Tuesday, August 05, 2008

One Night in the Life of Meraj Hasan


Years ago, I discovered him on a wintry night train between Varanasi and Gaya. He was a battered prisoner inside a Soviet labor camp of the 1950s in Siberia. And I was a berthless traveler in the general compartment of the train, facing the December chill of the great North Indian plains. But, he was facing much harsher temperatures.

The person I discovered that night was the Nobel Prize winning Russian author, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in the form of a novella called, ‘One Day in the life of Ivan Denisovich’. Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn died 2 days ago of a heart attack at the age of 89. And this is an attempt to pay my homage to the great writer.

The book is about the harsh realities of Stalin era when people in Russia were sent to the Labor Camps under the Gulag system for any or no offence. Solzhenitsyn was exiled to one, and he came out of it with this semi-autobiographical book which described one day in the life of a prisoner called Ivan Denisovich Sukhov or simply ‘Sukhov’. The book has all the abilities to disturb anyone about human cruelty and appreciate human endurance. It came out in 1962 with the consent of Nikita Krushchev who wanted the world to know about the extreme conditions under the Stalin era. The 150 odd pages of this classic shook the world!

Later, I went on to read other brilliant works of Solzhenitsyn but that chilly train journey with ‘Sukhov’ will always be intact somewhere in the attics of my mind. The Siberian temperatures in the book along with the increasing chill of the night had me completely frozen, despite a sweater and a jacket.

To give you a comparison, the mercury reading outside would be about 3-5 degree Celsius. And the temperature inside the book was -40 degree Celsius. I can’t even start to think of such conditions.

That is Solzhenitsyn with a saintly look and beard.

16 comments:

Naked Cricket said...

cracker of a write m.
pls go to beach, defrost.

√úbermaniam said...

You mean the great man's work left you cold? just kidding. glad you are 'able to write'.

Farhan said...

Your post made me do a bit more research on the writer who who changed the consciousness of millions of people. The quote below explains why he earned the wrath of the Soviet authorities at that time. " For a country to have a great writer is like having a second government. that is why no regime has ever loved great writers."

ilegirl said...

When I was growing up, my parents kept a cache of important political writings, which included The Gulag Archipelago. The intent was to remind us that there are many perspectives in the world, and also to point out that we had a very good and easy life in the US compared to so many around the world.

When my father read the book, he wept for the souls who were lost.

Solzenitsyn produced important work, and was a courageous person to do so. Thanks for sharing your thoughtful response on hearing the news of his passing.

Bhaskar Khaund said...

A warm postsky ! sounds interesting - must readsky ! - Cheers for nowsky
- B from Dubaisky (where the temperatures are now frozen at 60 Degree C in the shade)

POOJA NAIR said...

I like the usage "intact somewhere in the attics of my mind"
Well written!

meraj said...

naked & uber, thanks!

Farhan, how true is that quote. AS was a hero who stood up and told the world about the attrocities of Stalin.

ilegirl, you grew with good parents. am glad the post brought back good memories.

Bhaskar, thanks for the appreciation

Pooja, i borrowed that phrase from Grateful Dead's track, 'In the Attics of my Mind' from the album 'American Beauty'

A friend sent me this quote from AS '"Violence can only be concealed by a lie, and the lie can only be maintained by violence.
Any man who has once proclaimed violence as his method is inevitably forced to take
the lie as his principle." So true!

phish said...

unbelievably graphic description of one night in a train. i can think up an entire script with this...

meraj said...

start on it, phish!

Smiling Dolphin said...

colombo is good for your writing....you're getting better and better...not to mention getting to know your eclectic tastes from scarface to sukhov...

meraj said...

thanks for the appreciation, Dolphin! feels good, always.

Smiling Dolphin said...

26th October like Hillary Clinton

svety said...

hey meraj...thnx a ton for appreciating suryan's blog..don't know if u know but suryan's my son..haha the one I had at MICA...the only one actually..he promises to post comments over the weekend...

meraj said...

now i know, svety :) and that pic is nice!

achu said...

man you are presenting a convincing case here to read up a Russian author.
will download this one pronto

writing that makes you go brrrr...?

try bear island from the great Alistair McLean

but were you in a any certain frame of mind? because the impact a book has on a reader is also very relatable to the mindset the reader reads it in.

meraj said...

achu, am sure you will enjoy the book, more so in the current Mumbai heat

state of mind? well lets say i ws in a trippy state of mind...