Scion (Originally Vamshavriksha in Kannada)
Author: S.L Bhyrappa
Translated by R. Ranganath Prasad
Published by Niyogi Books
MRP: Rs. 950/-
S.L Bhyrappa's Scion, translated from the Kannada original Vamshavriksha by R. Ranganath Prasad, is a masterful exploration of timeless existential questions through the lens of an Indian family saga spanning generations. Through intricately crafted characters facing moral dilemmas, Bhyrappa unfurls the duality of existence, challenging the reader's notions of right and wrong.
The book revolves around two Brahmin families whose destinies intertwine - the orthodox Shroty family and the progressive Rao family. The saga navigates complex themes of tradition versus modernity, duty versus desire, and the role of women in society.
At the heart of the narrative is Srinivas Shrotri, who steadfastly upholds dharma despite life's cruelties. His stoic adherence to tradition in the face of modern tumult makes him the moral anchor of the story. Though a fictional character, Shrotri's dignified grace evokes the aura of enlightened beings who have walked this sacred land through the ages to preserve its wisdom. He remains uncorrupted by life's dualities, maintaining equanimity whether fortune smiles on him or abandons him to adversity. Shrotri's perspective balances the arguments in the book, preventing definitive judgements on right versus wrong. He is the philosophical core around which the other vivid characters take shape.
On the question of widow remarriage, we see the progressive stand of Rao contrasted with the plight of the child widow Nagalakshmi, torn between duty and desire. Her feminine innocence evokes sympathy as societal constraints throttle her life. But Shrotri's adherence to tradition provides the counterview.
Sadashiv Rao's unquenchable thirst for English education collides with Shrotri's belief in the ideals of indigenous gurukula education. But Bhyrappa etches Rao's character with nuance - his passion for knowledge is admirable even if his methods raise doubts. Rao's collegue Karuna displays similar hunter for education but her motivations highlight the gender inequality of those times.
At the heart of the saga is the complex character of Raja Rao whose inner turmoil mirrors the larger generational conflict between tradition and modernity. The chain of events leading to the devastating climax underscores the inescapable influence of karma.
The final 100 pages are emotionally charged as Bhyrappa masterfully crafts heart-wrenching twists. The book's shifting viewpoints and tragic events churned up questions in my mind about duty, destiny, societal constraints and rebellion. Bhyrappa offers no simple answers but urges contemplation of life's inherent contradictions. Scion stays with you long after, kindling philosophical debates within.
At just over 500 pages, the expanse of the story is a testament to Bhyrappa's astounding skill at intricately weaving complex narratives. That he penned it in just one month in 1965 is astonishing. His research into various schools of Indian philosophy enriches the book with authenticity. The elegance of Ranganath Prasad's translation must be applauded for making this Kannada classic accessible to wider audiences.
Scion is the work of a master storyteller at the peak of his powers. The character portrayals are so full-blooded that the line between fiction and reality blurs. The vividness of the character's inner worlds makes their moral struggles profoundly intimate. The narrative vozes between multiple perspectives with effortless grace, underscoring the difficulty of absolutist judgements. At a time when simplistic righteous outrage dominates public discourse, Scion's philosophical depth is a timely reminder that truth has innumerable facets difficult to disentangle.
In Scion, Bhyrappa displays his genius at portraying fictional lives with the complexity of real people. As one wades through the moral conundrums they face, preconceived certainties melt away. We realize the futility of snap judgements uninformed by wisdom. In shining light on eternal philosophical questions, Scion emerges as a modern classic that both moves and enlightens. It is an intellectually nourishing read, but also an emotionally stirring one. Warmly recommended for all lovers of literary fiction.
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