Draupadi: Translator’s Foreword*
I translated this Bengali short story into English as much for the sake of its villain, Senanayak, as for its title character, Draupadi (or Dopdi). Because in Senanayak I find the closest approximation to the First World scholar in search of the Third World, I shall speak of him first.
On the level of the plot, Senanayak is the army officer who captures and degrades Draupadi. I will not go so far as to suggest that, in practice, the instruments of First World life and investigation are complicit with such captures and such a degradation.1 The approximation, I notice, relates to the author’s careful presentation of Senanayak as a pluralist aesthete. In theory, Senanayak can identify with the enemy. But pluralist aesthetes of the First World are, willy-nilly, participants in the production of an exploitative society. Hence in practice, Senanayak must destroy the enemy, the menacing other. He follows the necessities and contingencies of what he sees as his historical moment. There is a convenient colloquial name for that as well: pragmatism. Thus his emotions at Dopdi’s capture are mixed: sorrow (theory) and joy (practice). Correspondingly, we grieve for our Third World sisters; we grieve and rejoice that they must lose themselves and become as much like us as possible in order to be “free”; we congratulate ourselves on our specialists’ knowledge of them. Indeed, like ours, Senanayak’s project is interpretive: he looks to decipher Draupadi’s song. For both sides of the rift within himself, he finds analogies in Western literature: Hochhuth’s The Deputy, David Morell’s First Blood. He will shed his guilt when the time comes. His self-image for that uncertain future is Prospero.
I have suggested elsewhere that, when we wander out of our own academic and First World enclosure, we share something like a relationship with Senanayak’s doublethink.2 When we speak for ourselves, we urge with conviction: the personal is also political. For the rest of the world’s women, the sense of whose personal micrology is difficult (though not impossible) for us to acquire, we fall back on a colonialist theory of most efficient information retrieval. We will not be able to speak to the women out there if we depend completely on conferences and anthologies by Western-trained informants. As I see their photographs in women’s studies journals or on book jackets—indeed, as I look in the glass—it is Senanayak with his anti-Fascist paperbacks that I behold. In inextricably mingling historico-political specificity with the sexual differential in a literary discourse, Mahasweta Devi invites us to begin effacing that image.
My approach to the story has been influenced by “deconstructive practice.” I clearly share an unease that would declare avant-garde theories of interpretation too elitist to cope with revolutionary feminist material. How, then, has the practice of deconstruction been helpful in this context?
The aspect of deconstructive practice that is best known in the United States is its tendency towards infinite regression. The aspect that interests me most is, however, the recognition, within deconstructive practice, of provisional and intractable starting points in any investigative effort; its disclosure of complicities where a will to knowledge would create oppositions; its insistence that in disclosing complexities the critic-as-subject is herself complicit with the object of her critique; its emphasis upon “history” and upon the ethico-political as the “trace” of that complicity—the proof that we do not inhabit a clearly defined critical space free of such traces; and, finally, the acknowledgment that its own discourse can never be adequate to its example.3 This is clearly not the place to elaborate each item upon this list. I should, however, point out that in my introductory paragraphs I have already situated the figure of Senanayak in terms of our own patterns of complicity. In what follows, the relationship between the tribal and classical characters of Draupadi, the status of Draupadi at the end of the story, and the reading of Senanayak’s proper name might be seen as produced by the reading practice I have described. The complicity of law and transgression and the class deconstruction of the “gentlemen revolutionaries,” although seemingly minor points in the interpretation of the story as such, take on greater importance in a political context.
I cannot take this discussion of deconstruction far enough to show how Dopdi’s song, incomprehensible yet trivial (it is in fact about beans of different colors), and exorbitant to the story, marks the place of that other that can be neither excluded nor recuperated.4
“Draupadi” first appeared in Agnigarbha (Womb of fire), a collection of loosely connected, short political narratives. As Mahasweta points out in her introduction to the collection, “Life is not mathematics and the human being is not made for the sake of politics. I want a change in the present social system and do not believe in mere party politics.”5
Mahasweta Devi is a middle-class Bengali activist writer and interventionist journalist with a long commitment to the Left. She has a master’s degree in English from Santiniketan, the famous experimental university established by Rabindranath Tagore. Her reputation as a novelist was already well established when, in the late 1970s, she published Hajar Churashir Ma (Mother of 1084). This novel remains within the dominant psychological idiom of the Bengali fiction of its time.6 Yet in Aranyer Adhikar (The rights or [occupation] of the forest), a serially published novel she was writing almost at the same time, a significant change is noticeable. It is a meticulously researched historical novel about the Munda Insurrection of 1899–1900. Here Mahasweta begins putting together a prose that is a collage of literary Bengali, bureaucratic Bengali, tribal Bengali, and the languages of the tribals.
