Thursday, September 20, 2012

Sharat Chandra : The Messiah Of The Oppressed

“In the dead of night Gafur set out , holding his daughter by the hand. He had nobody to call his own in the village. He had nothing to say to anybody. Crossing the yard he stopped and crying loudly. “Allah”, he said raising his hand and face towards the dark, starry sky, “punish me as much as you can- but remember, Mahesh died in thirst. Not a tinniest bit of land was left for him to graze. Pray, never forgive those, who denied Mahesh the grass to eat, water to drink, which you provided for all on this earth.”

Those were the heydays of Zeminder’s, second and third decade of twentieth century. The author of this story revolving around a landless peasant Gafur and his bull, “Mahesh”, is Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay, the most popular novelist in Bengal. His novels have been translated in almost all other Indian languages and were equally popular. Many films based on his novels were termed as super hit films in Bangla, Hindi and other languages. The films ‘Devdas’ and ‘Dev D’ released recently are prime example of his appeal to the masses for generations. There lies the paradox. Devdas was the scion of a prosperous Zamindar family of Bengal and the novel was about his tragic love story. The same writer writes about a Muslim landless peasant and his bull ‘Mahesh” and it was selected as UNESCO heritage literature.

Sharat Chandra spent his childhood and the best part of his youth in dire poverty, living a vagabond’s life in search of livelihood. His childhood was spent in his maternal uncle’s family at Bhagalpur in Bihar due to abject poverty. In his youth he worked as a manual labor and later as a petty clerk to sustain himself. The life he saw was smitten with hunger, famine and death; so were the novels and short stories he wrote, which depicted the realities of life in rural Bengal and not the sophisticated urban life of the educated middle class. For him the creator and the universe had no meaning because even the moon looks like half-burnt bread for the hungry. Characters like Satish in his novels Charitraheen, Ramesh in Pallisamaj and Sabyasachi in Pather Dabi were rebels, more of a rebel than a hero, who defied the religious strictures, social norms and stood against the landlords, their cronies and the priests, who exploited the poor peasants to live a life of opulence. Without any political overtone Sharat Chandra was able to weave mass uprising, agrarian movements and message of social reform in his novels and short stories.

Sharat Chandra was very fond of Charles Dickens and was definitely influenced by his style of narration and social awareness. He excelled over all great story tellers of his time because of his intimate knowledge of life of the people from the lowest strata of life- the peasants, the snake charmers, the courtesans, prostitutes etc. Gafoor in his short story ‘Mahesh’ was a muslim landless peasant and Mahesh was his bull. He used to feed the animal even when he himself had to remain in empty stomach for days together. But he was driven to the wall because of the relentless demand of the landlord and the priests to fill their coffers. One day, in a momentary rage he hit the bull hard and the famished bull died. Gafoor left his house and the village and went to the city with his daughter to work as a laborer in a Jute mill.

Mritunjay in the story ‘Bilasi’ was a snake-charmer, who had left his middle class family and opted for this profession out of love for Bilasi. He died while trying to catch a cobra ignoring Bilasi’s warnings. After his death Bilasi had nothing to live for. So at the end she also commits suicide. We find another character of snake charmer in his autobiographical novel ‘Srikanta’. ‘Annada Didi’ had left her family and honor to live with her characterless, drug addict husband, who had never accepted her as his wife. He also died while playing with a poisonous snake in a drunken state. Annada spent her rest of life alone carrying the memory of her so called husband.

In ‘Abhagir Swarga’ the mother Abhaghi is a lower caste woman, whose only dream was that after her death she should be cremated with full rituals like the high-caste Hindus. She dies in penury and his son went further into the debt trap to fulfill his mother’s last wish.

Sharat Chandra was acknowledged as a writer with profound sympathy for women and deep ‘understanding of the whole gamut of the women’s inner life, be it as a mother, sister, wife or the beloved, thereby often fighting through her the fight of the modern woman for recognition as a free individual and personality in her own right.’ There are many instances in his writings, where he was seen more as a revolutionary than a social reformer, which forced the British rulers to proscribe his novel ‘Pather Dabi’ as sedition.

