Mother of 1084

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  • Topic: Family
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  • Published : November 9, 2012
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The play Mother of 1084 (1997) is the original translation of Mahasweta Devi’s Bengali playHajar Churashir Ma that has the best illustrations for the marginalized category. The neglected and suppressed plight of the woman is represented by Sujata Chatterjee, mother of the protagonist of the play Brati Chatterjee whose ideology i.e., commitment to the revolutionary and Communist Naxalite movement has labeled him as a rebel, and led to his ruthless killing by the police in an ‘encounter’.

In the play Mother of 1084 Sujata Chatterjee, a traditional apolitical upper middle class lady, an employee who awakens one early morning to the shattering news that her youngest and favourite son, Brati, is lying dead in the police morgue bearing the corpse no.1084. Her efforts to understand her son’s revolutionary activism lead her to reflect on her own alienation from the complacent, hypocritical, bourgeois society against which he had rebelled.

The play moves around Sujata, a middle-aged woman belonging to a ‘bhadralok’, bourgeoisie Calcutta family. Born into a conservative, affluent family, Sujata is advised to pursue her B.A. so that it helps her marriage prospects, but is ultimately married off to Dibyanath Chatterjee, a chartered accountant, despite his unsound financial situation. In thirty-four years of their married life, Sujata gives birth to four children, two sons (Jyoti and Brati) and two daughters (Nipa and Tuli). When the novel opens, two of her children are already married, Jyoti to Bina and Nipa to Amrit. In the eyes of the world, all of them are leading perfectly happy and settled lives, but as Sujata goes on to discover later, that this happiness is only superficial.

Significantly, Sujata makes several other discoveries, only after the sudden and mysterious death of Brati, her younger son, with whom she had always shared a very special relationship. For instance, she discovers that all her thirty-four years of her married life, she has been living a lie, as her husband, being an incorrigible philanderer, always cheated her with his mother’s and children’s tacit approval. He fixed up a petty bank job for her, when Brati was barely three years old, not out of any consideration for her economic independence, but essentially to help the family tide over a temporary financial crisis. And, as soon as the tide is over, he wants her to give up the job, which Sujata simply refuses.

Later, she also discovers that her children, too, are leading lives very similar to her own. If there is someone who has dared to be different, it’s Brati. Sullenly rebellious, right from his childhood, Brati has made no secret of his disregard, even contempt, for his familial code and value-system. Turning his back upon this decadent and defunct code, Brati decides to join the Naxalite movement sweeping through the State of West Bengal in late 1960’s and early 1970’s.

Unaware of his secret mission, Sujata is not able to dissuade her son from joining this movement. During his period of struggle, he comes into contact with a young girl, Nandini, who is also a member of the underground movement and with whom he shares his vision of a new world order. On being betrayed by one of his comrades, Brati and three of his close associates, Somu, Parth and Laltu, are brutally murdered by the assassin of the police.

Later, the police call up his father, asking him to come and identify the dead body of his son, who, has in the meantime been divested of his identity as a person, and given another ‘dehumanized identity’ as corpse number 1084. Not only does the father refuse to go, but he also forbids other family members from doing so. Outraged at the manner in which his associates, his immediate family and the state have abandoned the dead Brati, his mother, Sujata decides to go, throwing all pretensions to false social respectability and the fear of public censure, to winds....
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