Book Recommendation: Aapka Bunty by Mannu Bhandari (आपका बंटी, मन्नू भंडारी)

Once again, I am recommending a Hindi book for which I can’t locate an English translation (See earlier recommendation – Ghumakkad Shashtra by Rahul Sankrityayan). According to Wikipedia, Aapka Bunty by Mannu Bhandari has been translated into many languages, including English. However, I don’t know inside which moth-eaten cupboard those translations are gathering dust. But this is the kind of book that makes being a multilingual reader worth it.

It is the story of Bunty, a young boy in 1970s, dealing with the separation, eventual divorce, and the remarriages of his parents. That such a relevant and contemporary, but controversial and difficult subject was picked up by the writer in Hindi is an achievement by itself. But it is only the first of the many merits of this book.

It is considered a classic study of child psychology. The author, perhaps, had no such academic goals in mind but has succeeded none the less.

The opinion of the author or the stand of the story on the issue of divorce itself is ambiguous. Because although once in a while we are served the mother’s point of view, the story otherwise is seen solely from Bunty’s eyes. And hence the focus is on the child and the world as it takes shape in his head. The result is a story that goes far beyond the description generally used for it: effect of a divorce on a child.  It is a story of the child’s mind itself. And it is a story of how the adults around him absolutely fail to understand that mind. It is the story of the adults who expect mechanical behavior out of children. If you give them a gift, they are supposed to become happy. If you put them in a room with other children, they are supposed to make friends. They are also supposed to immune to everything that is going on in the life of the adults around them, even when it affects them deeply. They are supposed to behave well without ever being given the tools to deal with the changes. The adults will not talk to them because they are children. But their reactions are treated as adult reactions. If they are showering love at you, it is because they understand everything great about you, even though you haven’t thought it necessary to communicate with them. If they are acting out, it is because they want to hurt you, even though they are the helpless, dependent ones in the relationship who would achieve nothing and lose everything if the adults turned their backs of them.

The author shows us what the adults in the story are refusing to look into. No wonder I almost rebelled on Bunty’s behalf as him being a problem child turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy. I kept screaming: “Talk to him!” By the end of it, it wasn’t a story about the effect of a divorce on a child. It was a story about the adult world refusing to communicate with the children’s world and destroying it in the process. It was the story of any family crisis that can turn a precocious, healthy, intelligent child into a “problem child”.

A must-read story.

Book Description

Below is the description from the book’s cover.

आपका बंटी आपका बंटी मन्नू भंडारी के उन बेजोड़ उपन्यासों में है जिनके बिना न बीसवीं शताब्दी के हिन्दी उपन्यास की बात की जा सकती है न स्त्री-विमर्श को सही धरातल पर समझा जा सकता है। तीस वर्ष पहले (1970 में) लिखा गया यह उपन्यास हिन्दी की लोकप्रिय पुस्तकों की पहली पंक्ति में है। दर्जनों संस्करण और अनुवादों का यह सिलसिला आज भी वैसा ही है जैसा धर्मयुग में पहली बार धारावाहिक के रूप से प्रकाशन के दौरान था।

बच्चे की निगाहों और घायल होती संवेदना की निगाहों से देखी गई परिवार की यह दुनिया एक भयावह दुःस्वप्न बन जाती है। कहना मुश्किल है कि यह कहानी बालक बंटी की है या माँ शकुन की। सभी तो एक-दूसरे में ऐसे उलझे हैं कि एक की त्रासदी सभी की यातना बन जाती है।

शकुन के जीवन का सत्य है कि स्त्री की जायज महत्त्वाकांक्षा और आत्मनिर्भरता पुरुष के लिए चुनौती है – नतीजे में दाम्पत्य तनाव उसे अलगाव तक ला छोड़ता है। यह शकुन का नहीं, समाज में निरन्तर अपनी जगह बनाती, फैलाती और अपना क़द बढ़ाती  ‘नई स्त्री’का सत्य है। पति-पत्नी के इस द्वन्द्व में यहाँ भी वही सबसे अधिक पीसा जाता है, जो नितान्त निर्दोष, निरीह और असुरक्षित है – बंटी।

बच्चे की चेतना में बड़ों के इस संसार को कथाकार मन्नू भंडारी ने पहली बार पहचाना था। बाल मनोविज्ञान की गहरी समझ-बूझ के लिए चर्चित, प्रशंसित इस उपन्यास का हर पृष्ठ ही मर्मस्पर्शी और विचारोत्तेजक है।

हिन्दी उपन्यास की एक मूल्यवान उपलब्धि के रूप में आपका बंटी एक कालजयी उपन्यास है।

Purchase Links

Other Books by the Author

Mannu Bhandari is a prolific writer. Check out her Amazon page for her other book.



