Book review by Om Gupta, Editor, Indo-Latin American File
Book: Discovering Latin America Writer: Dr. Kusum Ansal
It is amazing how Latin America continues to engage Indian authors, academicians and common people. I retrieved a highly colourful and an erudite coffee table volume penned by the noted Indian litterateur Kusum Ansal known for her bestselling novel Panchvati which attracted the late and lamented film maker Basu Bhattacharya to put it on celluloid. It was thrilling how Ansal picked up her pen and paper and hit the road in Taxco (Mexico), Cusco and Machu Picchu ( Peru), Santiago (Chile), Buenos Aires (Argentina) and Amazon (Brazil).
This travelogue reminds one of the legendary sailor Christopher Columbus who set out to discover but lost his way and landed in what today is known as Central America. Interestingly enough, he got carried away by his own conviction and thought he had actually discovered India. He presumed that the natives, he spotted were Indians. Not only that, he continued to believe that till his last breadth. However, he opened the floodgates of the newly found eldorado for his fellow Europeans who brought an excess baggage of Roman Catholic faith and converted the aboriginal to this imposing belief. What happened to the so assumed natives is another story but they continue to be referred as Indians in the entire western hemisphere.
The superlative account of the lanes and by-lanes of Latin America betrays the impassioned engagement of the author. Her pictures might not be an essay in perfection they speak in a language that touches the heart. She has extensively quoted Latin American poets like Gabriela Mistral.
Kusum with Writers Teresa Salic, Patricia Samsingh and her daughter
” Little feet of Children
Blue with Cold
How can they see you and not cover you
And Pablo Neruda in the following lines:
“Through a confusion of splendor
Through a night made stone left me plunge my hand
And move to beat in me a bird held for a thousand years, the and unremembered human heart………..
Kusum feels ‘travel can be one of the most rewarding forms of introspection’ Discovering Latin America is an unparalleled effort to intimate the readers with some of the celestial places of the world , at the same time inspiring them to journey towards their own selves.
Indo- Latin American relations is a two way passage. If Mario Vargas Llosa was inspired by Jainism, the Trinidadian giant V.S.Naipaul found million mutinies at work in India. His objective analysis of his Indian roots. Latin American literature is lapped up in India like hot cakes.
Kusum was lucky to be part of Rio Carnival, Brazil
Gabriel Garcia Marquez continues to be best selling author in India as well. His 100 Years of Solitude has been translated into many Indian languages. What attracts an Indian Latin America. I feel it is the confluence of four cultures that has given rise o a unique identity to its people is quite similar to the unity in diversity which exists in India. The added flavour is the overwhelming presence of the people of Indian origin which migrated to the Caribbean nations like Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Suriname has brought the two regions closer. These Indians had migrated more about two centuries ago from Bihar and Up as indentured sugarcane laborers and by sheer handwork and dedication earned a respectable place in the society and power structures of those countries.
Coming back to the present times, Indians have a great opportunity to invest in Latin America. Many Indian corporate houses are already engaged in that.According to the celebrated diplomat R.Viswanathan, India should sign preferential trade treaties with Mercosur and other regional organisation of Latin America. In this direction Ministry of External Affairs of India has placed Latin America on its diplomatic front burner. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will have a one-to one meetings with Latin American heads of State in Brazil in June at the time of a summit.