The Unadorned

My literary blog to keep track of my creative mood swings with poems n short stories, book reviews n humorous prose, travelogues n photography, reflections n translations, both in English n Hindi.

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I'm a peace-loving married Indian male on the right side of '50 with college-going children, and presently employed under government. Educationally I've a master's degree in History, and another in Computer Application. Besides, I've a post graduate diploma in Management. My published works are:- (1)"In Harness", ISBN 81-8157-183-5, a poetry collections and (2) "The Remix of Orchid", ISBN 978-81-7525-729-0, a short story collections with a foreword by Mr. Ruskin Bond, (3) "Virasat", ISBN 978-81-7525-982-9, again a short story collection but in Hindi, (4) "Ek Saal Baad," ISBN 978-81-906496-8-1, my second Story Collection in Hindi.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

My Speech

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On 15-09-2009, "नई धारा" the sixty-year old Hindi literary magazine of Patna had organised a function to introduce me to some Hindi short-story writers of repute at Patna. It was quite an inspiring experience to me to see the stalwarts generously praising my stories from my book "विरासत" . Among them I can recall a few names: Shri Harish Pathak, the noted Hindi Story Writer and the Editor of the Rashtriya Sahara, Dr. Ramsovit Prasad Singh, the Director of Sinha Library, Shri Samuel Ahmed, the noted Urdu and Hindi fiction writer, Shri Ram Yatan Singh, Dr. Usha Kiran Khan, Dr. Jitendra Sahay, Shri Madhukar Singh, Shri Braj Kishore Pathak, Dr. Kalnath Mishra, Dr. Shaileshwar Sati, Dr. Asha Singh, Dr. Sambhu Sharan Sinha, Mr Rajesh Shukla. I was called upon to say something and I was ready with a prepared speech. After reading it out, I left the microphone to the literary people present there to deliberate. The next day's newspapers of the city published the news. I could collect copies of at least three of them, the Rashtriya Sahara, the Hindustan, the Dainik Jagaran. They had published the news in substantial detail with the photograph of the function. I thought I should publish my speech in my blog for whatever it is worth.
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सुधीवृन्द

