Being a history student I was familiar with the India’s First War of Independence in 1857. Though in our history books I mostly read about this titled as, ‘Mutiny of 1857’ or ‘Uprising of 1857’ or ‘ The Rebellion of 1857’ but to be fair to the history and martyrs, it should be called as , ‘War of Independence.’ When I chanced upon the book, ‘Recalcitrance’ by Anurag Kumar, I was curious to know how someone can write a novel on an important event of our history. I hardly come across fiction of those times. Another thing was how was Lucknow during those times. Lucknow is a city I admire a lot. Every city has its own soul. Lucknow certainly posses a different soul. Though I was born and brought up in another city, but I kept on visiting this city frequently during my growing years and fell in love with it. The novel , ‘Recalcitrance’ is having both, history one of my favorite subject and , Lucknow, one of my favorite city.
First thing that struck me while reading the book was Anurag Kumar is a very good storyteller. He weaves a good story around a historical event and none of them seem to make a forced entry. The protagonist of the story, ‘Chote Bhaiya’ is an endearing character. He has all the human virtues and failings, our everyday character. But when he choses to rise to the occasion, that sets him apart from others. You will also find a cute love story silently sneaking into your heart and rest there for a while warmly.
The novel also discusses the general outlook of the society prevailing at that time and how they reacts to the India’s First War of Independence’ and what strikes a chord is we are more or less still the same. There are people, who will gladly give up all the comforts of life and contribute to the call of the motherland. One section will be indecisive and follow the wait and watch policy and one will try to make most of from the turmoil and misery of people. It seems nothing has changed much since 1857, except infrastructure and clothes.
The character which remained with me, is an unnamed ‘white turbaned man.’ He is the one who assesses the strength and weaknesses of the public almost accurately and in the end reacts in quite an unexpected manner. My heart goes out to him. The book also throws light on Hindu Muslim relationships. People make lifelong friendships with another religious community but still observe strict adherence to their rituals. You will find two friends Tek Chand, Karim Kahn being closer to each other than their own family members.
Writing fiction around truth is not an easy task. You can’t take too much liberty. People know what actually happened and why. But Anurag has struck a fine balance between fiction and history. In a nutshell, ‘The Recalcitrance’ makes an interesting read and you will get to know the soul of this fabulous city, Lucknow and its people. You won’t find the book boring or writer dragging the plot unnecessarily at any place. You can order the book from e-bay.