Harijan is the term coined by Mahatma Gandhi to address the underprivileged people of society. Children of Hari(Lord Vishnu). This was my only knowledge about the Harijans in India. Being brought up in a state where caste discrimination is not as stark as in the rest of India, or so I thought, I never bothered to delve deeper into the subject. Harijan by Gopinath Mohanty opened a new perspective on the lives of the lower caste in the post-independence era.
“I don’t let them inside the kitchen”, is the most discriminating statement that I have come across in this matter. Yes! this mindset is still there in the so-called upper strata of society. But nothing prepared me for the horror that the underprivileged folks have gone through in the past. Harijan is a work of art and reality.
Carrying the human excreta on the shoulders and unloading them with bare hands! I was shocked by the bones. The author has deftly depicted how Punis life transformed on the day she started working for the first time.
The characters are crafted perfectly. Be it Puni, her mother, boyfriend or Manomayee and her family – each character had a story to tell. When the real laughs on our faces we will be unable to sleep with the horror of what they are going through.
The relationships are lucidly depicted. How the relations change with circumstances is another highlight of the story. The plot is taking place in another era that we could never visualise but with sheer talent and finesse the author has achieved the feat.
In short, without any doubt, I can say that Harijan by Gopinath Mohanty is one of the best-crafted novels that I have read in recent times.