To pay tribute to the great writer, reformer and humanist Sharat Chandra one should ask an honest question, whether the exploitation, the suffering of the silent majority in British India, he depicted in his writings could be eradicated seventy years after independence, and if not, why. The answer is obviously ‘no’ and there lies his relevance for the posterity.

The Talking points on Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay in All India Radio 
- Amar Mudi

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Arun Prakash Jha (1948 - 2012)

Death is a great equalizer. Or perhaps not.
For the first time in the many years of my living, I saw my dad shedding a tear for a dear friend lost into anonymity forever perhaps. His friendship for the last 30 years or so with ‘Jha uncle’ was something he didn’t discuss very often. But it remained, especially spoken of when he would talk about his days of struggle in Delhi. How they did masters in Mass Communications together both in their mid fifties with the gusto of three 20 year olds. Sometimes, every now and then he would mention how the man single handedly made a ‘rags to riches story’ for himself. ‘Riches’, not in the way you would want the story to be, his life was rich, in ways only an artist would want it to be. Arun Prakash ji, or Jha uncle as we remember him, was a man of strong convictions. Someone who lost his father very early in his life, he struggled, educated himself, wrote and retired as quite a well known hindi writer in the last 30 years. He was also the editor of “Samkaleen Bhartiya Sahitya”, the hindi version of “Modern Indian Literature” a bimonthly magazine with poetry and literature from Indian poets and writers across the country.
He established himself as a writer with a strong sense of roots to the Indian setting. With surrealistic approach to the pains and struggles in India, he wrote both about the urban and the rural India. Whether it be the controversial ‘Abhisamragya’ based on the slums of Delhi, or ‘Bhaiyya Express’ based in the riot and terrorism struck Punjab, he made his mark, not wanting fame or fortune, but for the pure pleasure of writing. I am not claiming to have read all his work, but some of his work that I have read leaves a mark, just like his life did on my father’s.  

He wrote:

"Arun Prakash wrote a few short stories and only three novels. But he was noticed by avid readers, critics as someone who ushered in the beautiful people of Biha, their simplicity, love of life. The day I read Bhaia Express I felt this is the best story on Punjab and terrorism ever written. Then I read his story Bisham Rag. The maid servant living in a jhuggi came alive with her passionate love, and immense mental strength.So were his other stories: Jal Prantar, Gaj Puran etc. I translated two of his short stories into Bangla and the response I received was mind boggling.
He was my friend for 25 years. But even today I don't understand how he gathered the strength to defy his own pain, sufferings and bring out the positive side of life amidst penury, deprivation and exploitation.
Arun Prakash, eminent writer in Hindi and editor of Samakaleen Bharatiya Sahitya passed away on 18th June, 2011." 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Delhi OMG - Vinod Nair (whats wrong with Flipkart)

'Delhi OMG' is a classic case of "Don't judge a book by it's cover". Especially... back cover...

It looks interesting, the cover is jazzy, the back notes look tempting... they look positively funny.
And then you open the book to start reading. You start to think that you may be missing the humour, or the humour is yet to walk in the book... or maybe even  cynicism. But trust me all I managed to read in the first 50 pages were rants. Rants about how 'Delhi' is all that the world and most bloggers like me have been complaining about on their personal blogs. How it is a city with more pompousness than the erstwhile kings of lucknow, how the people are hypocrites, women are promiscuous, bribery, cheats, et al. It is a book of rants. 

The first 50 pages pass, but please dont expect a miracle... I was left wondering, how come Flipkart gave it such rave reviews... What have those guys been eating? Really. Or are they all people who never really read but picked up this book cause it looked like SMSese?

Sorry Mr Nair, your book does get a reaction... OMG!!! WHY DID I EVER PICK IT UP?

I really feel sorry for my friend who got me the book thinking this would be interesting... He picked it with all good intentions. But sometimes the best intent cannot get good books off the shelves.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Love stories and guilt- Mills and Boon

I am guilty of reading Mills & Boon, totally guilty, and I probably should be hanged for it if it were a crime. Intellectual minds in the society have shunned me, and those who haven’t, haven’t only because so far I have not mentioned my taste in trash romances.

