Zimba’s journey – A review of Bhadraji’s book by Prof. Sunanda Mahendra

Zimba’s journey by Professor Sunanda Mahendra

Narrated in more situations of human interesting than mere descriptive summons, this story titled is Zimba, the Black Hero of Appalachia. It is set in the not so long ago history of South Carolina. The author Bhadraji Jayatilaka has drawn material to narrate the make belief profile of a young slave who escapes his slave camp in search of freedom and fellow beings in a place where he yearns to live like a human being.

The adventures the protagonist Zimba or Jonah encounters are manifold and narrated in the most sensitive manner possible evoking a sense of tragedy common to most nations packed with slave traders, outlaws, gangsters and native tribal members connected to a cause.

Jayatilaka selects his protagonist Zimba, as a black boy who could have lived and experienced these encounters common to Apartheid, a subject much discussed and the racial issues of black and white and the terminologies of being Negroid Black and Indian. Though the days of such narratives seem to have forgotten, yet they may evoke new interests as seen through the eyes of human rights and allied subject areas.

Jayatilaka, in the cause of his narrative process, lays much emphasis on motherly love and kindness which is a common human factor, akin to all nations. The reader sees the attempts on the part o the slave masters to separate the mother from the son.

Some of the creative writers of the calibre of James Baldwin, famed for the work ‘Another Country’, have had praises for peeping into the realms of racialism and the maltreatment of humans by humans themselves. One might suppose that there is nothing particularly startling in the view of the world as regards human discrimination. But the situation prevailed in the worst condition and particular moments of human history.

Bhadraji attempts to capture one such human situation that had prevailed in a country, without a name, but presumably in America, as the names of the slave masters suggest. Human problems and maltreatments like slavery and apartheid had persisted in several countries. With the advent of human rights movements.

Some issues had abated, some others changed into various other forms typified by the terms such as ethnic discrimination and racial discrimination. Jayatilaka, more famed for his religious-narratives, who had stayed a longer period in California had devoted time to study some of these human aspects, trying to give a broader global interpretation to the historic events. He creates a great big white cotton plantation to which human hands were brought in or sold by slave traders and the issue that transpires in the life of a mother and a son, Jonah (Zimba) and Maltic are recreated.

The man is constantly in search of a happiness which he had lost due to his own misgivings. This is one point that the novelist wants to bring out. The protagonist, Zimba, from his childhood days to the youth and manhood tries to fathom the quality of well being, which he never discovers. As such, the entire novel rests on a journey into the search of one’s human identity.

This could happen anywhere in the globe may be the thought stream of Jayatilaka and visualizes the circumstances of human versus human attitudes that prevailed over the years irrespective of a partuarrame. The motherly love and kindness is pinpointed as the most sensitive and touching area in the work.

Then come the willpower to escape torture and punishment. Aspects such as separation from the loving ones, the pains encountered thereby and the search for the loved ones are some of the salient factors expressed in the narrative. Bhadraji Jayatilaka, as a narrator, is a researcher who had collected material pertaining to the slave masters and these issues connected with slavery. Then he transcends the narrow barriers of the sociologists by creating lively dialogues that ensue between human beings as regards their living conditions, the prevailing laws and regulations and the way to get rid of some of them in order to achieve a better living condition.

Towards the latter part of the work, the reader feels how two friends, Zimba and his friend, traverse a long journey which is symbolic of the man’s journey in Samsaric cycle. A place called North seems to be the destination. But the destination happens to be a mere dream. Can a man find a good place to reset his head and feel the pulse of happiness in his brief period of existence? That looks the question inherently posed in the central human struggle to achieve freedom.

The work of Jayatilaka also depicts yet another factor of the new forms of narrative, where even the aspects of the so called alien cultures could be studied by a sensitive literary creator in another part of the globe.

Most foreign writers of the caliber of R L Spittel, John Steele, Rudyard Kipling and Leonard Woolf utilized human experiences of other cultures for their creative communication. Doris Lessing seems to have excelled in this direction and the most recent narrator who borrowed material from the farm life in Rhodesia. This paves the way for the creative writer to transcend the narrow barriers of his own human identity. The would-be benefits are many.

One paramount factor would be the global human understanding which will eventually lead to world peace. The protagonist or the hero, Zimba, in this work of Jaytilaka is not a mere freedom fighter or an opinion leader who struggles to achieve his own freedom. But he is depicted as a freedom fighter cum saint who visualizes the need to make the world a better place to live in happiness.

There are several narrative layers within the structure They include such areas as the planning for a better human development, the need to have a better human interaction and the need to bring common human laws that prevent harm and torture to all living beings inclusive of animals as well.

Jayatilaka’s black hero, Zimba, is a page-moving narrative which underlines several significant factors that go into the making of a hero. (sunandamahendra@gmail.com)

Source: http://www.dailynews.lk/?q=features/zimbas-journey

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