Since the Bengali script is illegible except to the approximately 25 percent literate of the about ninety million speakers of Bengali, a large number of whom live in Bangladesh rather than in West Bengal,7 her “Indian” reception is also in translation, in various languages of the subcontinent and in English. Briefly, that reception can be described as a general recognition of excellence; skepticism regarding the content on the part of the bourgeois readership; some accusations of extremism from the electoral Left; and admiration and a sense of solidarity on the part of the non-electoral Left. Any extended reception study would consider that West Bengal has had a largely uninterrupted Left Front government of the united electoral Communist parties since 1967. Here suffice it to say that Mahasweta is certainly one of the most important writers writing in India today.
Any sense of Bengal as a “nation” is governed by the putative identity of the Bengali language.8 (Meanwhile, Bengalis dispute if the purest Bengali is that of Nabadwip or South Calcutta, and many of the twenty-odd developed dialects are incomprehensible to the “general speaker.”) In 1947, on the eve of its departure from India, the British government divided Bengal into West Bengal, which remained a part of India, and East Pakistan. Punjab was similarly divided into East Punjab (India) and West Pakistan. The two parts of Pakistan did not share ethnic or linguistic ties and were separated by nearly 1,100 miles. The division was made on the grounds of the concentration of Muslims in these two parts of the subcontinent. Yet the Punjabi Muslims felt themselves to be more “Arab” because they lived in the area where the first Muslim emperors of India had settled nearly 700 years ago and also because of their proximity to West Asia (the Middle East). The Bengali Muslims—no doubt in a class-differentiated way—felt themselves constituted by the culture of Bengal.
Bengal has had a strong presence of leftist intellectualism and struggle since the middle of the last century, before, in fact, the word “Left” entered our political shorthand.9 As such, it is a source of considerable political irritation to the Central Government of India. (The individual state governments have a good deal more autonomy under the Indian constitution than is the case in the U.S.) Although officially India was, until recently, a Socialist state with a mixed economy, historically it has reflected a spectrum of the Right, from military dictatorship to nationalist class benevolence. The word “democracy” becomes highly interpretable in the context of a largely illiterate, multilingual, heterogeneous, and unpoliticized electorate.
In the spring of 1967, there was a successful peasant rebellion in the Naxalbari area of the northern part of West Bengal. According to Marcus Franda, “unlike most other areas of West Bengal, where peasant movements are led almost solely by middle-class leadership from Calcutta, Naxalbari has spawned an indigenous agrarian reform leadership led by the lower classes” including tribal cultivators.10 This peculiar coalition of peasant and intellectual sparked off a number of Naxalbaris all over India.11 The target of these movements was the long-established oppression of the landless peasantry and itinerant farm worker, sustained through an unofficial government–landlord collusion that too easily circumvented the law. Indeed, one might say that legislation seemed to have an eye to its own future circumvention.
It is worth remarking that this coalition of peasant and intellectual—with long histories of apprenticeship precisely on the side of the intellectual—has been recuperated in the West by both ends of the polarity that constitutes a “political spectrum.” Bernard-Henri Lévy, the ex-Maoist French “New Philosopher,” has implicitly compared it to the May 1968 “revolution” in France, where the students joined the workers.12 In France, however, the student identity of the movement had remained clear, and the student leadership had not brought with it sustained efforts to undo the privilege of the intellectual. On the other hand:
in much the same manner as many American college presidents have described the protest of American students, Indian political and social leaders have explained the Naxalites (supporters of Naxalbari) by referring to their sense of alienation and to the influence of writers like Marcuse and Sartre which has seemingly dominated the minds of young people throughout the world in the 1960s.13
It is against such recuperations that I would submit what I have called the theme of class deconstruction with reference to the young gentlemen revolutionaries in “Draupadi.” Senanayak remains fixed within his class origins, which are similar to those of the gentlemen revolutionaries. Correspondingly, he is contained and judged fully within Mahasweta’s story; by contrast, the gentlemen revolutionaries remain latent, underground. Even their leader’s voice is only heard formulaically within Draupadi’s solitude. I should like to think that it is because they are so persistently engaged in undoing class containment and the opposition between reading (book-learning) and doing—rather than keeping the two aesthetically forever separate—that they inhabit a world whose authority and outline no text—including Mahasweta’s—can encompass.
