The Fakir is an extremely beautiful story written by noted Bengali writer, Sunil Gangopadhyay and translated into English by Monabi Mitra. It is about times when feudalism ruled the subcontinent and landowners and zamindars were demigods, when casteism and social taboos were prevalent and strongly observed. The story is mostly biographical and the songs of Lalan Fakir are part of Bengali folklore.
Lalmohan Kar was born sometime in 1774, is first seen in this book as a thief, caught for attempting to steal a horse. It emerges that he was not there to steal the animal but was actually in the habit riding it for quite some time. The owner realizes that Lalan is an honest person and makes him accompany the family on a pilgrimage to the Ganges. Just as they are all set to return home, Lalan is stricken by small pox and, presumed dead, is left on a raft to float downstream.
He is rescued by a Muslim woman who nurses him back to health. Since he has lost his memory, she looks after him as her own son, only to be disowned by his real mother for having eaten and lived in the house of a Muslim. He wanders away deep into the forests, the only place without caste and faith, and begins living with a madman in a hut. They are soon joined by the downtrodden and the persecuted. The drawing force is Lalan Fakir and the songs he frequently bursts into. The commune has people of all faiths happily living together, free of all social restrictions and mores. A very moving story.
- The Fakir
By Sunil Gangopadhyay