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 !

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