In 1970, the implicit hostility between East and West Pakistan flamed into armed struggle. In 1971, at a crucial moment in the struggle, the armed forces of the government of India were deployed, seemingly because these were alliances between the Naxalites of West Bengal and the freedom fighters of East Bengal (now Bangladesh). “If a guerrilla-style insurgency had persisted, their forces would undoubtedly have come to dominate the politics of the movement. It was this trend that the Indian authorities were determined to pre-empt by intervention.” Taking advantage of the general atmosphere of jubilation at the defeat of West Pakistan, India’s “principal national rival in South Asia”14 (this was also the first time India had “won a war” in its millennial history), the Indian Prime Minister was able to crack down with exceptional severity on the Naxalites, destroying the rebellious sections of the rural population, most significantly the tribals, as well. The year 1971 is thus a point of reference in Senanayak’s career.
This is the setting of “Draupadi.” The story is a moment caught between two deconstructive formulas: on the one hand, a law that is fabricated with a view to its own transgression, on the other, the undoing of the binary opposition between the intellectual and the rural struggles. In order to grasp the minutiae of their relationship and involvement, one must enter a historical micrology that no foreword can provide.
Draupadi is the name of the central character. She is introduced to the reader between two uniforms and between two versions of her name. Dopdi and Draupadi. It is either that as a tribal she cannot pronounce her own Sanskrit name Draupadi, or the tribalized form, Dopdi, is the proper name of the ancient Draupadi. She is on a list of wanted persons, yet her name is not on the list of appropriate names for tribal women.
The ancient Draupadi is perhaps the most celebrated heroine of the Indian epic Mahabharata. The Mahabharata and the Ramayana are the cultural credentials of the so-called Aryan civilization of India. The tribes predate the Aryan invasion. They have no right to heroic Sanskrit names. Neither the interdiction nor the significance of the name, however, must be taken too seriously. For this pious, domesticated Hindu name was given Dopdi at birth by her mistress, in the usual mood of benevolence felt by the oppressor’s wife towards the tribal bond servant. It is the killing of this mistress’s husband that sets going the events of the story.
And yet on the level of the text, this elusive and fortuitous name does play a role. To speculate upon this role, we might consider the Mahabharata itself in its colonialist function in the interest of the so-called Aryan invaders of India. It is an accretive epic, where the “sacred” geography of an ancient battle is slowly expanded by succeeding generations of poets so that the secular geography of the expanding Aryan colony can present itself as identical with it and thus justify itself.15 The complexity of this vast and anonymous project makes it an incomparably more heterogeneous text than the Ramayana. Unlike the Ramayana, for example, the Mahabharata contains cases of various kinds of kinship structure and various styles of marriage. And in fact it is Draupadi who provides the only example of polyandry, not a common system of marriage in India. She is married to the five sons of the impotent Pandu. Within a patriarchal and patronymic context, she is exceptional, indeed “singular” in the sense of odd, unpaired, uncoupled.16 Her husbands, since they are husbands rather than lovers, are legitimately pluralized. No acknowledgment of paternity can secure the Name of the Father for the child of such a mother. Mahasweta’s story questions this “singularity” by placing Dopdi first in a comradely, activist, monogamous marriage and then in a situation of multiple rape.
In the epic, Draupadi’s legitimized pluralization (as a wife among husbands), in singularity (as a possible mother or harlot) is used to demonstrate male glory. She provides the occasion for a violent transaction between men, the efficient cause of the crucial battle. Her eldest husband is about to lose her by default in a game of dice. He had staked all he owned, and “Draupadi belongs within that all” (Mahabharata 65:32). Her strange civil status seems to offer grounds for her predicament as well. “The Scriptures prescribed one husband for a woman; Draupadi is dependent on many husbands; therefore, she can be designated a prostitute. There is nothing improper in bringing her, clothed or unclothed, into the assembly” (65:35–36). The enemy chief begins to pull at Draupadi’s sari. Draupadi silently prays to the incarnate Krishna. The Idea of Sustaining Law (Dharma) materializes itself as clothing, and as the king pulls and pulls at her sari, there seems to be more and more of it. Draupadi is infinitely clothed and cannot be publicly stripped. It is one of Krishna’s miracles.
