CHITTAGONG: SUMMER OF 1930
Published by HarperCollins - 12 October 2012
The book takes a leaf out of the Independence movement to capture an important moment from the history of India. Strangely enough that particular event seems to have been forgotten even by the historians today. In 1930 an ordinary school master Surya Sen dared to capture the British armoury situated at Chittagong in the then East Bengal. Daring to perform the unthinkable with his 65 boys, Surya Sen freed the town for three days, defying the unmatched power of the British forces. It led to years of rebellion in the country. Surya Sen was ultimately caught by the police and hanged. This incident has gone down into the annals of time but Manoshi Bhattacharya has tried to revive those bygone days with her powerful pen. The research involved in writing an apparently simple event can be understood only when the reader peruses the lines of the book. The author has detailed the incidents and fictionalized events for easier understanding but her narration does not move in a straightforward manner.
Chittagong captures within its compass not only the town made famous because of the raid but also other smaller towns where people wanted to free the country from foreign yoke by force. It is a true story drawn from personal memoirs, letters, official documents, secret police files and delineated through the memories of a host of people including the British officers and their wives. The book is not only about the Chittagong raid but innumerable events that led to the famed incident. Bhattacharya had dug up some special events from the past and presented before the readers facts written in an intriguing style. For the first time the reader stands face to face with history of a different kind. The past has been fictionalized and real life characters transformed into dramatis personae in such a way that it becomes difficult to distinguish between the two.
Bhattacharya, like a seasoned novelist, has divided the book into chapters and has named characters for multiple headings to make the narration move up and down in time and space. Initially it requires some time for the readers to keep pace with such movement. The book offers more than just the facts of the armoury raid of Chittagong. It covers the history from 1930 and beyond in the form of a thriller.
Similarly, there are innumerable characters on whom this drama of the fight for independence is based. Bhattacharya makes the book readable and did not fill it with unnecessary details. Thus facts like the the revolutionaries’ meathod of collecting funds is balanced with looting in different towns or the unforeseen accidents help us understand the complex maneuvers of the freedom fighters who had barely crossed their teens. Surya Sen, Ambika Chakraborty, Nirmal Sen, Charu Bikash Dutt, Ganesh Ghosh, and Ananta Lal Singh were all under police surveillance yet they successfully carried on with their plan. The book also has some rare photographs of these brave men. Some of the events in the book points to the amount of research involved and the attention to minute details add to the interest. The reference to the explosion outside the house of the Deputy Superintendent of Police in which Nagen Sengupta lay injured on the street is new information for the readers. The brothers of the Oxford Mission vouched for his innocence as well as one of the judges and blamed the police for involving his name. But later it was found to be otherwise.
The well researched book will satisfy the curiosity of the reader,scholar and students of history.
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