not a lot of houses so he knocks on the first door of the first house he finds. The people inside are very hospitable and offer him food and tell him he can sleep in a bungalow on the property. (Interestingly, to me any way, "Bungalow" entered the English language in the 17th century as a borrowed word from Bengali).
I debated whether or not to tell the rest of the plot. "The Indigo Terror" is extremely intelligent and takes us very deeply into the traumatic effects of colonialism and it is also a lot of fun to read. I want others to have the pleasure of reading this story so I will not spoil the story for anyone.
I endorse this story without reservations to all.
You can read it online HERE.
It was translated from Bengali by Barnali Saha.
Please share with us your suggestion for other South Asian Short Stories.