Mahasweta’s story rewrites this episode. The men easily succeed in stripping Dopdi—in the narrative it is the culmination of her political punishment by the representatives of the law. She remains publicly naked at her own insistence. Rather than save her modesty through the implicit intervention of a benign and divine (in this case it would have been godlike) comrade, the story insists that this is the place where male leadership stops.
It would be a mistake, I think, to read the modern story as a refutation of the ancient. Dopdi is (as heroic as) Draupadi. She is also what Draupadi—written into the patriarchal and authoritative sacred text as proof of male power—could not be. Dopdi is at once a palimpsest and a contradiction.
There is nothing “historically implausible” about Dopdi’s attitudes. When we first see her, she is thinking about washing her hair. She loves her husband and keeps political faith as an act of faith towards him. She adores her forefathers because they protected their women’s honor. (It should be recalled that this is thought in the context of American soldiers breeding bastards.) It is when she crosses the sexual differential into the field of what could only happen to a woman that she emerges as the most powerful “subject,” who, still using the language of sexual “honor,” can derisively call herself “the object of your search,” whom the author can describe as a terrifying superobject—“an unarmed target.”
As a tribal, Dopdi is not romanticized by Mahasweta. The decision-makers among the revolutionaries are, again, “realistically,” bourgeois young men and women who have oriented their book-learning to the land and thus begun the long process of undoing the opposition between book (theory or “outside”) and spontaneity (practice or “inside”). Such fighters are the hardest to beat, for they are neither tribal nor gentlemen. A Bengali reader would pick them out by name among the characters: the one with the aliases who bit off his tongue, the ones who helped the couple escape the army cordon; the ones who neither smoke nor drink tea; and, above all, Arijit. His is a fashionable name, tinsel Sanskrit, with no allusive paleonymy and a meaning that fits the story a bit too well: victorious over enemies. Yet it is his voice that gives Dopdi the courage to save not herself but her comrades.
Of course, this voice of male authority also fades. Once Dopdi enters, in the final section of the story, the postscript area of lunar flux and sexual difference, she is in a place where she will finally act for herself in not “acting,” in challenging the man to (en)counter her as unrecorded or misrecorded objective historical monument. The army officer is shown as unable to ask the authoritative ontological question, What is this? In fact, in the sentence describing Dopdi’s final summons to the Sahib’s tent, the agent is missing. I can be forgiven if I find in this an allegory of the woman’s struggle within the revolution in a shifting historical moment.
As Mahasweta points out in an aside, the tribe in question is the Santhal, not to be confused with at least nine other Munda tribes that inhabit India. They are also not to be confused with the so-called untouchables, who, unlike the tribals, are Hindu, though probably of remote “non-Aryan” origin. In giving the name Harijan (“God’s people”) to the untouchables, Mahatma Gandhi had tried to concoct the sort of pride and sense of unity that the tribes seem to possess. Mahasweta has followed the Bengali practice of calling each so-called untouchable caste by the name of its menial and unclean task within the rigid structural functionalism of institutionalized Hinduism.17 I have been unable to reproduce this in my translation.
