The 75th session of An Author’s Afternoon was a storytelling session of a young girl in pre-independent Calcutta. The story revolved around Bangladeshi Author Sharbari Zohra Ahmed’s book “Dust Under her Feet”. She was in conversation with Esha Chatterjee.
The protagonist of her book, Yasmine, a heartthrob of city’s nightclub scene seizes a lifetime opportunity when the US sets up a large army base in Burma to fight the Japanese during the 40s.
Yasmine builds a family of singers, dancers, waifs and strays at the nightclub where swarms of soldiers would converge each evening to watch the girls dance. Here she meets American soldier Lt. Edward Lafaver and falls for him knowing well that he would never leave his wife and family.
The author’s powerful narrative evoked vivid imagery of a time when the power of the Raj era was on the wane and the fear of Japanese bombing kept the city on its toes.
The intricacies of an undefined relationship raise many questions for Yasmine – Can friendship heal once trust is broken? Can love survive the realities of race and social pressures?
The author takes the readers through the eyes of Yasmine to grapple with issues like racism, colonialism and the ravages of war. Smatterings of Bengali expressions like ahladi, nyakami, dhongand so on spices up her narrative.
A sizeable number of young students among the audience raised many questions on learning the craft of writing. Motivating the students, the author said, “Bengalis have certain indomitable attitude of challenging any situation, they are not comfortable with status quo. Arrogance should be destroyed otherwise it destroys creativity.”