13 June, 2021

Unadorned Doors

This photgraph is of all that CPI leader A.B. Bardhan left behind when he died recently. Writer Amit Chaudhuri responds to it, ruminating on life, death and possessions.

Sanjay Rawat
Unadorned Doors

I know almost nothing about A.B. Bardhan. I wish I knew nothing about him, that I didn’t have the information that comprises the ‘almost’. Because, when I look at the picture of his room, my ignorance creates a sense of intimacy. The information I have comes to mean nothing—he was a member of the Communist Party; he appeared on television, haranguing the governments; he was from Barisal and became a trade unionist (these details I’ve gathered after his death). There’s a fatal belief that people have about writing—especially the writing of fiction, or of reportage that’s based on the same conventions—that you can add up important details, put together the principal inf­ormation, and make up a ‘character’. But can our sense of familiarity with a character actually come from this? Virginia Woolf challenged this notion  in 1924: “Some Brown, Smith, or Jones comes before [novelists] and says in the most sed­uctive and charming way in the world, ‘Come and catch me if you can’.... Few catch...

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