Akoopar, the Infinte
A heart-warming narrative of the oneness between the people of Gir and its eco-system.
Here is the second installment of the series ‘Back to Basics’ for you, my dear readers. In my first installment, I talked about two books, which reconnected me to my land and its culture. One of it was Akoopar by Dhruv Bhatt. It is a heart-warming narrative of the oneness between the people of Gir (the region of Asiatic Lion Sanctuary in Gujarat) and its eco-system. Through Akoopar, I entered into an altogether different world and was lost in its pristine way of life. I want to give you a glimpse of that.
So, what’s the title all about?
Well, Akoopar is a mythological character existing since the dawn of life. It is a tortoise that upholds the world. On its back, steadies celebrated thousand headed serpent Sheshnag, who supports the earth. Akoopar is originally a Sanskrit word, which also has some very beautiful meanings such as unlimited, boundless; the sea, the receptacle of waters and the sun. Here, in the book, the mythological tortoise is referred to as the symbol of the law of nature that is eternal. Thus, Akupar – the infinite.
And what is the plot like?
An urban artist finds himself in the unfamiliar land of Gir. He has come here to make paintings of the Earth as one of the five elements (viz earth, wind, water, fire and space). He might have just painted a few landscapes here and there and had left, had he not came into the proximity of the people living there. As he starts getting acquainted with them and sincerely makes an effort to understand the land where the king of beasts and humans live together since the time unknown, it begins to unfold its secrets to him.
In Gir, humans and animals are one. It is life that is valued not the form, which is takes. Each person (I would not call them characters, because for me they exist beyond the pages of this book) appears and leads you closer to the nature. Be it a lioness named Ramazana or a leopard fondly called Kadu. Or a mountain couple (sic) Ghantalo-Ghantali. Or the river Hiran, grace personified. You will end up considering these all, a part of your consciousness. This is the magic of Dhruv Bhatt’s pen. Or the magic of land itself? I wonder…
There was a lady Sarpanch named Rani, who despite having lost her daughter like niece, explained her fellow fishermen why they should not hunt whales that come to the shore for breeding. She hardly knew any geographical issues regarding endangered species, but she considered this oceanic mammal her family. And that is all that is needed to protect it. There was a forest guard Dhanu, who despite being attacked by a lion, considers him as the most aristocratic of animals. It was his sensitivity that knew that the lion did not intend to kill him. And there was Sansai, kind and courageous, who becomes a voice for every living thing of this land. I love it when she asks the urban artist, ‘of what use you would be to Gir?’ and not ‘of what use Gir would be to you?’
Why I read and reread Akoopar?
There never is any dearth of books these days, it there? There are genres like romance, thriller, mythology (hot cake!) and so on and so. It does not even have any story or the kind of material that would classify itself into any kind of genre. But it is interesting. Funny. Serious. Overwhelming. Thrilling. And joyous.
Here is a book that touches my depth. It awakens my consciousness from its slumber. It shakes me and asks where has my sensitivity gone for my surroundings. It leaves me thinking about my own being and its tuning with the world around.
[Special thanks to Dhaivat Hathi for introducing me to this book. For those interested in reading this book, which is originally written in Gujarati (click here to get it) and translated into English. Click here to buy it from the Amazon. It is also translated in Marathi (click here).
A play Akoopar based on this book written by the same author and directed by Aditi Desai is presented by Jashwant Thaker Memorial Foundation, along with Gujarat Vidyapith Gandhi Theatre. It is an different experience altogether. A must watch. Many thanks to Aditiben for letting me use the symbolic images from her play.]