मेरे लिए यह बेहद खुशी का मौका है कि मेरी किताब "विरासत" पर विचार देने हेतु आज इतने विद्वान यहाँ पधारे हैं। जाने-अनजाने में मैंने कहानियाँ अवश्य लिख डाली पर अभी भी डर मेरा पीछा नहीं छोड़ता। डर इसलिए है कि मैंने प्रयोगशाला में जो नतीजा एक बार देख लिया है, क्या फिर उसे दोहरा सकूँगा? खैर, मुझे यह भूलना नहीं चाहिए कि मैं कोई वैज्ञानिक प्रयोग नहीं कर रहा हूँ, बल्कि कहानी ही लिख रहा हूँ।
जाने-माने कथाकार श्रीमान रस्किन बांड ने कहीं एक बार कहा था कि लेखक दिखना नहीं चाहिए; सिर्फ लेखक की कृति ही पढ़ी जानी चाहिए। खैर, बांड साहेब को यह बात भी मालूम होगी-जो दिखता है वह बिकता है।
फिर, लेखक के पास कहने की काबिलियत हो, यह भी ज़रूरी नहीं। उसे हमेशा डर सताता रहता है कि उसने लिख कर अपने लिए जो भी नाम कमाया, बस एक ही उदगार में वह कहीं समाप्त न हो जाए।
लेखक दिखेगा नहीं, बोलेगा नहीं, तो फिर उसका क्या काम है? लिखो और भूल जाओ? समझने दो पाठक को जो समझना है? भला, आजकल के जमाने में कोई कुछ भी बनाए, उसके लिए वह एक साल या उससे अधिक अवधि की गारंटी तो देता है न? सो लेखक को भी उत्पादनौपरांत तमाम काम करने चाहिए, जैसे कि अगर कोई उसके लेख को समझ नहीं पाता है तो लेखक ख़ुद जा कर उसे समझाए। उपभोक्ता सर्वोपरि--क्या यह उसूल साहित्य के क्षेत्र में लागू नहीं होना चाहिए? भाई, वो जमाना चला गया जब लेखक यह कह कर भाग जाता था, "स्वांत: सुखाय...."
मेरे सामने दूसरा सवाल यह है कि लेखक किस हद तक एकांत में रहे और किस हद तक मिले-जुले? जब महाकवि जयदेव यह तय नहीं कर पाए थे कि श्री राधा का पैर क्या भगवान श्री कृष्ण के सर पर होने चाहिए, तो भगवान ने स्वयं आ कर इस दुविधा को मिटाया था और लिख दिया, "स्वरगरल खंडनं मम सिरसी मंडनं देही पदपल्लवमुदारम"। आजकल भगवान के लिए हम सब मिल कर इतने सारे समस्याएँ बटोर लिए हैं कि बेचारे के पास इतने समय है कहाँ कि वह कवि-लेखकों की ज़रूरत पर आएँ और उनके हाथ पकड़ कर दिव्य रचनाएँ लिखवा दें । तो फिर लेखकगण एकांत में बैठ कर सिर्फ़ प्रेरणा की टोकरी ढ़ोने से काम कैसे बनेगा?
सो लेखक को बाहर जाना चाहिए, पर किस हद तक? क्या वह केवल इर्द-गिर्द टहले और जब कुछ मतलब की चीज़ मिल जाए तो उसे समेट ले? या उससे ज्यादा चक्कर लगाए ताकि उसे कोई कदरदान मिल जाए? या उससे भी अधिक, जैसे कि सक्रियतावाद यानी कि आक्टिभिजिम की उबलती हुई कढाई में डुबकी लगाए? देखिए, "महाजन: येन गत: स: पन्था"। मतलब, वही कहिए जो बड़े लोगों ने कहा या बड़े लोगों को भाया। अगर भारत के बारे में कहना है तो, इसकी गरीबी के बारे में कहिए, "The Area of Darkness", या यहाँ के मदारियों के बारे में, इसके सिवाय और कुछ नहीं कहिए क्योंकि विदेश में यह पढ़ा नहीं जाएगा। अगर ख़ुद को प्रगतिशील होने का दर्जा दिलाना है तो आज के किसी ताज़ा "ism" को अपनाइए, इससे रचनात्मक ख्याति अपने-आप बढ़ जाएगी। सो बाहर जानेका मतलब पहले से ही तय हो जाना चाहिए--क्या ख़ुद से कुछ पल के लिए बाहर हो जाना है, जैसे शंकराचार्य ने एक बार किया था, या बाहर का समवेत गान में ऐसे शरीक होना है जिसे हम आज की दुनिया का तकाजा मानते हैं।
फिर एक सवाल। कुछ नया लिखा जाए, पर कैसे? इस बात पर मुझे एक और बात याद आ रही है? एक बार जावेद अख्तर साहेब ने व्यंग से ही कहा था कि फिल्मों के लिए लिखने वाले कुछ ऐसा लिखें कि वह बिल्कुल नया हो पर वह पहले से परखा गया भी हो। बात तो वही निकली न? ऐसा लिखा जाए कि लोग उसे पहले से ही जानते हों, जैसे कि, "Slumdog Millionaire" । उसे सिर्फ़ "The Millionaire" कहा जाता तो क्या बात नहीं बनती? खैर, लोग अब तक भूलें नहीं हैं कि एक ज़माने में हमें कुत्तों के बराबर का दर्जा नसीब था और आज उन लोगों के सामने जाने के लिए हमें जानवर के खाल में ही होना चाहिए, जिस्म पर विष्ठा का लेप भी होना चाहिए। और क्या?
हो सकता है, इस दुनिया में कुछ नया नहीं है, तमाम चीज़ पहले से ही मौजूद हैं। लिखने के मामले में हम सिर्फ़ विधाएँ बनाते हैं। पद्य थे, फिर गद्य आ गए और बड़े-छोटे में फर्क करते-करते हम विधाओं की सीमांकन करते गए। अब तक थके नहीं। गद्य को पद्य कह कर उसे आधुनिक बना दिया, पर गौर करने पर यह तो सदियों पुरानी विधा ही मालूम पड़ती है। मैं दंडी द्वारा रचित "दस कुमार चरित" से पड़ता हूँ, "कुमारा: माराभिरामा रामादौ पुरुषा: रुषाभष्मीकृतरयो रयोगोपहसितसमीरणा रणाभिजानेन अभ्युदय स्म"। सो हमलोग आज आधुनिक कविता में जो अंदरूनी तुकबंदी यानी internal rhyming की बात करते हैं, वह तो ईसापूर्व दूसरी सदी में भी थी और गद्य के रूप में ही थी।
सो क्या मैं इसे मानूँ कि नया कुछ नहीं होता है, नया का मतलब पुराना ही होता है?
अगर साहित्य इंसानों के द्वारा है और इंसानों के लिए है, तो पहले से तय हो जाना चाहिए कि क्या इंसान सचमुच प्रगति कर रहा है? फिर हमें जवाब मिल जाएगा, क्या साहित्य की भी प्रगति हो रही है या नहीं। बड़े लोग यह मानते हैं कि हाँ, इंसान प्रगति कर रहा है। डायनौसोर जैसे इंसान की समाप्ति नहीं होगी चूँकि इसके पास बुद्धि है। वह अतिमानव का रूप लेने जा रहा है और इस प्रकार उसे बीमारी, तनाव, भय और तमाम अनिश्चितताओं पर विजय हासिल होने वाली है। ज़मीनी हकीक़त क्या सचमुच ऐसी है? सबको आज एटमी हथियार चाहिए, सभी चाहते हैं कि हम शान्ति की तरफदारी करेंगे तब, जब और लोग हमें सबूत दिखाएं कि उन्होंने भी शान्ति को अंगीकृत कर लिया हैं। क्या लगता नहीं कि एक दिन कुछ न कुछ अनहोनी ऐसे ही घट जाएगी?
अंत में कवि T. S. Elliot की उक्ति को उद्धृत करता हूँ,
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper

