Bayan reviewed by Swapna Peri
Book Reviews Cafe India.
It is with a happy heart and thoughtful mind I congratulate and thank the author for penning down this book. There are many times my father, a 65-year-old man, comments about the cultural, climatical, political and lifestyle changes that have been continuously changing according to the times. Sometimes the murmur irritates and sometimes makes me think as on why he does this. It took time for me to understand the psychological aspect of it. I felt a similar blow when my 7-year-old niece tried correcting me of something which I had a strong opinion on. Though this may not suit precisely the point, I am trying to explain, but the continuous changes that happen throughout often put down the framework one has created in his own mind. It is only when with a flexible and positive mindset, one can adapt and enjoy the changes. These changes may be in any aspect. To support my view, the below lines from the book might suffice:
‘Soil, not the tree, determines the taste of the fruit…’ he murmured to himself looking at the half-eaten apple.
‘Last time it was crispier and crunchier than this time…’ he added and the tenebrous expression he was wearing on his face suggested he was hankering for the taste of the past.
This ever going comparisons between past and present makes most of the exuberant events in one’s life memorable. In this book, the past life of Ivan which is explained to the stranger when his quest starts when he sees the old book is an oscillation between past and present times which has Ivan Nikolayevich in it.
The USSR times, The World War times, The Soviet Nations and their struggle and the story of the country Ukraine, the people, the traditions and the many things in the book not only entertained me as a reader but taught me unknown things and made me a learner. I was not aware of an instrument named ‘Bayan’ but only knew that Bayan means ‘a statement’ in the Hindi language. The history, the culture and geography of Ukraine mentioned in the book hooked me to the book. The names of the places and people are novel and unique. As a reader from the other part of the world opened new avenues in knowing new things.
What to expect from the story
Expect a story of yesteryear’s unknown life.
Expect story of our ancestors who survived through the rough trials of lands during World War.
Expect a story that unknowingly makes an elder accept continuous cultural and climate changes.
Expect a story that digs the buried feelings in an old man’s memory.
Expect a story that showcases the natural and positive side of developments around the world.
Expect a story that lets the old man vent out the unsaid feelings.
Expect the story of belongingness with the favourite things one possesses, be it a book or a memory as the Bayan, in this case.
Who can read
This book is universal. Anyone who loves fiction with a historical backdrop and its relevance in the present times can read the book. The language and vocabulary used in the book are accessible to the readers of any age group.
What is the storyline
This book, Bayan, is a story of a person who travels through generations. The name Bayan which means an old type instrument. The relationship between the old man and Bayan is entwined with his past experiences and present life and generation changes. The story starts with a dusty old book and ends with an old woman playing the Bayan! It is a complete circle of emotions, transformations and changes.
My take on the characters
The characters are the most fantastic part of the story. There are so many different shades and layers in the characters. The concept of character study if done on Ivan gives newer perspectives of humanity, and the quality of the lifestyle people live in. Talking about Ivan’s character, as I respect Karl Marx and his idea of a society that he dreamt for the betterment of people but was misinterpreted and misused by other leaders, is also in a way associated with Marx made me feel closer to Ivan.
The beauty lies in stepping into the shoes of the stranger who meets Ivan. An even better thing is becoming a spectator and watching things going around. This kind of scope is possible only when there is a good storyline awaiting the reader. In this case, it proved possible!
How good is the author’s writing style
This is my first book from the author, and I must honestly admit that I am enchanted by this style of writing. The writing style of author Pramudith has a fair use of the people around the setting of the story and the places. This local influence on the book makes the story more realistic. Though this exercise is generally followed by every author who writes a fiction story, it is uncommon that the reader also becoming one of the characters which are not sketched in the story and travel with the central characters till the end. Here, every reader who understands the nature of Ivan will become his companion. This trait in the author’s writing attracted me.
The portrayal of other characters with stipulated scope, space and timing in the story with superb detailing added more beauty to the story. His descriptions of the places in the story, be it the river or an old tree or even the rumbles of buildings; the reader will soon find herself or himself dreaming of visiting such places. Well, I did dream to experience the extreme snow climate in Ukraine.
I also loved how the written letters become the game changers and mood shifters in the story. The descriptions of weather, people, food, cuisines etc. blended in the story wondered me.
Author Pramudith’s writing wows the reader from the first page itself. The struggle an old man faces to understand the differences that happened around him makes the readers empathize him, and this is because of the author’s writing regime. Imagining the life of a 73-year-old man who belongs to a different generation and who now faces the new world and presenting them in a book is not an easy task, but the author Pramudith has excelled in it. With the use of universally accessible language and proper explanations of new words and vocabulary, reading Bayan is all together with a life-time experience, and I am fortunate to have tasted it!
How entertaining is the book
Some books make readers smile, laugh, cry and sometimes think. There are some books which give information and knowledge. And some books teach and enlighten. If all these characteristics are found in the same book and that too, a fiction book – it is quite rare! But, here the story of Ivan rather the book ‘Bayan’ is the proof! Bayan is a book of experiences that date back from the times of WWII. Bayan is a culmination of generations of humans who lived a life that comprised various struggles. Bayan is the face of an unknown society to the world which was chained under say hands of capitalistic governments. The significantly lesser-known country Ukraine happens to be the central character of the book. This book now when read in the 21st century with all the materialistic comforts around, holding a mug of coffee sitting on a spring mattress, gives jolts in mind for the facts and situations that Ivan showcases.
From the title till the last page of the book, every line and sentence is a surreal experience. The places, the people and the events that occur in the book play like a film of continuous images. Jotting together all these this book by author Pramudith is definitely an entertainer!
A story that opens a door towards humanity!
Link to the review published in the book reviews cafe