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.
Jaiwanti Dimri is a bilingual writer, critic, translator and former professor of English at Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla. A recipient of the Arya Smriti Samman (2002) in the genre of Hindi short story, her stories have been published in national journals, magazines, anthologies and translated into English, Telugu and Marathi. She has been a fellow of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, and taught in Nigeria, Bhutan and US. Her published works include: The Images and Representation of the Rural Woman; The Drukpa Mystique: Bhutan in 21st Century; A Critical Study of Ernest Hemingway's Short Stories and Non-Fiction; The Inner Eye and Other Stories; two novellas in Hindi, Surju Ke Naam and Pinddaan; two short story collections Gagar Bhar Paani and Dusra Narak Kund, and a translated work, Sahastra Netradhari Nayak.
To Surju, With Love