Cover of English translation
Published in English
Kosala (English: Cocoon), sometime spelled as Kosla, is a 1963 Marathi novel by Bhalchandra Nemade. Considered to be a magnum opus of Nemade and accepted as a modern classic in Marathi literature, it narrates, using autobiographical form, the journey of a young man, Pandurang Sangvikar, and his friends through his college years. Since its publication the novel is considered a trendsetter in Marathi literature due to its open-endedness and its potential for varied interpretation. It has been translated into eight Indian languages and in English.
Kosala, a debut novel of Nemade, was first published in September 1963. Nemade wrote this novel at the age of twenty-five, in a period of a fortnight. It quickly became successful and its several editions were appeared in following years. In 2013, its twenty second edition was published.
With the use of first-person narrative technique, it deals with the first twenty-five years of the life of Pandurang Sangavikar, a young man with rural upbringing who moves to Pune for higher education. He feels isolated in his new social setting. Due to persistent feeling of estrangement, he returns home, only to encounter further disillusionment, where he experiences his sister's death, his father's domination and his own financial dependence. The novel try to encompass the whole social spectrum from the point of view of the young boy, Pandurang.
Principal characters are:
- Pandurang Sangavikar – a protagonist and the only son of a rich village farmer; hostel students call him by his short name, Pandu.
- Pandurang's father – head of a joint family, a rich and respected man in his village
- Mani – Pandurang's younger sister
- Giridhar – Pandurang's village friend
- Suresh Bapat – Pandurang's college friend in Pune
Divided into six sections, the novel narrates, using autobiographical form, the life-story of Pandurang Sangvikar, a young man of 25. Pandurang is the son of well-to-do farmer from Sangvi, a village in Khandesh. The joint family he comes from includes, apart from his parents, his grandmother and four sisters. Pandurang has had a peculiar relationship with his father who is the typical example of a patriarchal family head. He finds his father extremely money-minded, materialistic in pursuits, selfish, unscrupulous and dictatorial in attitude. He does not allow Pandurang, as a boy, to learn to play flute or to act in plays staged at school. He beats his son for wandering around in the company of friends. Thus, right from his childhood, Pandurang is estranged from his father. In sharp contrast to his relationship with his father, Pandurang has extreme affection for his mother and his sisters.
After passing his matriculation examination from the local school, Pandurang moves to Pine for his college education. Living in a hostel, Pandurang decides to enjoy college life. For this he becomes the secretary of the debating society of the college, prefect of the hostel and also directs a play at the Annual Day function of the college. In good faith he gives the management of the hostel mess to one of his poor deserving friends. Though Pandurang tries to help everybody around he eventually finds that he is being used by his so-called friends. Finally when he fares badly in the examinations and his financial position worsens, his life-style invites the wrath of his father. Pandurang then learns the lesson that good deeds do not count for much in life.
Pandurang is a totally new man in the second year of college. He is carefree and adventurous. Now even his father is hesitant to ask him to mend his ways. The untimely death of his younger sister, Mani, somewhat shakes him but otherwise he does not care for anything. Consequently, he fails in the examination. Pandurang, trying in vain to find employment in the city, ultimately returns to his village with an 'existentially' vacant mind. He is now one among the many unemployed youngsters of the village. As he tries to understand their view of life, their sorrows and happiness, the real meaning of life gradually starts dawning on Pandurang.
Theme and techniques
The main theme of Kosala is alienation. The novel is also influenced by existential philosophy, as the ideas of existentialism such as obsession of birth and death, dread, alienation, and absurdity are clearly exposed in it. Similar to other existential novels, Kosla also explores the life of an individual and disclose numerous questions regarding the meaning of life and the values of existence. As seen in the existential novels, here also, Pandurang tells his life story from the first person point of view. Kosala is considered as the first existential novel in Marathi literature.
Pandurang is estranged from his father, right from his childhood. Later on in the novel, this estrangement develops into a major theme of mute revolt on the part of the younger generation, against the patriarchal system of values so characteristic of traditional Indian life. Pandurang has not so far found anything meaningful in his experience of village life. The same experience of meaninglessness repeats itself in his collee life too in Pune, spread over six years.
The novel has been written in an epistolary fashion, where it reads like a number of diary entries. The language of the protagonist, Sangvikar, is an instrument in divulging his worldview. He uses a Marathi dialect spoken in rural Maharashtra. Despite the pessimistic undertones, there is an element of humour throughout the novel. Another technique employed by the author is that the narration describes "historical investigations" often undertaken by Sangvikar and his friend Suresh Bapat, which ultimately uncover to them the absurdity and pathos of their conditions. It uses oblique, irrelevant humour as a serious moral strategy to unmask the phoneyness of society and culture.
Kosala is widely regarded as a modern classic and a path-breaking novel which left its mark on the sathottari (post-1960) Marathi fiction. With its publication, Nemade was considered a representative writer of his generation. The novel received immediate critical acclaim after its publication and heralded a new trend in Marathi literature. Since its publication the novel is considered a trendsetter in Marathi literature due to its open-endedness and its potential for varied interpretation. It has been the most appreciated and widely interpreted novel by critics including Dilip Chitre, Narhar Kurundkar, Chandrashekhar Jahagirdar, Vilas Sarang, Sukanya Aagase, Rekha Inamdar-Sane and Vasudev Sawant. Chandrashekhar Jahagirdar wrote that, "It was only Kosla, which responding as it did to a crisis in the cultural consciousness of Maharashtra, that opened up new, native possibilities of form and meaning and thus sought to change the direction of both literary taste and fictional tradition".
Kosala has been adapted into a play, Me, Pandurang Sangavikar (lit. I am Pandurang Sangavikar), directed by Mandar Deshpande.
Kosala has been translated into eight Indian languages and also into English. The available translations of the novel are as follows:
- Kosala (Hindi), published by National Book Trust, New Delhi (1983)
- Kosheto (Gujarati; tr. Usha Sheth), published by National Book Trust, New Delhi (1995)
- Kosala (Kannada; tr. Vaman Dattatraya Bendre), published by National Book Trust, New Delhi (1995)
- Palur Vah (Assamese), published by National Book Trust, New Delhi (1996)
- Kosala (Punjabi), published by National Book Trust, New Delhi (1996)
- Cocoon (English; tr. Sudhakar Marathe), published by Macmillan Publishers India, Chennai (1997)
- Need (Bengali), published by Sahitya Academi, New Delhi (2001)
- Kosala (Urdu), published by National Book Trust, New Delhi (2002)
- Koshapok (Odia), published by National Book Trust, New Delhi (2005)
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