Wednesday 24 June 2020

Everything and Nothing-Nilotpal Dutta

Book: Everything and Nothing
Author: Nilotpal Dutta
Publisher: Tara-India Research Press

Do you believe in the adage that “History Repeats Itself”?

Everything and Nothing by Nilotpal Dutta is set in the years around the independence of India from the British. The story traces the journey of Damyanti who flees Naokhali as an aftermath of the riots post partition to Patna, where she reestablishes her life until post-independence events of the Emergency, Khalistan Movement and the Mandal Commission bring back the dark memories of her past. However hard she tries to move away from her past, some or the other event comes back to haunt her. While she always considered outsiders to be the problem, her viewpoint changes when the movement for the Ram Mandir intensifies and she realizes that the outsiders are not always defined by borders. A heartwarming story of love and redemption, the book is a tribute to a generation that found the strength over and over again to rebuild on the foundation of ruins. A generation that loved, lost and loved again, but never lost hope.

Everything and Nothing by Nilotpal Dutta is a story that shows the transition of a country as it grapples to emerge from the shadows of colonialism and how the ideals of a person change with the changing circumstances. The author has started the story pre-independence as he takes us through the minds of the people and how social identities were important in the earlier times. Using the eyes of Damyanti, he describes the changing times as she witnesses the unity of people as a child when Bengal was reunited. Her ideals are established through those times, and until the tragedy becomes unbearable in Naokhali, her belief in her homeland was unbreakable. As the story progresses and Damyanti begins her life afresh, we see multiple events testing her ideals time and again, which is a social commentary of how the society moved from a social identity to a religion and caste-based identity. The plot of the book is extremely engaging and there is no point where it dulls. Nilotpal has blended historical events with the plot with ease and it is a journey that is quite interesting. With a singular narrative and a single perspective, there are times where a reader might pause and contemplate and might just relate to current situations as well. It is a story well written, which will resonate with a lot of people. The book explores multiple themes of relationships, hope, trust and ethics, all of which get a proper closure in a climax befitting the story. The one thing that deserves a mention is the element of irony in the story at multiple points.

Coming to the characters, Nilotpal has given due focus to the characters. He created Damyanti as his storyteller as she narrates the happenings of the times as well as her commentary on the same. Her belief systems form a critical component of the story. The story details how every situation made her belief systems and how they impact the future events of the story. Her relationships with people are explored and detailed across generation. Her resilience, faith and resolve are tested yet they never break. The second character, although subtle, is the country of India. As he explores the transition of the country from being a colony to being independent, suffering through the scars of partition, religious clashes and social divide, we see the nation evolve and impact the story as well. As the story moves, we see the nation change and thus change the narrative.

It is a must-read book and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who has an interest in history-based fiction.

The book scores a 4.75/5 from me.

Grab a copy here.

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