Sunday, October 10, 2010

Villgro Blog: Simply Fly Chapter 2

In Chapter 2, Gopinath fights in the Bangladesh Liberation War, is posted on the Sino-Indian border and then in Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, South India, and then leaves the army and decides to become a farmer. Gopinath says that he went through an emotional-spiritual crisis while on the Sino-Indian border, that triggered his desire to leave the army. However, the reader is given few details on what this emotional-spiritual crisis is.

For me, Gopinath’s decision to leave the army is related to his resentment and hatred of regimentation, which I mentioned in my last post on Simply Fly. In Chapter 1 Gopinath says that when he first enrolled in the Sainik School he lived in a tent, and that, “the tent became a recurring motif in my later life and I kept going back to tents”. The tent seems to be a symbol of the life free from regimentation that Gopinath desires. At the end of Chapter 2, he makes a decision to try to farm the largely barren land that his father receives from the government, in compensation for the farmland that they were going to lose for a dam. Gopinath says that:

…I unrolled a reed mat in front of the tent and then spread a cotton durree
(the thick, home-spun ethnic Indian mat) across it. I lay there in silence
that evening, observing the stars in the sky, satisfied that I had at last
found my true calling in life. I was exhausted from the travel and the toils
of the evening, but at peace with myself.

The second tension that I identified in the first chapter, between equality and hierarchy, is also present throughout Chapter 2. It is vividly described in an incident when a general attends an army dinner in Thiruvananthapuram. According to army tradition, the officers pay for the food and beverages bill of a general, even if they drink expensive liquor. However, Gopinath felt this practice was unfair and, in consultation with his Brigadier, decided that the general would be served Indian whisky and rum, rather than Scotch.

Once Gopinath decides to become a farmer, he again demonstrates his sensitivity to inequality. He makes an agreement with a Dalit boy, Raju, that they will take turns farming and cooking equally. Although Gopinath does not make this explicit, it seems that by doing so, he is freeing Raju from the bonded labor that he was trapped in, because his father had borrowed money from a few households in the village.