Secrets and Mumbai@BYOB Party in May,2016 (Part 6)

It was Sarika’s first BYOB Party and she bought along the book The Secret by Rhonda Byme, Australian TV writer and producer. “This book is nothing like the books you all sharing here,” Sarika said. “It’s a light read.”
And a bestseller at that. This slender self-help book which stresses on the ‘law of attractions’ and explains how thoughts are magnetic and the thoughts that we send out frame our life.  Ideas like visualizing what you want to achieve your goals are also explained. However, there is no scientific basis for these ideas and this has led the book to controversy. Even then sales have been phenomenal and the book has been translated into 46 languages. Comparisons to Paulo Coelho’s Alchemist came up during conversation.
Abhaya visited Mumbai for the first time this year and was fascinated by the energetic city. He’s been looking for a book about Mumbai that bypasses Bollywood and the underworld. He came upon the City Series released by Aleph Book Company. There he found City Adrift by Naresh Fernandes. The book is more about how Mumbai evolved by the process of land reclamation from the sea and how the city has grown at such an alarming rate, so much so that there are more slum dwellers than dwellers in apartment complexes. Fernandes chalks out the history of these seven conjoined islands that turned into a cosmopolitan nightmare or heaven, whichever way you’d like to describe it. Some other writers who have featured this maximum city include Salman Rushdie, V.S.Naipaul and G.D.Roberts.
It is a very readable book. And a good launchpad for picking up another more detailed book about Mumbai. I’m not sure which one would that be but I envy people like Naresh who live and work in the city they were born in, thus getting to know it intimately and having the skill to write about it in precise words.”
Another book Abhaya got was a Hindi novel by Manohar Shyam Joshi called Kuru Kuru Swaha. Manohar Shyam Joshi is a name well known to an earlier generation of Indians who watched soap operas like Hum Log, Buniyad and Kakkaji Kahin. He was also a prolific writer and even won a Sahitya Academy Award for one of his novels. But he is unlikely to be seen on the recommended books lists and the bestseller lists of Hindi literature.
“I loved Kuru Kuru Swaha from the page one. The book set in Mumbai is dedicated to Hazari Prasad Dwivedi (of Banbhatt ki Aatmkatha fame) and his effect is clear: the wit, the sarcasm, the innovative craft, daft use of multiple Hindi registers. And a story of a middle class struggling writer in Mumbai who is well read in both Indian and western literature. He carries off that mix beautifully. Between Manohar, Joshi Ji and M. S. Joshi(the characters in the book), this is a masterful exposition of internal gymnastics going on in the heads of a middle class intellectual. You  need to have a tolerance for the absurd, and mental jumps from the Upanishads to Graham Green in the same sentence. The usage of as many as six Hindi dialects and other languages makes this book unique.”
What a fantastic spread of books! Make sure you have read parts 1-6 of the BYOB Party in May.

Spirituality and the Poetry of Bachchan the Bard @ BYOB Party in April (Part 2)

Have you read Part 1 yet? Lots of Indian writers featured at the BYOB Party this time.

Vijay brought along a book from the  SriRamachandra mission series called Heart to Heart. The book is for the spiritually inclined and deals with the nuances of Raja Yoga. Through a series of discourses, the author talks about his own his dilemmas and revelations during his travels to foreign shores. It makes you think about the lives of spiritual masters. Discussion around this book led to the mention of an interesting book about spiritual dilemmas that is also linked to mythology- The Importance of Being Good by Gurucharan Das.

bachchanTwo Harivansh Rai Bachchan books were on the cards this BYOB Party. Harivansh Rai Bachchan is the author of the most  famous Hindi book, in fact, the fastest selling Hindi book on e-commerce sites, Madhushala which translates as House of Wine. The book Arisudan got is called Meri Shresht Kavithaein, an anthology of some the best poems written by Bachchan,which he himself has selected. This part of the BYOB Party was poetry heaven for Hindi poetry lovers as Arisudan read out some beautiful stanzas and Jaya went on to talk about the nuances of his poetry, including the inconsistency of his message. When Bachchan was inspired, he wrote inspiring poetry and when he was in a dark place, his poems reflected this. Though he wrote about wine, he was a teetotaller and wine was a metaphor he used to convey his philosophy.

bachchan 2Umakant Soni, the owner of Artwist where the BYOB Party was held, got a Hindi book called Dashdvar Se Sopan Tak. This book is fourth in a series of Bachchan’s autobiographical works. The series describe the poet’s journey and how the poet’s life and experiences shaped his poetry. Soni mentioned how not many people know that Hindi words like Doordarshan and Aakashvani have his signature behind them.


More in Part 3.

Dalit Literature and the Problem of Revealing True Identity@ BYOB Party, April, 2016 (Part 1)

The seventh BYOB Party was held in collaboration with Artwist, which believes in whole brained education.  Umakant Soni who runs Artwist says, “Learning is not only through books; it’s an experiential process.”  At Artwist kids, parents and senior citizens learn through play.

joothanAbhaya started the session with Joothan, an autobiography by one of the most important voices in Hindi Dalit literature.  “This book is very similar to Lakshman Mane’s Apara.  The story starts with a childhood spent in utter poverty and misery in rural areas and an inclination for education which helped the author break out of surroundings and connect with the growing Dalit(Untouchable) movement in cities. More than incidents of outright violence, the most heart wrenching incidents are those where initial affection and cordiality are shattered once the author reveals caste.” Abhaya found this part of the book as a revelation, “Consider the eternal suspicion that lurks in the mind of a Dalit—he expects that he will be treated badly.  The question he asks himself continuously is whether the other person is nice because he does not actually care about caste or has he misunderstood?”

Abhaya cites that this question is relevant in India today. “A large number of people claim that they are caste blind, because they do not know the caste of their friends and colleagues. They might spare their friends a great deal of internal turmoil if they acted as they did in spite of knowing their caste.”

The author’s surname, Valmiki, confused those around him. Many people mistook him to be an upper caste and treated him with respect, only to pull the rug from under his feet when his true caste is revealed. People are forced to lead a double life and move to cities to conceal the identity that others disrespect.

This is definitely a relevant book in these times when discrimination is rampant. Have you read any books that deal with discrimination or racism? Tell us about it.