Biman Nath brings stories from lesser known parts of the country to us, urban dwellers. His latest novel The Tattooed Fakir (Pan Macmillan, Rs. 299), like his 2009 novel, Nothing Is Blue, makes for a refreshing read. This is because it is set in rural India during the relatively unknown Sanyasi-Fakir rebellion against the British between 1770 and 1790, led by Majnu Shah.
Launched by Jahnavi Baruah at Sapna Book House this month, The Tattooed Fakir begins with the kidnap of a fakir’s young wife, Roshanara by the village zamindar, who lusts for her. The British sahib, however, intervenes and takes her as his own mistress. Asif, her husband, is distraught and eventually joins a militant fakir group. Years later, Asif meets his son Roshan, a ferocious tattooed fakir, in a rescue mission, and finds that he is insecure about his identity.
Through The Tattooed Fakir, Biman Nath not only provides a glimpse into this period of history but also attempts to understand reasons behind ordinary people turning against the state.
“Warren Hastings, the then Governor-General, branded the fakirs as ‘enemies of the state’. I wanted to understand how an ordinary person would feel being termed a terrorist and what drives them to take up arms. The fakirs in my books are religious Muslims, but they aren’t fundamentalists. A similar situation can be seen with the Maoist movement.”