Monday, November 26, 2018

WAS IT A DREAM by Guy De Maupassant

WAS IT A DREAM  is a  short story by  Guy De Maupassant, the  19th century  French  short story writer.  A master story teller, he is known for the   surprise  endings , much to the shock of the reader.
The story is set in Paris.An unnamed lover is unable to bear the loss of his beloved  who has died due to cough  and fever  she catches suddenly  , after getting wet in the rain.He runs away  from home  soon after the  last rites  .
After some years he returns  to  Paris, his home and once more  feels nostalgic to think of his beloved. He feels her permanent impression  on the mirror  in which she used to look  before leaving home  , to ensure  that every thing  was in place.
He makes his way to the graveyard  on a dark  moonless night , and tired sits  on the stone of an old grave. Soon he feels the earth shaking and the stone rising. Frightened  , he shifts  to the other stone nearby . He sees  a skeleton  rising from the grave. The epitaph  on the stone  reads Here lies Jacques Olivant, who died at the age of fifty-one. He loved his family, was kind and honorable, and died in the grace of the Lord.
 The skeleton reads the epitaph and sets out to erase the letters.  After erasing the letters , he rewrites the  epitaph which  now reads “‘Here reposes Jacques Olivant, who died at the age of fifty-one. He hastened his father’s death by his unkindness, as he wished to inherit his fortune, he tortured his wife, tormented his children, deceived his neighbors, robbed everyone he could, and died wretched.
 Surprised and shocked  he  walks to the  grave of his beloved and  finds  his  dead  beloved  indulging in the same activity of  erasing and rewriting . The epitaph which earlier read ‘She loved, was loved, and diednow reads  Having gone out one day, in order to deceive her lover, she caught cold in the rain and died.
The story ends with the line ‘It appears that they found me at daybreak, lying on the grave unconscious.’
 This is not a conventional love story though the narrator and  the  central character is a  lover. Maupassant has not given any name to the lover and the beloved  to extend the scope of  the narrative as relating to the  humanity world wide. The name Jacques Olivant appears  only as a reference point.
Only the dead know about themselves , is the easy inference one can draw.

A wonderful story, though shocking too   !

Sunday, November 25, 2018

सुरिन्दर कौर

अपनी जादू भरी आवाज़ से पंजाबी लोकगायन और संगीत को शिखर पर पहुँचाने वाली महान गायिका सुरिन्दर कौर की आज जयंती है। स्वतन्त्रता पूर्व लाहौर रेडियो स्टेशन से अपनी संगीत यात्रा आरंभ करने वाली सुरिन्दर कौर ने न केवल पंजाबी संगीत को घर घर पहुंचाया, बल्कि, शुरुआती दौर में हिन्दी फिल्मों के लिए भी कुछ गीत गाये जो अत्यंत लोकप्रिय हुए। ऐसे ही गीतों में उनका एक गीत 'बदनाम न हो जाए मुहब्बत का फसाना , ओ दर्द भरे आँसुओ आँखों में न आना' आज भी शौक से सुना जाता है। इसके अतिरिक्त ‘तक़दीर की आँधी हम कहाँ और तुम कहाँ’ और ‘आना है तो आ जाओ’ भी उनके लोकप्रिय हिन्दी फिल्म गीत हैं। 

मुख्य रूप से उन्हें पंजाबी गीतों के लिए जाना जाता है । कुछ गीत उनने अपनी बहन प्रकाश कौर के साथ भी गाये। ‘ लट्ठे दी चादर उत्ते सलेटी रंग माहिया’,’ अजे न वसीं ओए न वस बदला, अजे न वस ओए कालेया’, ‘ जूती कसूरी, पैरीं न पूरी’, ‘ काला डोरिया कुंडे नाल अड़ेयाइ ओए, के छोटा देवरा भाभी नाल लड़ेयाइ ओए’, ‘चन्न कित्थाँ गुजारी आयी रात वे’ , ‘गोरी दियाँ झांझरां’ शोहरत की बुलंदी पर हैं। दो हज़ार से भी अधिक गीतों को अपनी आवाज़ से सजाने वाली सुरिन्दर कौर ने आसा सिंह मस्ताना, हरचरन ग्रेवाल, दीदार संधु और करनैल गिल के साथ भी कई यादगार गीत गाये । उनकी एक बेटी डॉली गुलेरिया भी जानी मानी पंजाबी गायिका है।
सुरिन्दर कौर को पद्मश्री और संगीत नाटक अकादमी पुरस्कार से भी सम्मानित किया गया था। गुरु नानक विश्वविद्यालय ने उन्हें मानद डॉक्टरेट की उपाधि से भी सम्मानित किया था।

पंजाब की कोकिला के नाम से विख्यात इस महान गायिका को हमारी विनम्र श्रद्धांजलि !

