About the Book
Joginder Paul is one of the most significant voices of contemporary Urdu fiction. He brings to his work the expression of fresh experience and his work the expression of fresh experience and his fiction throbs with meaning, excels in artistic restrain and comes alive with all the simplicity and complexity of life itself. This collection selected by the author himself includes the sensitive narration of a rag-picker’s life in the story ‘Back Lane’, the pulsating experience of a doe delivering a baby in the wilds of Kenya in ‘Harambe’, the magical realism of life shared by the living and the dead in ‘Khodu Baba ka Maqbara’, as also insightful portrayals of the consumerist and oppressive world in many stories.
About the Author
Sukrita Paul Kumar is a poet and critic, and teaches literature. Formerly a Fellow at the Indian Institute of of Poems, Her books on criticism include Conversations on Modernism, The New Story, and Man, Woman and Androgyny. Besides she has edited Ismat, Her Life, Her Times and a volume of short stories from India and Pakistan, Mapping Memories.
Naghma Zafir teaches English at Zakir Hussain College, Delhi and is a seasoned translator of fiction, poetry as well as critical writings from Urdu. Her translations include the stories of Jeelani Bano, Qurratulain Hyder, and Sajid Rashid, and essays of eminent critics from India and Pakistan.
Almost half a century was wasted in debates on An for Art's sake or Art for Life's sake, generated by the Western academic hypotheses. In fact, literature does not exist in itself, nor has it to be instructive: like life, literature just happens to both writer and reader.
In other words, in the creation of a short story, the writer is not led by the need to give a lesson or to assert the value of its style in itself and demonstrate the sublime linguistic characteristics of his writing. However the story may shape up, the writer has to allow life to dwell and breathe in the story. And, just as the tension of confronting teal life is compelling in itself rather than presumed, the event of the short story, in the same way, gets completed in its own evolved form naturally and if necessary, urgently. In his short story, "A Boring Story", Chekov gave an apt warning to the new writers: "Although it is you writing your story, don't write it to consciously bring it to a certain ending," I should perhaps here relate my little story, "Base Hue Log", (Settled People) to make the point:
Both the hero and the heroine of my novel were upset with me. Just when the reasons and the circumstance for their marriage had very naturally emerged for their fulfilment, I completely demolished their world by imposing my own priorities on the novel; I was determined to keep them away from each other till the last page of the novel!
Indeed, both of them were extremely dear to me. The difficulty was that if I had offered them the opportunity to live with each other, I'd have had to abandon my own personal points of view. After all they were children of my fancy, and who they were or how they were would all be dependent on my choice.
But both of them were on the lookout for an opportune moment. One day, suddenly they disappeared on the sly. I made a thorough search for them in the novel, in vain. They could be found only if they were present there.
I felt extremely regretful. If I could find them somewhere, I'd at once get them married. But what could I do now?
You'd be surprised to know that one day, after quite a few years, I met them both by a sheer chance, in my own city.
They met me very warmly and took me home.
As soon as they came out of the pages of my novel. they had organized their wedding. And now, after so many years, they were parents of three blossoming children and their home was vibrant with life.
No, I found them so prosperous in their own world that I did not have the heart to request them to come back into my novel.
I have not merely concocted this story. I have actually experienced it as it is.
Instead of indulging in exhibitionism, creative language is so much at one with a story that the narrative becomes part of the experience. And thus the story flows out of the pages of the book into life itself. In this regard, another small story of a few lines of mine has surfaced in my mind "Tasfiya" (Decision):
'Life claimed that it was true while my Story claimed it was truer. Finally tired of it all, I left both Life and Story to live together so that they might sort out the matter between themselves.
I had totally forgotten them for many years. One day I suddenly recalled them and came running to them. I feared they might have been quarrelling all this while. God knows where and how they would be.
But both of them were very happily settled together where I had left them. Each had merged into the other so beautifully. I was at a loss to distinguish Fact from Fiction.'
Living my stories, by now I have got used to pressures in fiction the same way as those of inevitable events in real life.
In my earlier days I got into writing books by reading more and more books. Where and how could I get a chance to read life? And even if I were to get it, I had to walk through the hard and thorny pavements of poverty and want all my earlier life. One can only scream at the pain of the thorns, which I heartily did and enjoyed in my stories. My earlier stories also betray my huge self-esteem. I was very fond of looking endearingly at my face in the mirror. Thank goodness I did not stay long in that phase; otherwise I could have failed, even at my best, to create a single character except for myself. In fact, I wouldn't mind the green writers to enjoy their greenery in the mirror for sometime. It's perhaps not unnatural. But they should soon give up this posture to be able look at and study others. The mirror makes you but an audacious prisoner of your narrow self.
The effectiveness of the art of creative writing rests on creating characters exactly like themselves. Each character has to acquire his own face and identity. Is this without logic that in this entire universe of crores and crores of people, each person is unique and distinct? Not only this, but it is equally true that just like the events of life, an event in a story too happens just for the first and the last time. Also, the unending truths never get old because in every new happening, their context changes and they are born afresh, and with every new life, they insist upon their new meanings with reference to the changed context.
Perhaps initially, I too was not quite ignorant about matters of art on the level of information and scholarship, yet a piece of art fails to 'breathe' merely with information and knowledge. Scholarship does help an artist in a hundred ways, but it is absolutely not possible for it to become a substitute for fine arts. The secrets of fine arts reveal themselves experientially and as they are revealed, the artist begins to realize .' also the mysteries of the nature of this universe. I have been able to access these secrets year after year slowly through my life. And as I gained access to them, I began to see how impossible it is to draw boundaries around the nature of this universe. It dawned upon me why, in every age some great artist can, at the most, make the coming generation carry on with its creative search by providing inspiration from the deep realization of his own incompleteness. That is how Keats regarded a new Hyperion more beautiful than the old Uranus.
The Inside Story
Dera Baba Nanak
Khodu Baba ka Maqbara
The Dying Sun
A Flock of Birds
About the Author
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