Chettri, Lil Bahadur 1933–
Chettri, Lil Bahadur 1933–
(Līla Bahādura Kshatrī)
Basāim: Nepālī Sāmājika Upanyāsa Jagadambā Prakāśana (Kathmandu, Nepal), 1964, English translation by Michael J. Hutt published as Mountains Painted with Turmeric: A Novel, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 2008.
Do bāṭo: nāṭika, Sājhā Prakāśana (Kathmandu, Nepal), 1967.
Atrpta, Sājhā Prakāśana (Kathmandu, Nepal), 1969.
Brahmaputrakā Cheu-chau, Śyāma Prakāśana (Darjeeling, India), 1986.
Brahmaputra ke Āsapāsa, Sāhitya Akādemī (New Delhi, India), 1996.
Līlabahādura Kshatrīkā Kathāharu: Kathāsangraha, Nepāla Rājakīya Prajñā-Pratisht??āna (Kathmandu, Nepal), 1996.
Lil Bahadur Chettri, also known as Līla Bahādura Kshatrī, lives in the northeast Indian state of Assam. Chettri has authored numerous texts in his native language, and Mountains Painted with Turmeric: A Novel, translated by Michael J. Hutt, is his first English-language publication. The text was released by Columbia University Press in 2008 and tells the story of a provincial family who struggles to survive within the harsh landscape of the eastern Nepalese mountains. The family, unknowingly influenced by the more affluent and victims to their own poor choices, falls into a state of destitution. At the mercy of the society they are part of, they are forced into exile due to their inability to fulfill the punishment that is allotted to them and the shame that is brought upon them. In this condition, the family embodies the gulf between the very wealthy and those in perpetual poverty within their village and the region.
Surabhi Pudasaini commented that "it is impossible not to feel the helpless frustration of the hardworking Dhane," in an article for Himal Southasian, an online regional magazine. Dhane is the protagonist and patriarch of the family in Mountains Painted with Turmeric, and his character exhibits sympathetic traits such as earnestness, thrift, and a good work ethic, which emphasize his unfortunate circumstances. But as Pudasaini pointed out, the narrative highlights the "inherent unfairness" that occurs when the wealthy are juxtaposed with the disadvantaged. Bradley Winterton described the text as "a short novel, fleshed out with some black-and-white photos of Nepal's landscapes, including its steep and terraced foothills" in his review for the Tapei Times.
Winterton also commented upon the connections in the novel, such as greed and a lack of justice, to Marxist themes and the tumultuous political atmosphere existing in the Nepalese region. The parallels between the social striations inherent in the Marxist ideology and the family's condition include their descent into poverty due to the oppression and greed of the wealthy and their entrapment in the economy of the village, which they are powerless to change. Comparing Chettri's work to that of authors like Thomas Hardy and Marcel Pagnol because of the picturesque imagery that Chettri uses, Winterton explained that these correlations between Marxism and Chettri's narrative are arguably for aesthetic purposes and that "the desirability of a change in a social order is remote from the author's real concerns." Winterton continued: "What Lil Bahadur Chettri appears to be concerned to demonstrate is that the events he depicts simply show life [as] it is, and that this can no more be changed than can the seasons that form the stupendous setting for the events." A contributor for Kirkus Reviews called Mountains Painted with Turmeric "a moving novel of social realism" and a "classic of Nepali literature" that "traces with great simplicity the life of a family in a traditional village."
Several plot points create this regionally "traditional" element; for instance, Jhuma, Dhane's attractive younger sister, is violated, subsequently dishonored, and then rescued by another patriarchal figure. Although Tim Kindseth, in a review for the Times International, stated that, "like most tragedies, the dark and demoralizing narrative arc of Mountains Painted with Turmeric is predictable—its heft relying on the inexorability of disaster to come," he maintained: "It is not plot that propels the novella, but rather the intimate, unfolding portrait of village life in eastern Nepal that Chettri sketches in masterfully stark but occasionally lyrical prose." Kindseth noted the "grim scenes of privation, corruption, rights abuse, and social stratification" in the novel, all which constitute the tragic details of the story. In an article for Booklist, Deborah Donovan explained: "It's a simple yet thought-provoking tale."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, November 15, 2007, Deborah Donovan, review of Mountains Painted with Turmeric: A Novel, p. 19.
Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2007, review of Mountains Painted with Turmeric.
Publishers Weekly, September 10, 2007, review of Mountains Painted with Turmeric, p. 38.
Time International, February 11, 2008, Tim Kindseth, "Peaks and Troughs," p. 5.
Columbia University Press Web site,http://www.cup.columbia.edu/ (July 31, 2008), author profile.
Himal Southasian,http://www.himalmag.com/ (July 31, 2008), Surabhi Pudasaini, review of Mountains Painted with Turmeric.
Taipei Times Online,http://www.taipeitimes.com/ (July 31, 2008), Bradley Winterton, "From Nepal, A Himalayan Pastoral."