Thursday, November 15, 2018


AFTER TWENTY YEARS is a short story by O Henry, the master story teller.
The back ground of the story is that two friends Bob and Jimmy Wells , 18 and 20 years of age, grow up together as kids in New York and are almost looked upon as brothers.One day they decide to part ways with a promise to meet exactly after twenty years at the appointed place  and time irrespective of how differently the time or luck treats them in terms of social status or financial well being.Bob leaves for the West to try his luck and make it big, while Jimmy Wells stays back at New York as he is not willing to leave the place.
Twenty years later -
A cop on the night patrol duty  passes through a market place to see whether the shops and stores closed for the night  are properly left locked and secure.He finds a man standing on the doorway of a hardware store.When enquired, the man tells the cop that he is waiting for a friend whom he had promised to meet after twenty years. When the man attempt to light up a cigarette, the cop in the light of the lighter recognizes the man as a wanted criminal who has run away to escape the law.The cop leaves.
The man who is waiting for his friend is desperate as Jimmy Wells had not turned up at the appointed time .
After a while  a cop in plain clothes appears and addresses the man by his name Bob. Bob happy that at last Jimmy has come to meet him as promised, warmly shakes hands with him. They walk together some distance and  when they come near the light , Bob comes to know from the man's appearance that he is not Jimmy Wells, as even the twenty years long period cannot bring about a drastic change in physical appearance.
When Bob tells him that he can not be his friend Jimmy, the  cop in plain clothes tells him that he is not Jimmy but a cop come to arrest him.
He takes out a note written by Jimmy Wells and hands it over to Bob.
It transpires that the cop who had earlier met Bob was Jimmy who had turned up on time and seeing that Bob his friend was a wanted criminal , who he being a cop was duty bound  to arrest had hesitated to do so being a friend and sought the help of a fellow cop to arrest him.
The two friends though are of different character and disposition, come across as true friends, fulfilling the promise of meeting each other , though the inherent irony makes it a sting in the tail narrative.

A great story indeed !

Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Gypsy Trail

 Travels and Travails of an Army Wife
By  Lily Swarn
Publishers :Authorspress, New Delhi
ISBN: 978-93-88008-68-6
Pp :180
Price : Rs 395/-

This  is a third book by Lily Swarn after  ‘A Trellis Of Ecstasy’ (2017) a poetry collection   , & ‘ Lilies Of The Valley’(2018)-a book of Essays  . Both  these books have been well taken by the readers .Lily Swarn is  the winner of the Reuel  International  Prize  for Poetry 2016 . She now is  a globally recognized poet  ,some of  her poems having  been  translated into Spanish , Brazilian and some other languages.  The list of her achievements first and foremost as a poet in English   is pretty long .She loves to dabble in Urdu Shayari and Punjabi  poetry  too.
The title  ‘The Gypsy  Trail…..’  is partly  taken from  Kipling’s poem of the  same name  and the  other part - Travel and Travails of an Army Wife- is self explanatory  as to what  the reader  is to find in the book .
The book starts on a sombre note with a dedication to  Gobind Shahbaaz Singh , the 23 year old son of the writer  who fell victim to  some  ailment that proved fatal .He is fondly remembered as a promising  child growing up into  a talented young man  who wants to make it big in the field  chosen  by him but unfortunately  destiny has ordained otherwise.    He is easily identifiable  with the  youngman  Jujhar the  name that  appears later in the  narrative.  Incidentally, Jujhar was also one of the    martyred sons of  Guru Gobind Singh, the  Tenth Guru .
The Prelude , sums up  the person an Army wife is or supposed to be, with the unwritten  code that requires to be adhered to and followed  .
The Chapter named  ‘Teenage Crush’  comes up with the  background to the protagonist  becoming an army wife and the narrative is presented  in an interesting manner and style , where  she  spells out  her well reasoned preference  for an Army Officer  over a Bureaucrat   and  a Banker . She gets engaged  to  her dream man, an Army Officer  . A hurried marriage ceremony follows  as the  groom is not allowed sufficient days of leave.
After this the  journey as an Army wife  starts  , the first stop being  Changu at Sikkim , where the  young  Captain happens to be posted.  The description of the place ,its natural scenic beauty  its flora and fauna , and people  especially the cherubic  children  holds one transfixed and  is simply amazing .
Not long after the next place is Dalhousie  a small town in Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh. Here the protagonist  takes up a teaching assignment as a young College lecturer and fondly  describes her colleagues. Here also  we have a beautiful  description of the place  . Here the protagonist  experiences  mother hood for the first time  as she delivers a baby on 8th May, 1984.   .
The reader  travels along with the  protagonist  through places some well known and others less known.
 The chapters  are in chronological order and the places  to which she travels  and  sets home  are Deolali, Alwar, Bagrakot , Pune, Kathua, Dinjan,Meerut,  Allahabad,  Lucknow , Hyderabad,  Ferozepur  and Chandigarh. Some other chapters find place  in between for general  discussion in a befitting manner   in her  inimitable style.
Endowed with a  rare    observant    eye and  with a penchant  for detail , the writer does not  seem to be  in a hurry and discusses  the minutest details about the  various  places,  highlighting the historical  facts wherever necessary . She  discusses the local people, culture, cuisine, specialities , landmarks, and the famous personalities , be it the writers, poets, musicians , artistes and the other notable persons belonging to the  particular place   et al .The mention of film songs, lines from  Punjabi  songs , Urdu and Sufi  poetry makes the  text richer and absorbing .  The facts about army life are  discussed  with  compassion, precision  and truthfulness . They add to the knowledge  of the  Civilian outsiders like me  and  the insiders  cannot but agree  with what she has put forth . We have the elderly advice given to the protagonist by Sewa Singh, the man Friday  attached with her  husband to serve hot chapatis to the hubby, taken straight from the griddle ( Tawa), an addtition to my vocabulary that  Tawa  is called griddle in English. Another buddy finds mention in   discussing a faux pas caused when he  asks for advice while brewing up coffee for the  guests    in a voice  audible as well  to the others in the female  group  that has come to see  the new bride. The reference to Shaktiman, Threee Ton , One Ton- all Army  vehicles -  helps  refresh    my memory  of  times  spent in a border area . There is an Ode to Mango,  the mention of  all too famous   Lukhnawi  Nazakat  & Tehzeeb , to which I may add  Lehja as well, makes the narrative perfect.There is also mention of  emotion filled  Investiture ceremony  taking place in the  Central Command.   Hyderabadi  biryani and Charminar  , inter alia ,  are discussed in  detail . Allahabad  too is discussed in detail and with  attachment  mentioning all the remarkable personalities belonging to the place ,including the former  Prime Minister Nehru, Chandra  Shekhar , V.P. Singh , Indira Gandhi, poets like Nirala, Harivanshrai Bachchan , Firaq Gorakhpuri  and many many others .  The chapter concludes  with the line – All cities have chatacter. This one has soul as well .
 Ferozepur is known for Husseiniwala  border . Husseiniwala is also a place where the martyrs  Bhagat Singh , Rajguru  & Sukhdev  were cremated  . The place has a memorial raised in their honour also.All these facts find mention.
 Chandigarh  is the last stop of the journey and ominous too. It  being  the home city of the protagonist as well as the writer herself  is discussed in detail  . The chapter  ‘That day’ recounts the  tragic loss of  the 23 year son Jujhar , which moves one no end. This also accounts for   a tragic end to the protagonist’s life as an Army wife
I could go on and on but   that  would amount  to  a parallel narrative being written , which can not  be the intention  of a  book review .
All credit to the writer for his wonderful  narrative , which  takes the reader along through out . The comments registered by a poet, a scholar and  two highly decorated   senior Army  Officers  say a lot.
A prize possession to go to again and again  for valuable  references  apart from the  extremely absorbing narrative !

