Name of Book : Masudur—Ek Swapner Naam ( Masudur—The Name of a Dream)
Edited by: Kanti Ganguly
Co-edited by: Amartyalok Banerjee
Published by: Paschimbanga Rajya Pratibandhi Sammilani
Reviewing a book like Masudur –Ek Swapner Naam, a compilation of remembrance is perhaps the toughest review I am doing so far. It’s not just about the rich context of the text, the pearls of language, dripping in emotions but also about the person, who now exists in our memories, in the stories, in the pictures and in the newspapers. It’s about the champion of Bengal, Masudur Rahaman Baidya who left all of us at a tender age, winning the waves of The English Channel and the Gibraltar Strait thriving in extreme unfavourable conditions without two legs. The book is a requiem for Masudur on behalf of the people who loved him and rendered their support in whichever ways possible.
Presented to the readers in a beautiful, delicate hard cover, packed in an equally beautiful envelope featuring Masudur and his beloved, the water, the book takes us on a magical journey through the ripples of Masudur’s life.
The story telling starts by people from various spheres of his life… his teacher, his guide, his sponsor, his wife, his students… each adding a shade to his indomitable strength and ambition which will keep on dazzling like an unforgettable ballad, passed on through generations of dreamers converting them into believers.
I become emotional as I write the review…I am immersed in a strange feeling of awe and grief, entangled in the pages of the book. It’s his absence which bothers me now, as I flip through the pages, getting to know the person whose name I was familiar with only through the social media, primarily newspapers. And then, I restraint. Like the champion, I cannot drift away; I have to stay focused on writing the review, on showing my readers, the exemplary aspects of the book and do justice to the team who published it, do justice to Masudur!!
So here are the few points which I feel should be discussed:
- The Form: The book is a non-fiction. It’s about Masudur. It’s about his life as seen by people he spent his life with. From Ramala Charaborty, who helped him in getting sponsor to his wife, Salma Rahman Baidya, from sports person Jyotirmoyee Shikdar to his student Tahrina Nasreen, the chapters are unique, in terms of the story-telling as well as the content. Along with the chapters, the book has an elaborate collection of pictures of Masudur, taken from his practice sessions, award receiving ceremonies, his winning moments and his life as a family man. The occasional interference of these pictures, taken in different forms, from different angles help us relate to Masudur more. At one point of the book, one can’t help feeling like Masudur is someone we have already known. The pain of his absence strikes us at that very point!! The book ends with pictures of newspaper articles where Masudur got featured; several pages are engraved with his certificates making us feel proud of our very own Masudur. We know each and every detail now! He becomes a family.
- Narration: The narration of the book has created one of the finest forms of literary work in Bangla. Each narration is unique. Some glitters with respect, some with sibling-love and some like Salma’s, cry in an endless sorrow for the loss of her beloved. The society speaks in the book and it’s the coagulation of multiple voices, each one playing a significant role in his life, each one belonging to a particular sphere, sharing a particular bond with Masudur that makes the narrative special. Masudur grows in the narration, from a Paralympics swimmer in need of sponsors to a champion who inspires his students to swim crossing adversities, from a loving brother to a responsible husband!!
- Theme: The book is about Masudur’s life. It’s not just about his struggles but about desires, his dreams, his habits, his likes, his dislikes. The narrative encompasses both his public and private life helping us identify with him as a person, as a human being, as a friend we never got the chance to meet.
One has to read the book in order to get the feel of it. I would like to express my gratitude to Shampa Sengupta, gender and disability rights activist for gifting me a copy of the book. ‘What’s unsaid is the effort put in by the editors, the contributing authors and the publishing team as a whole,’ she explains, ‘It’s been very difficult for them to get the interviews and details of Masudur’s life now that he is no more with us.’
The book is not perfect. In fact nothing has to be perfect. A rigorous critical analysis could have fetched some flaws but for this one, I would wish to be spared from doing that because sometimes, the whole process of creating the book comes to the foreground. The ethos of this process lives in the pages. The book is not just about Masudur but also about the people who loved him.
That’s what makes the book special. Woven with love, Masudur—Ek Swapner Naam challenges our stereotypical notions regarding people with disabilities; the book shows us that it’s not about how unfit they are physically, it’s about how much fit and able they are to take part in our everyday activities while simultaneously fighting against the pain, physical, emotional and financial. It establishes the bond between the reader and Masudur; the narrative absorbs the reader, helping the reader to understand the life of Masudur who conquered all the adversities and showed each one of us that we all need strength, love, determination and support to give our dreams, the aura of reality.