Mahasweta uses another differentiation, almost on the level of caricature: the Sikh and the Bengali. (Sikhism was founded as a reformed religion by Guru Nanak in the late fifteenth century. Today the roughly nine million Sikhs of India live chiefly in East Punjab, at the other end of the vast Indo-Gangetic Plain from Bengal. The tall, muscular, turbanned and bearded Sikh, so unlike the slight and supposedly intellectual Bengali, is the stereotyped butt of jokes in the same way as the Polish community in North America or the Belgian in France.) Arjan Singh, the diabetic Sikh captain who falls back on the Granth-Sahib (the Sikh sacred book—I have translated it “Scripture”) and the “five Ks”18 of the Sikh religion, is presented as all brawn and no brains; and the wily, imaginative, corrupt Bengali Senanayak is, of course, the army officer full of a Keatsian negative capability.19
The entire energy of the story seems, in one reading, directed towards breaking the apparently clean gap between theory and practice in Senanayak. Such a clean break is not possible, of course. The theoretical production of negative capability is a practice; the practice of mowing down Naxalites brings with it a theory of the historical moment. The assumption of such a clean break in fact depends upon the assumption that the individual subject who theorizes and practices is in full control. At least in the history of the Indo-European tradition in general, such a sovereign subject is also the legal or legitimate subject, who is identical with his stable patronymic.20 It might therefore be interesting that Senanayak is not given the differentiation of a first name and surname. His patronymic is identical with his function (not of course by the law of caste): the common noun means “army chief.” In fact, there is the least hint of a doubt if it is a proper name or a common appellation. This may be a critique of the man’s apparently self-adequate identity, which sustains his theory-practice juggling act. If so, it goes with what I see as the project of the story: to break this bonded identity with the wedge of an unreasonable fear. If our certitude of the efficient-information-retrieval and talk-to-the-accessible approach towards Third World women can be broken by the wedge of an unreasonable uncertainty, into a feeling that what we deem gain might spell loss and that our practice should be forged accordingly, then we would share the textual effect of “Draupadi” with Senanayak.
The italicized words in the translation are in English in the original. It is to be noticed that the fighting words on both sides are in English. Nation-state politics combined with multinational economies produce war. The language of war—offense and defense—is international. English is standing in here for that nameless and heterogeneous world language. The peculiarities of usage belong to being obliged to cope with English under political and social pressure for a few centuries. Where, indeed, is there a “pure” language? Given the nature of the struggle, there is nothing bizarre in “Comrade Dopdi.”21 It is part of the undoing of opposites—intellectual-rural, tribalist-internationalist—that is the wavering constitution of “the underground,” “the wrong side” of the law. On the right side of the law, such deconstructions, breaking down national distinctions, are operated through the encroachment of king-emperor or capital.
The only exception is the word “sahib.” An Urdu word meaning “friend,” it came to mean, almost exclusively in Bengali, “white man.” It is a colonial word and is used today to mean “boss.” I thought of Kipling as I wrote “Burra Sahib” for Senanayak.
In the matter of “translation” between Bengali and English it is again Dopdi who occupies a curious middle space. She is the only one who uses the word “kounter” (the “n” is no more than a nasalization of the diphthong “ou”). As Mahasweta explains, it is an abbreviation for “killed by police in an encounter,” the code description for death by police torture. Dopdi does not understand English, but she understands this formula and the word. In her use of it at the end, it comes mysteriously close to the “proper” English usage. It is the menacing appeal of the objectified subject to its politico-sexual enemy—the provisionally silenced master of the subject-object dialectic—to encounter—“kounter”—her. What is it to “use” a language “correctly” without “knowing” it?
We cannot answer because we, with Senanayak, are in the opposite situation. Although we are told of specialists, the meaning of Dopdi’s song remains undisclosed in the text. The educated Bengali does not know the languages of the tribes, and no political coercion obliges him to “know” it. What one might falsely think of as a political “privilege”—knowing English properly—stands in the way of a deconstructive practice of language—using it “correctly” through a political displacement, or operating the language of the other side.
It follows that I have had the usual “translator’s problems” only with the peculiar Bengali spoken by the tribals. In general, we educated Bengalis have the same racist attitude towards it as the late Peter Sellers had towards our English. It would have been embarrassing to have used some version of the language of D. H. Lawrence’s “common people” or Faulkner’s Blacks. Again, the specificity is micrological. I have used “straight English,” whatever that may be.
*Reproduced from Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, In Other Worlds: Essays in Cultural Politics (New York: Methuen, 1987). Updated and lightly edited.
1 For elaborations upon such a suggestion, see Jean-François Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, 1984).
2 See Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Three Feminist Readings: McCullers, Drabble, Habermas,” Union Seminary Quarterly Review 1–2 (Fall–Winter 1979–80), pp. 15–34, and “French Feminism in an International Frame,” in Spivak, In Other Worlds, pp. 134–53.
