There's Gunpowder in the Air -MANORANJAN BYAPARI

There's Gunpowder in the Air


Westland Publications

Translated by Arunava Sinha

A petty thief’s loyalties are tested in the midst of an audacious jail break

The only thorn in the flesh of newly appointed jailer Bireshwar Mukherjee, a formidable man with a spotless twenty-five-year record are the inhabitants of Cell No. 12, the prison within a prison, which houses five Naxals, fiery young men dedicated to demolishing class society. When Bhagoban “Bhogai” Sardar, a thief who has committed a petty crime returns to jail, where he feels at home, Bireshwar Mukherjee has an idea. Bhagoban will secretly function as his pair of eyes on the inmates of Cell No. 12 and detect their nefarious plans. Slowly, however, Bhagoban gets drawn to the empathy of these strange young men. As the Naxals plan a daring escape that will either win them freedom or cost them their lives, he has to make a decision about a purpose that’s bigger than him.

 Published in 2013 as Batashe Baruder Gondho in Bangla, Gunpowder in the Air is a darkly comic indictment of the Indian prison system as well as a deeply empathetic historical document of Naxalism in West Bengal.

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About the author

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Manoranjan Bypari was born in the mid-fifties in Barishal. After he migrated to West Bengal at the age of three, he lived in two refugee camps before he moved away at the age of fourteen to work. At twenty-four, he became politically active with the Naxals after meeting famous labour activist Shankar Guha Niyogi. It was in prison that Byapari taught himself to read and write. Later, when he was working as a rickshaw puller, he had a chance encounter with Mahasweta Devi who asked him to contribute to her journal Bartika. He has since then published eight novels, four volumes of memoirs and over fifty short stories. His essay ‘Is there Dalit writing in Bangla’ which was translated into English by Meenakshi Mukerjee for Economic and Political Weekly launched him into mainstream prominence. He worked until recently as a cook with the Helen Keller Institute for the Deaf and Blind in West Bengal. He won the 2019 Hindu Prize For Non-Fiction for his biography Itibritte Chandal Jiban translated into English as Interrogating My Chandal Life: An Autobiography of a Dalit.


Arunava Sinha

Arunava Sinha translates Bengali fiction and nonfiction into English. Fifty-one of his translations have been published so far. Twice the winner of the Crossword translation award for Sankar’s Chowringhee (2007) and Anita Agnihotri’s Seventeen (2011), respectively, he has also won the Muse India translation award (2013) for Buddhadeva Bose’s When The Time Is Right. He has been nominated for the Independent Foreign Fiction prize and the Best Translated Book award in the US. He is a recipient of an English PEN translation grant for Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay's The Yogini. Besides India, his translations have been published in the UK, the US, and in several European and Asian countries. He has conducted workshops at the British Centre for Literary Translation, UEA; University of Chicago; Dhaka Translation Centre; and Jadavpur University. He is an associate professor of practice in the Creative Writing department at Ashoka University.