A Short Story Writer Is Born

A Short Story Writer Is Born

Title: Rambiara bhthees' piyath

Author: Makhan Lal Pandita

Language: Kashmiri (Nastaliq)

Price: Rs 250/-

Published By: M.L. Pandita

180, Sector-1, Lane No: 4, Durga Nagar, PO Roopnagar, Jammu

By Arjun Dev Majboor

Makhan Lal Pandita's emergence as a serious short story writer is a good augury for Kashmiri literature. Raembara bhthees piyath, the book under review, is author's 3rd collection of short stories, his earlier books 'Girdab' (Whirlpool, 2003) and Karan Fiyur (Change of Times, 2000) were well received. With his new publication, the author has made his mark as a competent short story writer. The book is decorated with a beautiful jacket and carries 12 stories. The stories are:

1) Dayi Pos (Guest without formal invitation)

2) Bata Thal (Rice Plate)

3) Gardish (Round)

4) Nov Bistar (New Bedding)

5) Roshan Laleen Kitab (Roshan Lal's Book)

6) Yeli Gauri Malyun Gayi (When Gauri went to her parents' house)

7) Babu Ram

8) Machhar (Madness)

9) Vuh Ropiya (Twenty Rupees)

10) Toht Taf (Hot Sun Shine)

11) Hawas (Strong Desire)

12) Raembara bhthees piyath (on the bank of Rambiara)

The author has himself written the Preface, while Sh. Mohd. Yusuf Teng has penned the Foreword. Mr. Teng has praised author's style, the theme of the stories, his vocabulary and appropriate usage of metaphors and similes. He has commented, "Probably no other Bata (Kashmiri Pandit) in future would be able to rival the author's use of colloquial Kashmiri".

What strikes the reader in the book is that the author while adopting the style of narrating the story has tried to present his characters in their own milieu-the characters speak their own language and seem real and full of life. The stories keep the reader's interest sustained so much so that he gets lost in an environment which is every inch Kashmiri. The theme of the stories revolves  round people who are plebians, some of the themes relate to displacement and exile as well.

Nov Bistar (New Bedding), Roshan Laleen Kitab (Roshan Lal's book) and Toht Taf (Hot Sunshine) portray plight and struggle-ridden life of Displaced Kashmiris. In Nov Bistar the stories pertain to a rural Displaced Kashmiri Pandit family. This family had got prepared back home in Kashmir a new bedding. It is a painful account of the family which carries this new bedding to Jammu. Each quilt carries seven kgs. of cotton. It gets soiled in monsoon rains, while the family awaits registration at temple premises in Jammu. Finally, the soiled quilts are consigned to the river Tawi, as there is no need for these in the hostile tropical climate.

In 'Roshan Laleen Kitab', the author utilises his meagre savings to get his book published in Jammu. To his dismay nobody bothers to read his book. So much so, even his close friend to whom he had gifted a complimentary copy, does not bother to go through it. He just puts it on a shelf. It causes heartache to Roshan Lal when he sees that the groundnuts (Moongfali) he purchases, is served in an envelope made from the pages of his own book.

'Toht Taf' is a story in which a Displaced Kashmiri is sent back by 'Dharam Raz' (one who decides heaven and hell) to bear the tropical heat. Snakes and Scorpion make the life more painful for this weather-bitten refugee. But for a person who has lived in the cool breeze of Chinar there are no other options.

In 'Raembiara bhthees piyath', the author probably tells his own story. A scene is portrayed in which a beautiful Gujjar lass, stricken by poverty, gets drowned in a river. The story pictures life in Shopian town and delineates beautifully its natural scenery and suffocating life in the forest hinterland. This story, written artistically and with candour, tells us much more.

The story 'Machhar (Madness) is focussed on terrorism. How a brother kills his own brother, in this story, is heart-rending. It also raises many questions.

Yeli Gauri Malyun Gayi (when Gauri went to her parents house), projects the life of a Kashmiri Pandit peasant family, which is steeped in poverty. The helplessness, the rigors and the difficulties of the peasant life and the sorrows have been vividly portrayed. This painful story is prelude to the displacement.

Vuh Ropiya (Twenty Rupees) is a story which revolves round a Kashmiri Pandit peasant and a poor shepherd (chopan). It focusses on the social hypocrisy, in which the shepherd trots out different excuses at different times and feigns illness and head injury to avoid paying back Rs 20/- he had borrowed from  a Kashmiri Pandit. It also introduces comic scenes at the end.

The stories are written in a lucid language and appropriate to characters. These are full of metaphors and satire. The dramatic style in which the stories are presented keep the reader glued. Usage of appropriate words and the short sentences have enhanced the readability and in flow it resembles Vitasta in its pristine beauty and quietitude. The author does not allow his emotions, so pregnant in the situations he describes, to take over while narrating the stories. The theme has been presented in a sublime way. So far, Kashmiri writers have not portrayed rural life so vividly as has been  done by Shri Makhan Lal Pandita. This is the key to his success.

The book has been marred by few mistakes in proof-reading and script transcription. This could handicap a reader not well-versed with nastaliq Kashmiri script. These few mistakes apart, one can say with certainty that a new short story writer has found his rightful place in the field of Kashmiri literature. Kudos to Sh. Makhan Lal Pandita.

*(Translated from original Hindi by Dr. R.K. Tamiri)

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