Rabisankar Bal (1962-2017) is a renowned and prominent name in Bangladeshi Literature. He has been writing for over thirty years and has penned Fifteen novels,five short story collections ,one volume of literary essays and one volume of poetry.

He has served in the profession of  journalism and has lived in Kolkata. His novel – “Dozakhnama” is a magnum opus that has won many praises and compliments from all over the world.The novel is written in Bengali language and it is translated into English by Arunava Sinha.

It is a well said maxim that History never looks like history when you are living through it. Likewise, Bal in this novel has made Indian  history alive by the posthumously autobiographical conversations of Mirza Ghalib and Manto. The story opens by the narrator who is an ordinary pen-pushing labourer at newspaper.

The narrator is in Lucknow to research a piece on the courtesans of the city.There, he meets with Parveen Talhar ,a senior government officer who inlets him with the history of Lucknow.The narrator ends up in the house of Farid Mian , who gives him a manuscript –an unpublished novel written by Manto about Mirza Ghalib and says him to make this novel published because all of my life

“I have tried my best for its publication but no one believes that Manto has written a novel in his life,”

The narrator does not know about urdu language ,so, in order to read the novel, he moves to Calcutta and takes urdu classes from Tabassum Mirza.

From the readings of Tabassum to narrator ,the story based on autobiographies of Manto and Ghalib gets started and it reveals the Indian culture ,history and tradition from times of Ghalib (1797-1869) to Manto(1912-1955).During Ghalib’s time, the miseries of  treasure bankruptcy, decline of Mughal Empire, the strong  holdings of British East India company and 1857 war of independence are revealed by Ghalib.At personal level ,he   tells  

Manto about his life as being born an orphan ,his alienated marital life with  Umrao Begum ,debtness, Homelessness, drinking addiction and courtesans fever and being called a half Muslim by his opponents.As a mirror ,Manto reveals to Ghalib about his times that  mirza sahib -you  saw 1857 but if you had seen 1947 ,you would have killed yourself.

Manto  recollects the brutal killings, massacre during Hindu-Muslim riots, independence movement and the creation of Pakistan. Manto also tells about his depressive life, drinking habit, visits to Hira Mandi, court cases and being called as pornographer by his critics.

In my personal opinion ,this book is a must read because it is enriched with the poetical verses of Ghalib and literary works of Manto. India’s detailed history from Mughal Raj to the independence movement and complete biographies of Manto and Ghalib. It takes the soul of a reader to the deadly conversation of  Ghalib and Manto who are the mirrors to one another.

Iqra Aziz

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