• Manvini Bhavai

    By Pannalal Patel
    Translated by V.Y. Kantak

    Just the thought of suffering and surviving a famine makes one shudder. Pannalal Patel’s novel Manvini Bhavai (1947), literally meaning ‘Man’s Drama’, presents to us an emotional story on the realities of a famine. Based on the ‘Chhapaniyo Dukal’ famine of the early 1900s, this novel chronicles the struggle of sustenance faced by Indian villagers against the backdrop of a love story. A depiction of the trials and tribulations of farmer Kalu and his lover Raju, Manvini Bhavai skilfully incorporates folk culture in this examination of colonial authority and the position of women in society. Patel received the prestigious Jnanpith award for this novel in 1985. Manvini Bhavai was adapted to a National Film Award winning Gujarati movie (1993).

    In today’s day and age, this novel gives its readers the opportunity to learn about the unpleasant aspects of our history and to understand the role of the colonial situation as it relates to our cultural identity.

    V.Y. Kantak translated the novel to English – ‘Endurance: A Droll Saga’ – and was published by Sahitya Akademi.

    About the Author
    Pannalal Patel (1912-1989) is said to be one of the foremost Gujarati writers. Despite being unable to complete formal schooling, Patel has a bibliography spanning 54 novels and 26 short story collections. Two of his most popular works are the novels Manvini Bhavai (1947) and Malela Jiv (1941). Patel has been recognised for his ability to produce complex reflections of society and humanity. His works have dealt with love, gender norms, religion, oppression of the native, and social hierarchies.

  • Dariyalal

    By Gunvantrai Acharya
    Translated by Kamal Sanyal

    Celebrated Gujarati children’s novel Dariyalal (‘Lord of the Seas’, published 1938) captivates its audience with an adventure set in the Zanzibar Island, East Africa. Readers are introduced to Ram, a ruthless slave trader of the Gujarati settlement in Zanzibar, who after witnessing the death of slaves by rhinoceroses is reminded of the humanity in him. By the end of the book, he has convinced the entire Zanzibari Gujarati community to give up slavery. Infused in the story is a colonial adventure – Ram saves John Dunkirk from cannibal tribes. Based on oral history, Dariyalal is a tight dramatic story which touches upon multiple elements: the story of the settler, anti-slavery, and colonial adventure.

    The novel will appeal to all generations not only because of its crisp story but also because of its important moral teaching and emphasis on humanity. Its historical roots help informs us of our progression to today. An abridged English translation by Kamal Sanyal was published in 2000 by Thema Books.

    About the Author
    Gunvantrai Acharya (1900-1965) is considered to be one of the greatest masters of Gujarati literature. Having grown up travelling to different villages with his police superintendent father and listening to stories of people from all walks of life, Acharya had a great oral history to back himself up when he started writing. He was especially interested in maritime history and this is visible in his children’s book Dariyalal (1938). Allabeli (1946) and Sarfarosh (1953) are some other works by him.

  • Deepnirvan

    By Manubhai Pancholi

    An illustration of Manubhai Pancholi’s creative interpretation of Indian history and culture, the Gujarati novel Deepnirvan (‘The Light of Deliverance’, published 1944) is set in the pre-Christian Aryavarta era. Tormented by the possibility of an invasion by Sikandar and the looming threat of expansion by imperial empire Magadha, three Indian Ganarajyas (states) must fight a war for their independence. Instead of reducing the story to a love triangle between the primary characters Anand, Sucharita, and Sudatta, the art of war planning and warfare is explored in this novel that deals with sadness, joy, and valour.

    The novel contains the timeless message of the importance of unity and perseverance in the face of adversity, a message that will appeal to every reader of today. An abridged version of the book can be found in an anthology called ‘Indian Classics – Gujarati’ by Chandrakant Mehta

    About the Author
    Manubhai Pancholi (1914-2001) was also known by his pen name Darshak (viewer) – he believed he was only seeing the world that God had created. A firm believer of Gandhian principles, Pancholi was imprisoned for a period of time during the Quit India movement.

    A recipient of the Padma Bhushan (1991), he was a former education minister of Gujarat. He was also President of the Gujarat Sahitya Parishad and Chairperson of the Gujarat Sahitya Akademi. He wrote fiction, philosophical essays and introduced the Gujarati reader to other foreign literature with his own commentaries. His novel, Socrates earned him the Sahitya Akademi Award. The book was the first fiction in Gujarati based on a Greek subject. He was also awarded the Ranjitram Gold Medal and the Narmad Gold Medal for his unique contribution to Gujarati literature.