Author, Burning for Freedom

Author, Burning for Freedom
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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Follow the Clues . . .

Hi, Everyone! As I had written, I had research material on the Cellular Jail written by the political prisoners (PPs) themselves. But there was one peculiarity about it—an almost complete absence of dates or sequence of events!

It was all written under hush-hush circumstances and from memory. With their horrendous situation they had no way of keeping dates or a diary. So there is a certain amount of confusion. Savarkar has made it a point to be ambiguous in some places, for the British were watching him like a hawk. He has mentioned no names, unless the person had passed away. His narration, though very thorough, is not sequential.

What to do now—was the dilemma I faced.

 Well, I told myself, what I have is essentially a ‘mystery’. I shall gather all my clues and fit them into a pattern. (I haven’t devoured Hercules Poirot’s books for nothing!)

For a base I copied the calendar for the years 1913-21. Then marked the fixed dates I had for events on it. I padded it out with each incident and event, the best I could. So now I had created an Andaman diary.

This was what I referred to throughout. The whole process was not unlike being a detective—an intuitive one.

·        Savarkar had mentioned a Hindu warder devoted to him. In Ramcharan Lal Sharma’s book I found that warders name! Bajira.

·        In Barin Kumar’s book I found lots of descriptions of various people, which was precious for me.

·        But Barin Kumar has made a mistake in the name of Superintendent. So I realized I cannot blindly follow everything I find in the PPs books. I must need double check all information. I had a hard time finding the correct names of the Superintendent. But I did do it (I very much needed the help of Google. There were all kinds of documents on the Cellular Jail chronology.)

I should also say, most of the PPs books are written from their personal point of view and reveals their own bias, imperfect understanding of some situations (so I felt). So I didn’t blindly follow what they wrote, either. I crossed checked again and again.

I found Savarkar’s writing to be very impartial. But he makes it a point to refer to a ‘traitor’ among the PPs, who snitched on him many times to get concessions from Barrie. I have identified this ‘traitor’ to my satisfaction—by pouncing on obscure but revealing clues—but didn’t use this information in the novel. Let it be, I felt. Savarkar had a right to write of his experiences. I don’t have the same right to write so of one who went through hell for his motherland. So no traitor or even a whiff of one in my book. 

I came across a very peculiar circumstance in Ramcharan Lal Sharma’s book. I shall write on that tomorrow.


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