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Book Review: Everything and Nothing by Nilotpal Dutta

The vagaries of life are as uncertain as the quirk of fate. What we plan, think, and anticipate – could change in a matter of few days. But whenever life changes and goes opposite the dreams, it causes irreparable pain. In the novel ‘Everything and Nothing’ by Nilotpal Dutta we follow a similar lifecycle of one strong yet na├»ve woman: Damyanti.

In a true sense, this novel reads like a historical saga. The family tree of the protagonist Damyanti and others roots back to 18th century. The novel is mainly staged against the modern-day Bangladesh. It sheds light on how a family is built and developed layer by layer, from one generation to another. Damyanti also known as Paki in childhood was a privileged child to have a family of good values and in fact that time there was hardly any communal division. So, she enjoyed her life purely and could see Hindu, Bengali, or Muslim through a same lens. But things changed…for worst.

Her story roots back to peaceful days of Dacca (now Dhaka). She was so much in love with this city’s culture, peace, and charm that she planned to never leave it. The traverse of the story is long…from 18th century to over 1992 Ram Mandir agitation in India. Much part of the novel tries to justify that it’s outsiders that broke Bengalis but it came as a sharp realization for Damyanti that her own people can act like outsiders too.

Her story begins in Bangladesh, endures the pain of 1947 partition, witness the emergency epoch of Mrs. Gandhi, and up till the Ram Mandir and Babri Masjid communal disturbance.

The novel pinpoints that people may be peaceful and loving each other but communal gap like separation and riots change their heart. Some things they never forget, those memories never take a dip in the fading fog.

Damyanti’s life changes when the voice of India-Pakistan partition reached her country. She was a resident among Muslim-dominating area. Some of her family members fled, some got killed and raped. She and her husband moves to Patna to start life afresh. Ironically, peace always eluded her, though prosperity was always in her fist, as she was a medical field practitioner, and her husband an elite professor.

Many political events and happenings kept jolting her life since childhood. Yet she never gave up nor thought of supporting one cause. She remained holistic and fought for her core values that conformed to humanity.

Bangladesh liberation war, emergency of 1970s, and Ram Mandir – Babri Masjid conflict were the some haunting that shook her life over and again. She always kept that belief alive of going back to Dacca to live that life once again. But fate has something else stored for her. Political turmoil and communal riots are not only life-threatening events but also life-changing.

Damyanti’s life had been full of ups and down but she fought each situation with the strength of character and raised her children and grandchildren with good teachings, in a conducive ambience. Her life, at large, remained a shattered puzzle, however, she always helped the needy ones and never lost the courage to stand up repetitively.

From history point of view, it’s a way great book. The author must have done tremendous research to club up so many events in one story with one strong character. The language is controlled and lucid, the story flows in a measured pace. Overall, ‘Everything and Nothing’ is a heartwarming book on tragedies, loss, hope, and redemption of people who are separated and suffered for no valid reasons.

Buy from Amazon.


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