Thursday, December 24, 2015



“BHISAHM SAHNI.. TODAY’S PASTS A MEMOIR “By Snehal Shingavi (  Published in 2015  by Penguin Books Price Rs499/= Pages 434) .This Book is English Translation of  Hindi Autobiographical work of Bhisham Sahni titled “ AAJ KE ATEET “ Published by Rajkamal Prakashan in 2004 . Now translated into English by Snehal Shingavi in 2015....,) ,

                             BHISHAM SAHNI ( 1915-2003 ) IN A KASHMIRI  PHERAN.

   ( Bhisham and Balraj Sahni.. Not just Brothers alone  But Great Friends as well Apart from being Two  Affectionate Human Beings )

While Reading Bhisham Sahni’s Autobiography in English , I came across so many  wonderful anecdotes .Surely, some   Memories of Kashmir come up fascinatingly in this Book. I share some anecdotes.. ..

“ Before pakistan was formed , we were in kashmir and had gone to Wular lake.There was a Bengali in our group of friends who had some interest in Palmistry . I also placed my palm before him. He did not say much but certainly said
“ Your  left  arm will be injured. “
I shook my head and after 12 years , myi broke my left arm after falling from the  roof of my “Bunglow”   in Ambala . Once we were at Shimla when a sanskrit scholar looked at sheela’s palm and said that her 76th year will be significant. And it is true that she passed away  at seventy six.”
" All My cousins used a word Mattu ( Moa’t in kashmiri ) when they addressed me . They said it with love but Mattu ( Moa’t ) was an insane person who roamed the streets of srinagar “

“ In summers , we used to go to Srinagar . Kashmir was created for sightseeing , after all.What destination was better for celeberating Honeymoon than kashmir ?One morning , I got two bicycles . One of them was mine and the other was a Girl’s bicycle that I borrowed from a neighbour. Sheela and I set of . We went to Dal Lake . We could have parked our bicycles on the shore , enjoyed the lake on a houseboat and stopped at Ahdoo’s Restaurant on way back for our Lunch . But I changed my mind. Why not go to Ganderbal.Sheela was really happy . Her hair was gently blowing in the breeze and there was a smile  on her lips . But the roads were bumpy and the heat was intense. Sheela was finding it difficult to continue her cycling.  Her face had turned red  and she  felt exhausted .  She had just taken her Exams a few days ago and then she was exhausted from the wedding . She was sweating and tired.
“Ganderbal is one of kashmir’s oldest places . Kheer Bhawani is next right to it. Lake Manasbal is not that far. You will like it . Just a little more “ I said to her . She kept cycling  though she  was extremely tired .  soon She began to cry . We were outside the Temple and I got her something to eat.We relaxed under a tree but  Sheela did not say a word.She just kept shaking her head.My heart stopped. It was afternoon when a bus arrived for srinagar . I put the bicycles on the roof of the bus bought tickets and got into the bus .Sheela looked at me and smiled for the first time.And when the Bus started , she put her head on my shoulders and soon fell asleep.”