Friday, November 9, 2018

Where I was born

The two storeyed house at Annadale , Shimla known as Ram Ashram where I was born. This belonged to the Late Sh. SSS Thakur, a well known personality of AIR and Doordarshan and my father lived in it as a tenant for three years.For decades, the building stood out for its green roof.l learn  that the property now stands sold out.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Marie Curie

Today is the 142nd birth anniversary of Marie Skłodowska Curie- Marie Curie for short- the Polish born French  Physicist and Chemist.She did pioneering work in Radioactivity and is credited with the discovery of  Radium and Polonium.
She was the first woman to win a Novel Prize, first ever to win it twice in 1903 & 1911 and also the only one to win it in two different disciplines .She was also a recipient of Davy Medal and Matteucci Medal.
Our humble tributes to the great scientist !

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Janaki Ammal

Today is the 121st birth anniversary of Janaki Ammal Edavalath Kakkat, Janaki Akmal for short, the eminent Indian Botanist.She was the first woman to obtain a Ph.D. in Botany in 1931 from Michigan University in the US and also the first woman to be conferred D.Sc.(Honoris Causa) from the same University later. She started her teaching career at the Maharaja Christian College in Madras.She was invited by the Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru to organize the Botanical Survey of India and rose to be its Director General. She had also worked as a geneticist in London . She did pioneering work in Sugarcane Research.
She had worked at Jammu and Allahabad also. Many honours and  awards came her way  including Padma Shri.An award was also instituted in her name.
She died on 7th February, 1984 aged 86.
Our humble tributes to the luminary !

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Himachal Reorganization

Fifty two years back, this day the Punjab Reorganization Act 1966 came in to force . As a result a new state Haryana was carved out, Chandigarh was declared a Union Territory and Shimla, Kangra, Kullu and Lahaul –Spiti along with Nalagarh, Una Tehsil were merged with Himachal Pradesh, due to which, Himachal Pradesh grew enormously in size. As a 12 year old student of 8th class then , I did not know much about the implications . However, I do recall that that some people from these merged areas did not relish being merged with Himachal as they were happy being with Punjab or loved their Punjabi identity, for the reasons best known to them or perhaps more rightly that some of these areas constituted backward areas of Punjab with attendant benefits. I particularly recall the coining of word ‘KHADU’- a ram in Mahasuvi- Pahadi dialect , for persons belonging to upper areas of Shimla as a reaction . The word somehow carried negative connotations though later on it became a symbol of identity for Shimla people so much so that it became a matter of pride to be called a KHADU, may be due to the prosperity brought about by apple boom.However all this is a thing of the past and I just want to share this with my friends who I hope will not read much into what I have said. Our Himachal Pradesh has since taken long strides and made progress in every field , all Himachalis having contributed to it in different ways.