Ghashaphula ra Geeta (Odia Novel) by Jnanaranjan Nayak

Ghashaphula ra Geeta (Odia Novel) by Jnanaranjan Nayak
Teerataranga Publications, 2021. Pp 64. ₹ 100/-

Reviewed by Nandini Sahu


When I thought of writing a few pages on the novella Ghashaphula ra Geeta (written in Odia, my mother tongue) by storyteller, poet, critic and creative writer Jnanaranjan Nayak from Odisha, I unconsciously traveled back in memory lane. Jnanaranjan is a person who can bring tears in your eyes and make you laugh aloud on your study table, in the middle of reading his stories. Way back in 2005, once he read out his Odia short story ‘Bou’(Mother) to me in my English Language Lab. I was engrossed with listening to his engaging narrative—he is an exceptional narrator, as I said—and then I noticed that tears were rolling down from my eyes; in fact I was flooding with tears. The students entered the Language Lab for a session with me, to see their English ma’am crying!! We have talked several times about that funny, embarrassing yet heartening moment; we have maintained our literary, academic and deeply personal camaraderie since sixteen years. Jnanaranjan is such—a pure soul, a real person, a heartbreaking-breathtaking storyteller.

The novella Ghashaphula ra Geeta has been appreciated by his follow poets in Odisha as a meaningful story set up in rural Odisha. Jnanaranjan is an incorrigible romantic, and this is an unfulfilled, incomplete, unsatiated love story, the plot is recounted from a rural village in Odisha.  A thorough understanding of this story, vis-à-vis the centre-margin perspective as explicated by Postcolonialism, the dichotomy of the centre and the subaltern, will need a reading through paraphernalia like association, comparison, correspondence, isomorphism metaphor, resemblance, morphological homology, iconicity—the tools closely associated with analogy of the story. 

In this novella, I read Jnanaranjan’s centre-periphery equivalence of the village from the following standpoints:
Village life as a formative empathy of the existential issues, the ethnographic literature springing thereof. 
Village as an undercooked object, construed as a nostalgia, wistful resurgence, or representation of subjugation.
Village as accommodation and exile -- a room of idyllic tranquility for the ‘Pantheist’. 
Village as groundwork of protest--a place where hegemonic authority is quietly confronted. 
Village as the instinctive soil. 
Village in skirmish with modernism—though it is not essentially anti-modern or inexorably anti-tradition. 

Ecocriticism is my theoretical tool to understand the narrative of the village here. This kind of Ecocritical approach differs from other critical discourses in the sense that it is not just an intellectual academic exercise where some accepted methods of criticism are applied to the understanding of a text and assessing opinions are moulded. It is the exigent and challenging participation of the author with the subject that creates its distinction meticulously. It is not an objective structure of criticism, which we can interestingly call ‘The Linguistic Turn’ (Literature, Ecology, Ethics) that profoundly hangs on broadening the linguistic properties of a given language, and of Odia language in this case.  Jnanaranjan’s ecological concern here is beyond any political or ideological standpoint, immersed in the books and brooks, thus above any one-dimensional method.

Narrative of the village life is an interesting attribute of Jnanaranjan. His story has touched upon issues like ecological balance, environment and more certainly, human relationships. He is a writer who decorates the spirit of human evolution. Freedom of the heart and soul plays a distinct role in his narrative. Jnanaranjan’s chronicle of the village is associated with village as a phenomenon, offered not in seclusion, but in a miscellaneous milieu of narratology-- a mirror of real countryside, renovation and insurgency as modes of progress, as an epitome and inquisitor, and as reminiscence which is a mode of redemption for the writer. Anyway, it is a rich love story bringing love to its romantic, sacrificing, and helpless best.

Having said that, I would conclude, all the above points/issues/debates can be safely said about almost all the writings of Jnanaranjan. He is the kind of writer who can remain silently active in the conscience of his readers, like Oxygen in water. 

Prof. Nandini Sahu, Professor of English and Former Director, School of Foreign Languages, IGNOU, New Delhi, India, is an established Indian English poet, creative writer and folklorist. She is the author/editor of fifteen books. She is the recipient of the Literary Award/Gold Medal from the hon’ble Vice President of India for her contribution to English Studies. Her areas of research interest cover New Literatures, Critical Theory, Folklore and Culture Studies, Children’s Literature and American Literature.

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