Gone are the Rivers is a novel by the Punjabi novelist Dalip Kaur Tiwana.
Tiwana is considered as the leading prose writer in Punjabi. She has written novels, short stories, autobiography and literary criticism. She was a professor of Punjabi. Her first novel is Agni Prikhy (The Ordeal of Fire) in the late sixties. One of her early works was the famous Eho Hamara Jivan. Her autobiographical work Travelling on Bare Feet is also much discussed. As these titles suggest her works are bent towards the metaphorically.
I have read only one of her works: Gone are the Rivers. It made an immediate impact on me. Primarily for two reasons: it revises the form of the novel. secondly, it has clear unmisty eyes about the past.
Gone are the Rivers uses two kinds of temporalities. The first refers to a feudal time while the second to a modern/democratic time. The narrative in the first part is cyclical, episodic, symptomatic and never linear. The second part is refers to the post-Independent time; the narrative is more linear, more realistic, more like the ‘novel’. This internal refraction about the genre seems to be alive to the burden of a postcolonial writer. This novel becomes important, I think, because of this experiment in relation to the novel form.
The second feature I like is that it is least nostalgic. One of the irritating aspects of some novels is the nostalgia for the bygone lifestyle. A nostalgia that seems to express craving for the feudal social structure. While this novel narrates the passing of time and the transformation in society and culture, major reshuffling in social relations, at no pint this novel indicate a desire for the revival of what is past.
It begins with a graphic portrayal of the lifestyle of the courtiers of the state of Patiala. This depiction is not a chronological narrative. It follows in an episodic manner the various walks of life. The novel builds up a dense picture of the political economy, the social relations, the sexual domain, the familial relations, the master-servant relations etc. The story line relates the changes in the life of a high ranking minister of the Patiala court.
The second part of the novel refers to contemporary India. Here, the feudal classes have been humbled, there is now the social relations are more flat.
More in the next blog.