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By
A. N. Nanda
Patna
17-09-2009
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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Fever--the Story They All Liked

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Among the stories included in my recent book "Virast", this one has generouly been applauded by the readers. Often I have wondered as to what is there in the story that makes it so magically attractive to the readers. Some say it is the style which is unadorned yet crisp and convincing; some say it is the authenticity of the story itself that makes it endearing; and some say it is the settings that are so very enchanting. In fact, when I wrote this story, I was agog with the inspiration that my earlier book "The Remix of Orchid" had brought on its wake and the opus was entirely set in the Andamans. So this story, originally in Hindi, happens to be the continuation of the earlier inspirations.
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Car Nicobar—it’s an island situated in the middle of the Bay of Bengal. Its geographical identity is only too tiny, so much so that a map cannot allot it a spot any larger than a point. Starting at any place on the beach and without turning around if one intends to go around the island and revert to the same spot, it will take him half a day only. Round and annular--well, the island can be likened to a dish. There are dense coconut groves all around—they are the jungles of the isle and they are its farms. That’s all for the Nicobari people to depend on for their living. And, what about fish from the sea? Think there’s none of it for them, for who can catch fish daring the swift and unpredictable current of the bay.

Agreed, the island is tiny but it’s not so sparsely populated as the rest of the islands that dot the bay. Nicobaris depend only on their post office for their letters. And what about the courier? Oh no, courier is something for the people of the cities to experience...and not for a place like this. The private courier fellows cannot simply think of carrying mails to and from such an inaccessible place as Car Nicobar. It goes without saying: Courier is a just a smalltime trading activity; it has nothing to do with public service!

Whereas the small letters reach the island riding piggyback on the flight schedules that are run twice a week by the Indian Air Force, the rest of the postal articles like parcels and the registered letters are sent across to the island through the shipping services. The jetty there, situated on the shore, is so small that not all boats can reach there. Then the boats have perforce to drop their anchor in the sea, somewhere around a kilometer off the shore. Passengers coming to the island alight on an iron pontoon. So is the case with the postal bags. A person is entrusted with the job of carrying the mail bags from the post office to the boat and collecting from it the ones meant for the island. Thus, once in a week or in ten days, the fellow has to give his back-breaking performance so that the inhabitants of the island get their letters.

My story begins with the arrival of the boat off the shores of Car Nicobar. It so happened that the mail carrier named Peter had a slight fever and the boat MV Chowra was also scheduled to touch the island on that very day. The postmaster was not in a position to entrust the work of exchanging the mail bags to anyone else. In fact, none was willing to help the post office for a paltry remuneration of forty or fifty bucks only, and that was the maximum the postmaster was authorized to incur for the job. The day had brought windfall to the lumpers, when earning a sum of a hundred rupees or even two hundred was so very easy. There was an acute shortage of workforce, for the entire workforce in the island was engaged in ferrying the consignments to and loading them onto the boat, besides unloading therefrom the stuffs meant for the place. It mattered a little whether it was fever that weakened Peter or the pounding headached that made him lurch for steps, only he was to go to the boat and ferry the mail bags up to the shore.

It was about the middle of November. The monsoon had brought plenty of rain to Car Nicobar on its return trip. Although the fury of the rain had waned that day, as if with the arrival of the MV Chowra, yet there were intermittent showers. The boat came and anchored, as usual, some one kilometer off the coast of Car Nicobar. Waking up in the wee hours, Peter slipped into a raincoat and started for the jetty right away. And he reached there even before the gathering of passengers had formed. He thought if he could reach the boat well before the unloading of consignments had started, he could receive the mail bags from the boat master. Then he would catch the earliest return trip of the pontoon and reach the post office by nine o’ clock. Thus, he would be able to avail himself of the rest he was badly in need of. A restful sleep under the quilt would drive his fever away in just a couple of days. Yes, fever was only a guest for two days and would itself run away just like that when there would neither be any food nor drinks for it!