They are the gooey, sticky, mushy story of ‘girl meets guys-hates him-loves him-marries him’ and there are no other plots. They have no intellectual substance and are probably the reason why there are so many women looking for passionate love stories that can never go wrong and end up disillusioned and depressed. In essence there seems to be no particular reason for anyone to pick up these pocket books to read. This century old paperback editions have been around for a reason....
The Love stories that never change
And like all the heroines of M&B say at the end, I do. Not without good reason. One, they are light and small, hence easy to carry. You can put them in your bag, and even in a pocket that is big enough. Secondly you can leave them unfinished for months together and you won’t miss it. You can even pick up a completely different one and find you don’t really need to begin it again. They were easy to hide behind school books even in a classroom. They are dirt cheap, you don’t mind if they get stolen and/or borrowed and lost unlike good literature. Bottom line, they make you believe in love. What with all the breakups and divorce rates all sky rocketing, it maybe a very needed dose of good, warm feelings when the heroine in all 200 books is told how much she is loved by the man who is ready to sacrifice the world for her. Plus it gives me the added advantage of reading about all the Australian outbacks, and the English countryside, Newzealand coral reefs, and the great plains of America without having to pay the cost of visiting each and everyone of them.

Obviously all the ladies in the books are extremely good looking and may give a negative body image to most of us, but keep a strong head on your shoulders and you will find a prince charming despite what you look like. Faith is all it takes.

Lastly in my defense, haven’t we all loved all the Hugh Grants and the Sandra Bullocks for their rom-com movies for the same reasons? They are not possible but, we all watch them. And love them. And quote them. So what if I like reading the same 2 and a half hour mush on a book that costs 20 bucks on the street? And as far as story lines and plots go, I, being a delhiite have grown up watching DDLJ, KKHH, HAHK ‘Far fetched’ is a phrase that I don’t think the entire universe can beat Bollywood at churning that out 365 movies a year.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

रात पश्मीने की : गुलज़ार

Raat Pashmine ki - Gulzar (Pic Courtesy)

बहुत साल पहले गुलज़ार की चंद सतरें पढ़ी थीं -

"नज़्म उलझी हुई है सीने में, मिसरे अटके पड़े हैं होठों पर
उड़ते फिरते हैं तितलियों की तरह, लफ़्ज़ काग़ज़ पे बैठते ही नहीं."

लेकिन अब गुलज़ार ने उन तितलियों से उड़ते अल्फ़ाज़ को पकड़कर काग़ज़ पर बैठाया है और उन्हें 'रात पश्मीने की' नाम से शाया किया है. यह तो सच है कि सर्दियों की रात में पश्मीने की नर्म-गुनगुनी गर्माहट बहुत दिलफ़रेब होती है लेकिन इस पश्मीने के भीतर कुछ तेज़-तल्ख़ बातें भी हैं. वो शायर जो कभी भी, कहीं भी, "आसमान का कोई भी कोना ओढ़कर" सो जाता था और "जहाँ ठहर जाये वहीँ शहर बना लेने" का दमख़म रखता था, इस बार कुछ बुझा-बुझा सा महसूस हुआ -

"दर्द कुछ देर ही रहता है, बहुत देर नहीं!
ख़त्म हो जाएगी जब इसकी रसद
टिमटिमायेगा ज़रा देर को बुझते-बुझते
और फिर लम्बी सी इक साँस धुँए की लेकर
ख़त्म हो जायेगा .....
ये दर्द भी बुझ जायेगा."

इस किताब में गुलज़ार की कुछ गंभीर क़िस्म की नज्में हैं, कुछ ग़ज़लें हैं और कुछ त्रिवेणियाँ हैं. ये त्रिवेणी गुलज़ार की अपनी ईजाद हैं. इसमें दो मिसरों में एक चित्र बनता है और तीसरा मिसरा उस पर गिरह लगता है, या फिर उसकी किसी अनदेखी-अनछुई परत को उघाड़ता है.
जैसे - तमाम सफ़हे किताबों के फडफड़ाने लगे

"हवा धकेल के दरवाज़ा आ गयी घर में
कभी हवा की तरह तुम भी आया जाया करो."

