Alone in my room, i wonder sometimes if these people can or should be answered. How does one explain the whole business of alienation in a short sentences; the sheer tearing pain of not being able to belong to the very place where one wants to send down roots.?This side of the twentieth century we have seen refuges galore, leaving behind them a wild trail of heroism and tenacious nationalism. But what does one do about those non-politicals who were not threatened with arrest; those voluntary exiles who were born in a home they found foreign and came to a land which shocked and unsettled them? How does one go about building a house when the timber that holds the roof and the walls together seems so fragile, when there is no mother to cry to any more, no wife to love, no children with whom to play those games which alone makes us want to live another day?
Above is the last paragraph from My God Died Young which is an autobiography of Sasthi Brata written when he was 27 year’s of age, published two years later. Right from the outset My God Died Young is a fiery and angry story of an anachronistic young man who was born and brought up in an conservative Brahmin family and then later educated in a strict catholic school. Both of them with their ethos of constraints and boundaries contributed to his sense of angst, trauma and more importantly deprivation.He writes:
..I sometimes make strenuous effort to appear natural and gay. The result is often a double-take, a pathetic display of adolescent ferment..[..].. There are few things i can do without an incipient feeling of sin. Thanks to the twin pressures of a Brahmin home and a nonconformist schooling, most of the times I moved in the steel braces of subconscious inhibitions.
Sasthi writes exclusively about the taboos, superstitions, logics and illogics of both the worlds which were pressing him b/w them. There’s his mother who’s deeply religious and a model Indian wife, whom he loves very much but slowly as he comes of age or grows up enough to accept his rage, began to hate. Another figure in his growing up age which helped churn out the rebel in him was the catholic school Headmaster. Sasthi talks about his strictly manners and his ways of punishing students and how much fear those things used to evoke in him.
Ready to change his religion right before his completion of school education his Uncle managed to persuade him into a six month stint of reading Upanishads. They both went through The school of Shankra. The impact that period had on his was that he no longer felt ashamed of his being an Hindu or Brahmin But was still not that much enthralled or enchanted enough to embrace it as a way of living.
Ironically , the philosophy of Shankara successfully weaned me from religion. I was interested in it as an intellectual exercise but not as a way of life. The evil work of school was undone. I began to turn agnostic..I became less nervous of sinning. My mother, the dogmas of my masters, my secret prayers and feelings of guilt, began to loose their hold. The rains were over..
His college life began with his Love of debating flowering, winning him few accolades and also landing him into much revered British Council debating circles. Though he began to grow in confidence though confusion and frustration never left him. As he moved ahead the deprivation and mental wreck that his upbringing had on him made every walk of his burdened and heavy. He writes :
I won laurels at college, was known to be charming, witty and clever. Yet there was the persistent feeling of unease lest the mask should crack. My passions were second rate, my mind a jumbled cliches collected from others. Yet i strained my self, wanted to rise above the insipid level of what i knew to be my very mediocre capacities..[..]..I was the shadow of the shadow. It was always hard to build life on such frail foundations.
He later had an whirlwind of a romance with a girl while in college about which he writes exclusively. As expected he moved towards west after the college completed. But then the west also had its own set of ethos which just added to his every present sense of dissatisfaction.
I guess the alienation that any society brings out in a man gives him a few nerves of discontent which run in his body like live wires always waiting to get in to a frenzy. And only Utopia can soothe them down.
Not only the story of Sasthi very much likable or rather relatable, his amazing flair in writing just makes it impossible to put it down. As the pages only tell the tale till his 27th year we can very much can imagine the later ones as how much the world has changed for better. He writes in the preface to the 2006 edition :
If My God Died Young, then he(Nietzsche notwithstanding) has had cyclic resurrections and recurring burials since his obituary appeared in my book in 1968.