Written after the great war of Kurukshetra, Shanti Parva, the twelfth book of the Mahabharata, is a treatise on peace, the ideals of statehood and peaceful governance, which also simultaneously justifies upper-caste hegemony, hierarchy and the need for organised violence. Des Raj Kali’s Shanti Parav, in contrast, brilliantly parodies the ‘peace’ claims of its source text and provides a radical Dalit response from the margins of history to these justifications of the ruling elite—through gentle interrogation, subversive literary technique and fragments of alternate history.
A post-Independence novel set in the heartland of Punjab, Shanti Parav invites a study of post-colonial socio-political dynamics in India from a Punjabi Dalit perspective. It locates the Dalit within the caste–religion–power nexus, and furnishes alternate narratives of the freedom struggle, terrorism, state violence, development, capitalism and democracy.
The proletarian context of Shanti Parav is harsh and stark, but also colourful, irreverent, carnivalesque, even absurd. Boldly experimental, the novel has a dual narrative which playfully challenges the reader to acquire new ways of reading and interpreting a text. The ‘fictional’ text in the upper half of the page narrates autobiographical stories that recount the struggles and joys of the protagonist’s immediate, everyday subaltern world, while in the lower half run ‘realistic’, quirky, grand historical monologues by three retired Dalit characters who offer philosophical discourses on governance, violence and peace.
A compelling read, Kali powerfully documents alternate lived realities in India.
Des Raj Kali is an acclaimed Punjabi Dalit writer, historian and columnist. His primary areas of interest are the Ghadar movement, Dalit issues, Punjabi literature, myth and culture. He has published fourteen books; of them three are anthologies of short stories: Kath-Kali (1996), Fakiri (2006), and Yahaan Chai Achhi Nahi Banti (The Tea Isn't Good Here, 2015); and six are novels, with his first one, Parneshwari (2008), named after a peasant goddess, Antaheen (2008), Pratham Pauran (2009), Shanti Parav (2009), Shehr Vich Saan Hon Da Matlabb (What it Means to Be a Bull in the City, 2018), and Tasihey Kade Buddhe Nahi Honde (Sorrows Never Age, 2019). He also edits and runs a literary quarterly called Lakeer.
Neeti Singh is a poet, an accomplished translator, and Associate Professor of English with the Maharaja Sayajirao University in Baroda. Her research interests straddle Culture Studies, Bhakti/mystic poetry and Indian literatures in English. She has published over twenty-five research papers, and three books till date: The Serpent of Slumber (1995), a book of poems, followed by Bhakti Poetry in Medieval India: Its Inception, Cultural Encounters and Impact with Reference to the Works of Kabir and Nanak (2002), and a translation of Bhai Jaita’s Sri Gur Katha (2015), a seventeenth-century epic of significant relevance to Sikh history and Bhakti poetics.
Manmohan, an Indian Police Service (IPS) officer, is a poet, writer, scholar, critic and translator of renown of Punjabi language and literature. His debut novel Nirvaan won the Sahitya Akademi Award in 2013.
Shanti Parav: A Post-modern Dalit narrative
About the novel
Des Raj Kali
The poet speaks
PbhagMull Pagal's prattle
The philosophy of beggars
One drunken evening
Retired Professor Jauhall's prattle
She, I, and space
An attempt to forget her
You won't find the dear lost ones
Wrap it up quickly, yaar
How lonely must the moon be on the rooftop of night
Tears in brother's eyes
The women consent
Stream of fire
Come Khusro, let's head home
Light your cigar from my heart, love
Glossary and notes
Writings from the soil of wounds
A mulaquat with Des Raj Kali