त्रिवेणी यह नाम क्यों? इस पर गुलज़ार कहते हैं कि त्रिवेणी संगम पर तीन नदियाँ मिलती हैं. गंगा-जमना के धारे सतह पर नज़र आते हैं लेकिन सरस्वती, जो तक्षशिला के रास्ते बहकर आती थी, वह ज़मींदोज़ हो चुकी है. त्रिवेणी के तीसरे मिसरे का काम सरस्वती दिखाना है, जो पहले दो मिसरों में छिपी हुई है.

              नापकर वक़्त भरा जाता है हर रेत घड़ी में
              इक तरफ ख़ाली हो जब फिर से उलट देते हैं
              उम्र जब ख़त्म हो, क्या मुझको वो उल्टा नहीं सकता?

एक और बानगी देखिये -
              आपकी ख़ातिर अगर हम लूट भी लें आसमाँ
              क्या मिलेगा चंद चमकीले से शीशे तोड़के
              चाँद चुभ जायेगा उँगली में तो खून आ जायेगा.

चाँद और रात गुलज़ार की शायरी में बारहा अलग-अलग सूरत-शक्ल में नुमाया होते हैं. चाँद में महबूब की सूरत तो बहुत से शायरों को नज़र आई होगी लेकिन उसे रोटी कहने वाले शायद गुलज़ार अकेले ही होंगे -

            माँ ने जिस चाँद सी दुल्हन की दुआ दी थी मुझे
            आज की रात वो फ़ुटपाथ से देखा मैंने
            रात भर रोटी नज़र आया है वो चाँद मुझे.

लेकिन इस बार शायर रात और चाँद के दायरे से आगे बढ़कर कुल कायनात की सैर पर निकल पड़ा है -

रात में जब भी मेरी आँख खुले
नंगे पाँवों ही निकल जाता हूँ
आसमानों से गुज़र जाता हूँ
दूधिया तारों पे पाँव रखता
चलता रहता हूँ यही सोचके मैं
कोई सय्यारा अगर जागता मिल जाये कहीं
इक पड़ोसी की तरह पास बुला ले शायद
और कहे - आज की रात यहीं रह जाओ
तुम ज़मीं पर हो अकेले- मैं यहाँ तनहा हूँ.

और फिर एक सय्यारा ही क्यों, खुद सूरज भी तो उससे मुतास्सिर है -

बस चंद करोड़ों सालों में सूरज की आग बुझेगी जब
और राख उड़ेगी सूरज से ..........
मैं सोचता हूँ उस वक़्त अगर
काग़ज़ पे लिखी इक नज़्म कहीं
उड़ते-उड़ते सूरज पे गिरे तो सूरज फिर से जलने लगे.

और वही शायर, जिसकी नज़्म में ऐसी आँच है कि सूरज को भी रोशन कर दे, उसकी एक नज़्म ऐसी भी है कि उंगली थामकर घर पहुंचा दे -

ये राह बहुत आसान नहीं!
जिस राह पे हाथ छुड़ाकर तुम यूँ तन-तनहा चल निकली हो
इस खौफ़ से शायद राह भटक जाओ न कहीं
हर मोड़ पे मैंने नज़्म खड़ी कर रखी है!
थक जाओ अगर और तुमको ज़रूरत पड़ जाये
इक नज़्म की उँगली थामके वापस आ जाना.

'रात पश्मीने की' में दो-तीन नज्में ऐसी हैं जो सीधे दिल पर चोट करती हैं. जैसे 'बुड्ढा दरिया' -

मुँह ही मुँह कुछ बुड-बुड करता बहता है ये बुड्ढा दरिया !

या जैसे टोबा टेकसिंह -

मुझे वाघा पे टोबा टेकसिंह वाले बिशन से जाके मिलना है
सुना है वो अभी तक सूजे पैरों पर खड़ा है जिस जगह 'मंटो' ने छोड़ा था.

