Six and a Third Acres

by Chandra Sundeep
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Cover picture of Six and a Third Acres by Fakir Senapati

 

Fakir Mohan Senapati’s Chha Mana Aatha Guntha was first published in Odiya in 1897. Six and a Third Acres, translated in English by Leelawati Mohapatra, is the first Indian classic I’ve ever read.

Senapati’s colloquial writing style takes the readers back in time to the 1800s to Gobindpur village in Odisha, where the villagers are grappling with poverty, the zamindari system, politics, caste-based oppression, and colonialism. One might think that because of these themes, the story might appear to be a commentary on social evils. Instead, it’s just the opposite. It’s a tongue-in-cheek and ironic take on not just these evils, but also human greed and deceit.

This single line conveys the crux of the story.

It’s destiny that prevails in the end, for everyone everywhere.

 

Bhagia and Saria, a weaver family, are the owners of a piece of land measuring Six Acres and a Third. Ramchandra Mangaraj, a greedy and devious zamindar, has set his eyes on this couple’s fertile field. Known for hatching cunning plots to sieze poor people’s lands, Mangaraj comes up with a plan. As the ownership of the parcel of land changes, so does the fate and fortune of the people involved.

Told by an omniscient narrator who is sarcastic, witty, and addresses themselves as “we.” Sometimes the narrator is simply narrating events that may or may not have occurred. And at other times, they are talking directly to the readers, explaining their thoughts and behaviour.

Senapati takes a dig at the working of government officials, prevalent bribery system, the affinity of people towards the colonial rulers, and the influence of English culture on the indigenous way of life.

The book is interspersed with various Sanskrit shlokas, duly translated. These verses add a clever touch to the narration.

Since it was originally written as an episodic series, a lot of the narration involves setting the scenes or introducing the various characters. Despite the prolonged delay in arriving at the inciting incident, it remains an enjoyable read.

Though the story highlights various ills of society and governance, the underlying message of karma is depicted with brutal honesty. The epilogue brings the story to a befitting and satisfying end. I learned a lot about the author’s life from the Afterword section.

I am quoting a few of my favourite lines here-           

The rumble of thunder lingers long after lightning strikes.

All shall pass, time will spare none. But remembered will be our deeds.

As long as the going’s good, everyone’s a fawning friend, a salve to lucre, only to fall away at the first hint of misfortune.

A true friend is he who lends you company, who stands by your side in front of royal doors and in cremation grounds.

 

Pick up Six and a Third Acres if you like classics, translations, or works by Indian authors, or just want to enjoy a witty book with a profound message. Highly recommended!

 

Wordsopedia Rating 4.45/5

 

Title: Six and a Third Acres Author: Fakir Mohan Senapati
Publisher: Aleph Book Company Publication date: February 1, 2021
Genre: Fiction—Classic Format: eBook
ISBN:9789390652082 No. of Pages: 208

Buy your copy here on Amazon

About the author

Fakir Mohan Senapati, often referred to as Utkala Byasa Kabi, was an Indian writer, poet, philosopher and social reformer.

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