To Surju, With Love
A transcreation of Jaiwanti Dimri’s Hindi novella, Surju Ke Naam, this is the story of Sukurmani, a young woman who migrates to Bhutan with her four-year-old son, Surju, in search of livelihood, stability and peace. A Dumka tribal from Jharkhand, the one constant in her life is change as she crosses many borders – from Ranchi in Jharkhand, to Kokrajhar to Darranga in Bodoland, to Bishalgarh in Tripura, to Rungthung and finally to Kanglung in east Bhutan – to escape ethnic clashes, unrest and himsa, the omnipresent and many-faced violence which follows her.
Set in the small, scenic hill town of Kanglung, much of the story is told through a dialogue between two women: Sukurmani and her Memsaab. Through her Memsaab’s eyes, we get glimpses of Sukurmani’s life, past and present. We witness her struggles to make ends meet as a single mother, an illiterate labourer and uninhibited tribal in an alien land. We also see her as a self-reliant, resilient woman living her own life with willful little Surju, who trails her like a shadow, a participant in all his mother’s joys and sorrows. As the narrative unfolds, an unusual bond forms between these two different women: two Indian expatriates, one legal and one illegal.
A poignant and thought-provoking story simply told, it lingers even after the last word is read