Gopinath Mohanty is a renowned Indian novelist who advocated for a classless society. The second quarter of the twentieth century witnessed many great piece of words from this writer. He received Jnanpith and Padma Bhushan.
Paraja is the struggle made by the poor people for their land. The land here denotes the identity of the tribe itself. This novel could be visualized as the struggle for identity.
This novel narrates the story of 22 families living in a remote village in Orissa. Paraja was the tribe of the protagonist. The whole story revolves around Sukru Jani and his family. Sombari was Sukru Jani’s deceased wife. He had two sons, Mandia and Tikri. Jilli and Billi were his daughters.
Paraja was a tribe full of innocent people. They considered themselves to be subjugated before others, especially to outsiders. One day a forest guard came to the village. The writer presented him as a civilized person. He wore a T-shirt and trousers where most of the people of the village were half-naked. The illiterate people of the village saw the forest guard as a demigod.
Sukru Jani decided to please the guard by offering some gifts. He did it to get permission to cut down trees from the forest to extend the cultivation of land. Initially, the guard was friendly with the local people but later the guard had an attraction toward Sukru Jani’s daughter Jilli. Sukru Jani was not happy about it.
One day Sukru Jani came to know about the guard’s misbehavior with his daughters Jilli and Billi. He had to fight with the guard.
The guard left the village but after one month he came back to the village with other officers and charged many cases against them. Sukru Jani didn’t have enough money to make a legal fight against those officials. Sukru Jani decided to borrow money from Saukar Ramachandran Bisoi, the money lender of the village. According to the custom of the land, the one who borrows money becomes the servant of the lender until it is fully repaid. Sukru Jani had no other option; he borrowed money from the Saukar and made himself a servant to the Saukar. Meanwhile, Mandia and Tikri ( Sukru Jani’s sons) made a failed attempt to move to another village which was eventually stopped by the police. The police asked them for 50 Rupees to release them from this case.
They had no other option but to borrow it from the Saukar which eventually made them too as slaves of the Saukar like their father. Sukru Jani later decided to sell his land to the Saukar to set himself free. So he had to give his ancestral land to the money lender for 25 Rupees.
Sukru Jani searched for his two daughters (Jilli and Billi). He found them eventually at their new workplace. There he met Nandhi Balli, an orphan who loved Billi. Nandhi Balli expressed this interest to Sukru Jani also. Sukru Jani agreed to this proposal on the condition that Nandhi Balli would be his servant until he paid off the bride price.
Saukar had an interest in Sukru Jani’s other daughter Jilli. He gave her many gifts as a result Jilli visited Money Lender many nights. Sukru Jani came to know about this and he asked Jilli to leave his house. Jilli went to the house of the Saukar where her brothers were the servants to the Saukar.
By the end of the story, Mandia kills Saukar by using an axe and he himself surrenders to the nearest police station. This novel sheds light on various themes like identity struggle, exploitation of nature and women, and unpredictability of life. These themes are more common in African Literature.
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