या फिर एक लाश -

वो लाश जो चौक में पड़ी है
न चोटी सर पे, न सजदे का माहताब माथे
कड़ा नहीं है कलाई में और न है गले में सलीब कोई
जलाएं उसको या दफ़्न कर दें?
अदम को जाना भी इतना आसाँ नहीं है हमदम
जो देख सकते के ख़त गया पर लिफाफे की छानबीन जारी
और तफ्तीश हो रही है.

आज के दौर में किताबों की मजबूरी बयां करते हैं कि -

किताबें झाँकती हैं बंद अलमारी के शीशों से
बड़ी हसरत से तकती हैं, महीनों अब मुलाक़ातें नहीं होतीं
जो शामें इनकी सोहबत में कटा करती थीं अब अक्सर
गुज़र जाती हैं कंप्यूटर के पर्दों पर .......
वो सारा इल्म तो मिलता रहेगा बाद में भी
मगर वो जो किताबों में मिला करते थे
सूखे फूल और महके हुए रुक्क़े
किताबें मांगने, गिरने, उठाने के बहाने रिश्ते बनते थे
उनका क्या होगा...... वो शायद अब नहीं होंगे.

लेकिन उम्मीद यही है कि किताबों और पाठकों का रिश्ता कभी ख़त्म नहीं होगा क्योंकि जैसा गुलज़ार कहते हैं -एक अच्छी किताब पढ़ने का सुख कुछ ऐसा होता है जैसे -

जिस तरह तन झुलसती गर्मी में
ठन्डे दरिया में डुबकियाँ लेकर दिल को राहत नसीब होती है
ऐसा ही इत्मिनान होता है तेरी अच्छी सी नज़्म को पढ़कर
लगता है ज़िन्दगी के दरिया से एक तारी लगाके निकले हैं,
रूह कैसी निहाल होती है.
**** **** **** **** ****              

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Translation - Orhan Pahmuk, My Name is Red

"My Name is Red" translated into Bangla as " Amar Nam Lal" by me has been released in Kolkata Book Fair on 01.02.2012. Publisher is Sandesh, Dhaka. It is available in Sandesh Stall, Bangladesh Pavillion and Bishwa Bangiyo Prokashan, Kolkata. Please have a look! My Friends!
The Cover of "Amar Nam Lal"

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Translations- Ismail Kader, The successor

2012 has been the most memorable year in my life. 1st Feb. Orhan Pamuk's My Name is Red was released in Kolkata Book Fair in my translation 'Amar Nam Lal'.

Now, Ismail Kader's The Successor has been released in Dhaka Book Fair in my translation 'Uttaradhikar'. These two books will be available in Kolkata from Bishwa Bongyo Prokashoni, Marcus Square(Borno porichay} market. Publisher: Sandesh, 16, Aziz Super Market, Shah Bag, Dhaka

Ismail Kader - The Successor

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Mine - Arnab Ray

Lost in the vast deserts of Rajasthan, lays a clandestine mine, which reveals an ancient but grotesque pagan carvings. But, the evil that is there doesn’t rise from the outside; it is the one that remains and grows inside you. Arnab Ray’s second book, (after the non-fiction ‘May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss’ in 2010); is a psychological thriller, a genre that Indian authors haven’t yet successfully attempted. Better known as Greatbong in the blogging circles, Ray is known more for his satirical humor and his candid love affair with Bollywood, politics, sports and much more.

Ray noted that he draws his inspiration not just from one source, but many that he has grown up with. Queen of Crime Fiction Writing Agatha Christie, and X files have contributed to the writing of this book, but Mahabharat, his favourite book, has also influenced him since childhood.

What is clear in the book though is how Ray takes real situations and paints a gruesome picture out of it. The real horror of the book is not in the supernatural, nor is it how the plot unfolds and the main character suffering. The novel’s horror is drawn from the lurid flashbacks, untold suppressed histories of the characters of the book. “Many of the incidents in the book are taken from real events, horrific pain that men and women of this world have inflicted on others” Ray said.

Genre: Fiction/Horror
Author: Arnab Ray
282 pages; Price: Rs 195
Original Article here