Events began to unfold as Peter had imagined. He managed a space for himself in the maiden trip of the pontoon. It was hardly seven o’ clock in the morning when Peter reached the boat. There he met the boat master and informed him about his fever. In his heart of hearts Peter had reckoned that the boat master would accord him the priority in consideration of his ill-health and hand him over the postal bags immediately. But it did not happen that way.

The boat master said, ‘Peter, the sick room is all empty for you. Go and relax there and consult the doctor. We’ll give priority to the passengers and only after they all have disembarked, you’ll get your bags. So, it’ll be eleven o’ clock at the earliest.’

Who would dare talking back to the boat master? It was his boat and not for nothing he was the boat master! So Peter accepted his dispensation. Standing on the deck he now kept watching the hustle at the point of disembarkation. Everybody was happy to be back—the old and the young, the ladies and their infants, even the pigs perched on human shoulders were squealing aloud in jubilation. A few even missed their steps while hopping onto the pontoon waiting beside the boat but simply endured their pain. They were even ready to console themselves, ‘Thank god, after all, we didn’t fall into the sea!’

By nine o’ clock, Peter’s temperature started to shoot up. He decided to remind the boat master about his bags.

‘Captain Saheb, look, my fever is on the increase. Now you’ve to do me the favour…please,’ this time Peter laid stress on whatever he had to utter.

And the boat master acceded to his request. Then he opened the door of an anteroom and handed him over three mail bags. On receiving them Peter rushed to the ladder. There he waited for the pontoon to return and ferry him back to the jetty.

All the passengers who were to disembark here had already disembarked. Only Peter and a trader were left. So the pontoon was not in a hurry to come back.

But this time god responded to the fervent prayers of Peter and sent the pontoon in time. Peter got up and headed for the ladder to climb down. Likewise, the trader fellow stood up and quickly heaved his baggage onto his shoulder.

Peter was first to set foot on the ladder and descend. Now his fever had really shot up and his entire body was aching. To add to this, his head was reeling, making him pathetically totter for foothold. Groaning as he was with excruciating pain, he was conscious of the mail bags, taking all possible care not to leave them unprotected. And step by step and with meticulous care, he descended the stairs.

The trader fellow was following Peter. It appeared as though he were unable to bear the load of his sacks. Maybe that was why he had chosen to leave the boat only when the crowd cleared up.

The ladder was shaking on and on. Its sway was way too unusual. Peter thought as if his fever, having left his body, had seized the ladder!

‘Bang!’ In no moment, the trader threw himself on Peter. How could the poor little mail carrier mange the weight of both—the weight of the plumpish trader and of his unwieldy sack? So he lost his balance and plunged headlong into the sea whereas the trader had the time to save himself holding on to the rails.

Now all that remained for Peter to do was to deal with the undercurrent of the sea to save his life…and his mail bags.

Peter began to swim. He had been swimming since his childhood and now he came face to face with a challenge that dared his ability. Today he was not physically fit yet it was of no concern to the sea. What he was left to face now was the force of the nature, a demonic force, a force that was heightened by the mid-sea treachery. The undercurrent pulled him into the sea and Peter decided to swim in favour of it. He knew swimming against the current was not a choice before him; it was rather like inviting a sure death.

Peter went on swimming the way he decided, and as he had thought instinctively, the undercurrent changed its course after a few meters. Now it was no longer a strain for him to keep afloat. In the meantime the rescue team from the boat consisting of two swimmers had arrived there. They had the equipment necessary for carrying out the rescue operation.

Back on the pontoon Peter demanded, ‘Where’re my mail bags? Tell me where they're.’

‘Here you are. Take your mail bags. You should be happy they didn’t fall into the sea. How would they? Before you plunged into the sea, you yourself had thrown them onto the pontoon, right?’ said the trader.

Peter could not recall as to when he could decide on the emergency plan and act upon that, yet he was happy that he could save the mail bags with his nimbleness. More than that, he was happy to have performed his duty in all earnest.

By that time, Peter’s fever had finally disappeared.

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By

A. N. Nanda

Patna

14-09-2009

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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Updates on Virasat

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Today DD National Channel telecast on its programme, "Patrika" a short but crisp introduction of my Hindi book "Virasat". It said about the lucidity of its style, the profundity of the subject matter chosen, the experiential nature of the plots, the professional identity of the author, its publisher (though wrongly)…and funnily, if not finally, its price. It showed the book cover and the photo of the author. For an introduction of a new author on the national channel, it is no mean thing to have happened. At least a few million viewers would have seen that. I'm told by people who matter that a proper review of the book on the channel is coming soon. Let me hope it so.

There is another award coming for the book. Aha! Did I say award? And after resolving that I won't disclose that unless a letter is received? Information received through phone call is not sufficient--shouldn't I say that?
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By
A. N. Nanda
Muzaffarpur
02-09-2009
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