“My wife sheela was suddenly fired from AIR . To supplement our income , she was teaching English to two foreign women at an embassy . Her Higher ups in the government gave a reasoning that she needed permission from Government to teach foreigners . She was sad. Soon she was selected as translator in Moscow as she knew Russian language. But she did not like that job .She did not enjoy her work.
She belonged to a family of Police officers and grew up in a different atmosphere than the one in our home.But according to customs, she had come to live with us and adopt many of our ways of life.However ,Two or three years after we were married , the Nation was partitioned and subsequently , we began living increasingly on our own and running the househld. We began to struggle with our shared present and dream about our shared future . But basically all our decisions were made with an eye on my work, whether it was in IPTA , or teaching at Ambala college , or working for the Teachers Union or later my writing or my job at Moscow. She not only Completely supported my work , she also actually denied her own ambitions . There is no doubt that every fibre of my being is grateful to her for this . Often she used to say ‘ When we were married , I said to myself that this man is mine. Whatever he is , he is mine. ’She put her hand into mine with that faith and maintained that faith until the very end.”
“Going to Vietnam was like going on a pilgrimage . I also saw the ordinary little shack , The former home of the Nation’s Great leader Ho Chi Minh : More splendorous than the biggest of Mansions . His walking stick , umbrella , Hat and jacket were still hanging in one corner of the shack.It seemed like he had gone out for a little while and would return anytime now.”
" I was an innocent child , wandering around the alleys and streets like a tramp;from one alley to the next , aimlessly , and for so long that when shadowy darkness of the evening began to descend , i would have covered an unimaginable distance ! Then my brother or family servant , Tulsi , would find me after a search .Finally my father tied a round , Brass medallion around my neck with words .. THIS BOY IS THE SON OF BABU HARIPRASAD SAHNI OF CHACHI NEIGHBOURHOOD ; IF ANY ONE FINDS HIM WANDERING AROUND , PLEASE SEND HIM BACK HOME. "
“ Muktibodh (Prominent Hindi Poet of twentieth century ) was sick in Bhopal and in very bad shape.His writer friends Nemi Chand jain , Shrikant verma , Ram Kumar , Amrita Pritam and myself decided to meet the then Prime Minister Shastri ji and seek financial and Medical aid for the poet. And after we met Shastri ji , next day Muktibodh was brought to Delhi for treatment . He was admitted to Medical Institute but he did not survive . All of us were overwhelmed by the speed and concern with which Shastri ji had an ailing writer brought to Delhi “
“ Once the Afro Asian writers conference was held in Tunis . At that time ,Tunis was the HQ of exiled PLO leader Yasser Arafat .I was the executive secretary of Afro Asian Writers Association. We were joined by Kamleshwar , Balu Rao , Joginder Paul and Abdul Bismillah . I was invited to PLO HQ.I got a surprise when Yasser Arafat personally came to escort me and my wife inside the venue. Once inside , we met twenty or so Palestenian writers .Yasser Arafat had tea with us . He was happy at Indian Government’s condemnation of unfair treatment of Palestine issue by Imperialist powers . When I mentioned Gandhi ji and other leaders of our country , Arafat said, “ They are not merely your leaders , But ours as well. we respect them as much as you do .” Arafat peeled fruits for the delegation. He made us tea with honey .He spoke about his Engineering degree , endless travel and usefulness of honey. I felt at ease with him. I also felt the need to go to the Washroom and when I emerged , Yasser Arafat was standing there holding a towel for me .”
“ When I recall , I recall the days of childhood when Balraj and me used to play . He would be Rana Partap making me his horse Chetak.And then Brother deciding to leave home and father repeatedly trying to get him understand that he should not leave . And then I see Balraj in Do Bigha Zameen. Then one after another ,many faces appeared to me that did not belong to Balraj, But were really his.
Balraj’s son Parikshat is doing good work Now. This was the same Parikshat who sat behind me on the horse when I was getting married and put his tiny arms around my waist and said that he won’t let me go anywhere .I saw him in films . I saw him playing the role of an elderly kashmiri in Tele serial Gul Gulshan Gulfaam. These are glimpses that our loved ones give us , leaving marks on our memory . There is no empty place in life.”
“ In an Afro Asian writer’s conference , while discussing the works of Manto , Poet Ali sardar jafri made an argument that it was great that Manto had put up the lives of prostitutes at the centre of his works, But why didn’t the victimized , exploited prostitutes in his stories ever become rebels ? Why didn’t they destroy their exploiters ?"

Here is a book that gives you a Grand account of the progressive writers Movement in India especially the post partition period with stalwarts like syed Sajjad zaheer , Ali Sardar Jafri , Mulk Raj Anand , Rajinder singh Bedi , Mohan Rakesh and many more . Bhisham sahni takes you on a trip to Russia where he worked as Translator or to Kampuchea and Vietnam. Prior to this , he gives you a glimpse of Arya samaj Movement in Punjab and the typical Middle class life style images of His Home town Rawalpindi . He also takes you to kashmir where the family had set up a home for spending summer months .Infact , Balraj sahni’s wife Damayanti belonged to a respectable Arya samaji ( Punjabi ) family of kashmir .

The technique of recording very small incidents and then making history out of them is only known to Bhisham sahni and he surely excels in this unique skill. With this technique he reveals how A gentleman tried to retrieve a golden Bracelet from the arm of his wife who lay dead in well during Hindu Muslim riots or when Yasser Arafat stood outside the wash room with a towel for the author .
 I have read his short storries and his great novel TAMAS . TAMAS left a lasting impression on my mind . So was his excellent short story , ‘Chief ki Daawat’ . As a writer, he demonstrated towering humanism, compassion and an ability to bring into sharp respite the human essence of even a patently inhuman situation. TAMAS tells many stories of everlasting pain and suffering with a bold and compassionate perspective . Any person who wishes Peace must read this book. It shall make him understand why it is so important to safeguard peace at any cost .

To Bhisham and his brother Balraj , kashmir remained unforgettable. A place where they spent the summers of their childhood ..During winters , the family would move to Rawalpindi..

I end up this brief write up with a line that I read in this book only….

" Tujh Mein sau Naghme Hain
Aey Taare Rabaab e hasti "

( O Life's Musical instrument , each of
your strings releases hundreds of songs )

Still Reading …

( Autar Mota )

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