3 This list represents a distillation of suggestions to be found in the work of Jacques Derrida: see, e.g., “The Exorbitant Question of Method,” in Derrida, Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976), pp. 157–64; “Limited Inc,” trans. Samuel Weber, Glyph 2 (1977), pp. 162–254; “Où Commence et comment finit un corps enseignant,” in Politiques de la philosophie, ed. Dominique Grisoni (Paris: B. Grasset, 1976), pp. 55–97; and my “Revolutions That as Yet Have No Model: Derrida’s ‘Limited Inc,’” Diacritics 10 (December 1980), pp. 29–49, and “Sex and History in Wordsworth’s The Prelude (1805) IX–XIII,” in Spivak, In Other Worlds, pp. 46–76.
4 It is a sign of E. M. Forster’s acute perception of India that A Passage to India contains a glimpse of such an exorbitant tribal in the figure of the punkha puller in the courtroom.
5 Mahasweta Devi, Agnigarbha (Kolkata: Karina Prakashani, 1978), p. 8.
6 For a discussion of the relationship between academic degrees in English and the production of revolutionary literature, see Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “A Vulgar Inquiry Into the Relationship Between Academic Criticism and Literary Production in West Bengal” (paper delivered at the Annual Convention of the Modern Language Association, Houston, 1980).
7 These figures are an average of the 1971 Census in West Bengal and the projected figure for the 1974 Census in Bangladesh.
8 See Dinesh Chandra Sen, History of Bengali Language and Literature (Kolkata: Calcutta University, 1911). A sense of Bengali literary nationalism can be gained from the (doubtless apocryphal) report that, upon returning from his first investigative tour of India, Macaulay remarked: “The British Crown presides over two great literatures: the English and the Bengali.”
9 See Gautam Chattopadhyay, Communism and Bengal’s Freedom Movement (New Delhi: People’s Publishing House, 1970).
10 Marcus F. Franda, Radical Politics in West Bengal (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1971), p. 153. I am grateful to Michael Ryan for having located this accessible account of the Naxalbari movement. There now exists an excellent study by Sumanta Banerjee, India’s Simmering Revolution: The Naxalite Uprising (London: Zed Press, 1984).
11 See Samar Sen, Debabrata Panda and Ashish Lahiri, eds., Naxalbari and After: A Frontier Anthology, vol. 2 (Kolkata: Kathashilpa, 1978).
12 See Bernard-Henri Lévy, Bangla Desh: Nationalisme dans la révolution (Paris: François Maspéro, 1973).
13 Franda, Radical Politics, pp. 163–4. See also p. 164, n. 22.
14 Lawrence Lifschultz, Bangladesh: The Unfinished Revolution (London: Zed Press, 1979), pp. 25, 26.
15 For my understanding of this aspect of the Mahabharata, I am indebted to Romila Thapar of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
16 I borrow this sense of singularity from Jacques Lacan, “Seminar on ‘The Purloined Letter,’” trans. Jeffrey Mehlman, Yale French Studies 48 (1972), pp. 53, 59.
17 As a result of the imposition of the capitalist mode of production and the Imperial Civil Service, and massive conversions of the lowest castes to Christianity, the invariable identity of caste and trade no longer holds. Here, too, there is the possibility of a taxonomy micrologically deconstructive of the caste–class opposition, functioning heterogeneously in terms of the social hierarchy.
18 The “five Ks” are kes (unshorn hair); kachh (drawers down to the knee); karha (iron bangle); kirpan (dagger); kanga (comb); to be worn by every Sikh, hence a mark of identity.
19 If indeed the model for this character is Ranjit Gupta, the notorious Inspector General of Police of West Bengal, the delicate textuality, in the interest of a political position, of Senanayak’s delineation in the story takes us far beyond the limits of a reference à clef. I am grateful to Michael Ryan for suggesting the possibility of such a reference.
20 The relationship between phallocentrism, the patriarchy, and clean binary oppositions is a pervasive theme in Derrida’s critique of the metaphysics of presence. See Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Unmaking and Making in To the Lighthouse,” in Spivak, In Other Worlds, pp. 30–45.
21 “My dearest Sati, through the walls and the miles that separate us I can hear you saying, ‘In Sawan it will be two years since Comrade left us.’ The other women will nod. It is you who have taught them the meaning of Comrade.” Mary Tyler, “Letter to a Former Cell-Mate,” in Sen et al., Naxalbari and After, vol. 1, p. 307; see also Mary Tyler, My Years in an Indian Prison (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1978).