Cocoon is the translation of Marathi novel, Kosala written by Bhalchandra Nemade in 1963 and translated by Sudhakar Marathe into English with the title Cocoon. This was written in a diary form and it was unique attempt in Marathi literature.
The novel revolves around the protagonist Pandurang Sangawikar, the son of a well-to-do farmer in Maharashtra. It is also important to remember that the author belongs to the first generation of learners of his family. The novel is well known for his new technique and style and also for introducing an ‘unheroic hero‘ in Marathi fiction. At the same time he popularized an antihero as the protagonist.
The hero of the novel, Pandurang Sangawikar is graduate student with English literature major. He narrates how it becomes challenging for a non native English learner to master the literature in English language. He is the son of the rich man who is also respected by other villagers. His decision to come to Pune for higher studies was itself a unique and daring one. Living in hostel, Pandurang decides to enjoy his college life. He becomes the secretary of the debate society of the college, monitor of the hostel and also the director of drama for the college annual function.
As a leader of his hostel, he hands over the hostel mess management responsibility to his friend. In the course of time, he realizes that the students in his surrounding are not as open hearted and clean hearted as he is. Somewhere he feels that he is being used for their personal gains. In this campus politics, labyrinths of friendly relations and unnecessary affairs, he performs badly in his examinations. It results also in his financial loss inviting his father‘s wrath. Pandurang learns his lesson that good deeds never count much in life.
In his second year of degree course he still behaves as a novice. But his original nature still remains carefree and adventurous. His father also hesitates to accost him or refrain him from behaving recklessly.
The death of Pandurang‘s younger sister, Mani shatters him at heart so much that he fails in examination. This brings the second lesson for him that with growth, one receives one‘s lessons only to make one more tolerant and mature. He for some time, tries to find a part time job in the city of Mumbai but in vain. He seems to be philosophizing his helpless condition as an existential one and calls himself as one of the unemployed many. In the course of his life he tries to learn theis view of life and realizes that his own sorrow is much smaller than that of those unemployed many. The last lesson he receives is that sorrow and happiness exist hand in hand and fulfill one‘s life and they cannot exist without either.
The novel is divided into six chapters. The first one deals with the protagonist Pandurang‘s life from his childhood to the matriculation, his friends, his father‘s wrath and awe in which he grows into a timid young man.
Chapter two deals with his admission in the college at Pune, his admission in the hostel, his college friends and his free life. It‘s here where he enjoys his freedom for the first time. He lives a lavish life in Pune, and tends to overspend every time, for he thinks that his father is a miser and a thrifty man. The second chapter ends with the problem of his hostel mess and his college where he finds himself in financial loss of six hundred rupees. He asks his father for the help of four hundred rupees, and comes out of the problem, but at the loss of his father‘s trust in him.
Third Chapter continues with his stay in the hostel, but now his attitude has completely been changed. He has learnt many lessons, such as, the importance of money. He meets a girl called Rami whom he likes the most and also has a crush for her. He also loses his sister Mani in this chapter. Finally, he learns that there is no use of education. The very next day of his examination, he leaves for his native place with the decision that he would never go back to Pune for education. He also tells his father about this decision, but the father becomes angry with him and insists on sending him back to Pune.
The fourth chapter begins his coming back to college and the same climate once again, but with a complete changed attitude – rather a grown up attitude. He curtails his expenses, tries to concentrate on studies and avoids useless friends. He finishes the final year examination with the decision that it was his last exam of his life time, and would never take any other exam whatsoever. Even if he fails in the exam, he would never take it again, never go back to Pune again and will stay in his village forever. He tries to search for a job in Mumbai, but all in vain.
The fifth chapter begins in his village where he decides to stay, but his villagers ask him various questions about his education, the reasons for his stay in the village etc. His father does not understand as to which degree is he learning in, and how many more years will he spend in taking it? He, on the other hand, seems to have lost interest in the urban life, those honking vehicles, the polluting climate and all selfish people around. He tells his fellow village men that the freedom and freshness he experiences in the village is not there in the city. This chapter ends with his minute narration of the plague and its impact on the village life.
The last chapter deals with his parents‘ attempts to marry him, but it also does not happen. His friend Girdhar and Bambas Bua (a Guru) are his buddies in his village, with whom he often discusses about the God, the purpose of life on earth, the death, etc. One day his friend, Girdhar disappears from his house and leaves for learning his life lessons on his own. Girdhar‘s parents were pasting him for his unproductive life. Pandurang feels lonely without Girdhar. Finally, he resolves to mentally settle down by listening to his parents, because it‘s the parents who are his last shelter, and the has no other refuge than them. The protagonist ends his story on a very positive note that the years he spent in learning so far and he experiences he earned so far have not been just a useless venture, though they haven‘t been so productive. They were not at all a useless venture. The novel ends on a positive note that the writer believes in his inability in doing at par with the expectations of his parents, but he trusts in doing good, being good and good nature of the life on the whole.
However Marathi critics call this novel as an existentialist one. This view, however, seems to be exaggerated. This novel is a record of experiences of a teenager through his adolescent age when his mind and body are constantly in the state of change. At this stage doubts, pessimistic thoughts, unfaithfulness, anger, over reactictive moods are more frequent than other age groups. As the result of this, no wonder if a teenager finds himself like our protagonist, Pandurang Sangawikar at the war with the world. The death of a sister or the father‘s anger for poor performance in the examination or reckless behaviour or misuse by his friends or a little financial loss are not sufficient reasons to make the novel an existentialist. In other words, the present novel is an entertaining story of a college boy who happily grows from the stage of ignorance to knowledge and innocence to experience.