Nature, Human and Education: The Other Name of Introspection is Monishar Pathorer Bon

Snigdha Bardhan

Title: MONISHAR PATHORER BON, Author: Nigel Hughes, Translator: Dipen Bhattacharya, Publisher: Monfakira, Number of pages: 100, Price: Rs.120/-

Nigel Hughes, Professor of Earth Science (The University of California, Riverside) is the author of Monisha and The Stone Forest and Dr Dipen Bhattacharya has translated it into Bengali, named Monishar Patharer Bon. Bhattacharya’s spontaneous and fluent writing style not only projects ‘Monisha’ as a living character but also motivates the readers to awaken their dormant ‘Monisha’ or ‘wishes of minds’ to be curious about nature. Here the story arouses a love for knowledge about the geology of fossilized wood among the readers. There is no doubt that the book has been appropriately named in accordance with its context and contents.

The book comprises sixteen chapters and seventeen exclusively illustrating drawings. Hughes endeavours an outstanding project of using fiction to teach geology mainly the young people. It involves a storyline of how we can understand what nature is telling us about the past before humans came into existence around five million years ago. Monisha with her sharp eyes and bright mind encounters and interprets the fossil wood by linking it with natural processes happening around her today. As a detective, she uses the clues left behind to interpret past events. The beautiful concept of the story gains a great dimension with the aesthetic beauty of the cover, binding and illustrations, drawn by Rati Basu.

There is a large white rock called gatchpathor beneath a huge pakur tree at the edge of Monisha’s village and the villagers could agree only on this rock. Monisha’s Ma asked her to find out the reality about gatchpathor. It was like the trunk of a living tree though it was made of stone, not wood. Monisha heard different explanations about it– trees of stone, Kermani Baba’s enchanted branches, bone of Bakasura and Rami Dhopanir Paat from old Adivasi man, Abdulkaka, Purohitmoshai and Thakuma respectively. But her inquisitive nature led her to solve the puzzle with her rational thinking and intelligence. She with her inquisitive mind ventured to find out the truth behind it. Banidi, her school teacher, also inspired her to follow this surest way to know the history of whether the stone (rock) locked themselves provided the answer. And through a series of incidents Monisha understood the transformation of wood into rock. She observed the annual ring like that of a tree, uniformity of geographical location of ‘gatchpathor’, etc., and developed her intuitive explanation within just a few months by following the general rule-“to look, to think and to look again.” In Bakreswar when she bathed in a hot spring, she explored the mystery of ‘gatchpathor’. Using clues and knowledge about natural phenomena she understood that hot salted water went into the wood and left behind the minerals in the wood after evaporation. These observations clarify the transformation of wood into ‘gatchpathor’. The whole theory of the nature’s evolution made a concrete presentation in Monisha’s dreamland in the lconcluding part of the story. She eagerly wanted to share her inventions with her close persons.

The realistic approach of the story involves readers in course of the journey of Monisha’s truth-seeking. Except this, there are some other aspects which testify its admiration. This story presents the rural culture, beliefs, and traditions of Bengal along with the introduction of geology. Secondly, the whole story moves forward in the dialogue mode, direct and indirect. Monisha’s adventure, acute observation, questioning and finding answers –all these activities compel readers to undergo a research work with the little girl. Thirdly, the author strongly upholds Monisha’s love for nature and her characteristic courage to face the hindering circumstances and overcome the narrowness. She wanted to keep gatchpathor in its original place after realizing its ancientness/antiquity.  And finally, songs and music are, as the story suggests, an inherent part of Bengali culture. The history of geological aspects of our earth is an integral part of folk-culture as conveyed by the use of songs and music in the present story.

Hughes’ geological research made him a sensitive nature-lover and imaginative writer and so he felt the need of presenting his research-born fictional story in the book under review. According to him, Monisha’s story presents to children, not just in India and Bangladesh, some understanding of how the environment has changed quite drastically through time — in relatively a short period of time geologically. Earth has a history written for us to understand1.

This book which has the sensitizing power should be read by young people and any person of any age to learn and think about nature (here, basically geology) differently on a practical base. We need more books like this one in our reading list. 

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