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.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Virasat: A Review


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The hundred-eighth issue of the quarterly house magazine of CAG, New Delhi, April-June, 2014, "लेखपरीक्षा-प्रकाश" carried a review of my short-story collections "विरासत", a book published way back in 2008. It's heartening to know that Virasat is able to attract readers' appreciation even though six years have passed in the meanwhile. Thank you Mr Gupta. I can see that you have attempted the review of the book after going through all its stories including its preface. Reviewers these days do the selective reading of the book they review and end up producing shallow contents, but you have done justice to the work you have taken up.
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दास्तान डाक विरासत की
                                             मदन लाल गुप्ता
कार्यालय महालेखाकार, हिमाचल प्रदेश,
                                             शिमला – 3
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एक अहिन्दी भाषी लेखक द्वारा हिंदी कहानी में पैठ बनाना धारा के विरुद्ध तैरने का सामान है । हिंदी के अलावा किसी भी भारतीय भाषा में किसी भी विधा में लेखन एक सामान्य बात है । भारतीय भाषाओँ में अनेक लेखक अपनी भाषाओँ में साहित्य सृजन कर रहे हैं । किन्तु जब एक अहिन्दी भाषी साहित्य रचता है और वह भी हिंदी में तो मामला सुरुचिपूर्ण हो जाता है । इसे एक ओर तो साधारण सोच के मुताबिक हिंदी के प्रति प्रेम के रूप में लिया जा सकता है किन्तु इससे आगे सोचने पर यह हिंदी और हिंदी साहित्य के प्रति समर्पण की बात प्रतीत होती है ।

ए. एन. नन्द का हिंदी में कथा संग्रह “विरासत” कई दृष्टिओं से सोचने पर मजबूर करता है । रचनाकार ने तमाम बाधाओं और कठिनाईयों के बावजूद हिंदी में कहानियाँ लिखीं । इस कठिन सफ़र का उल्लेख प्राक्कथन में मिलता है । लेखक हिंदी में लिखने का सफ़र तैर कर पूरा किया है । हिंदी में लिखने की प्रेरणा व प्रोत्साहन के सफ़र में कुछ ने इन्हें सीधा पुरस्कार पाने का सपना दिखा दिया । हिंदी व कहानी सुधारने के प्रयास में जब लोग अपनी दक्षता का पूरा उपयोग करने लगे तो कहानीकार को आपत्ति होना स्वाभाविक था । ऐसे में ‘अहिन्दी भाषी हिंदी लिखने को बेताब’ जैसा दर्जा भी इन्हें मिलाने लगा । बावजूद इस सब के एक अहिन्दी भाषी कथाकार ने हिंदी कहानी में अपना स्थान बनाया, यह स्वागत योग्य है ।

संग्रह की अधिकांश कहानियाँ डाकतार विभाग, डाकघर, डाकिया, डाकघर के कर्मचारी, लैटर बॉक्स के इर्द-गिर्द घूमती है । ‘बुखार’ कहानी का डाकिया पीटर हो, डाकघर के गेस्ट हाउस का ‘कमरा नं 3’ हो, डाकघर में कंप्यूटर आगमन में ‘तीसरा कम्प्यूटर’ हो या सिगरेट की लत छुड़ाने ने के लिए ‘रामजी का रजिस्टर’ हो सब कहानियों में डाकघर और उसका समूचा परिवेश छाया हुआ है । डाकिया पीटर बुखार से पीड़ित होते हुए भी डाक के थैले ले जाने के लिए समुद्र के पानी में गिरने पर भी थैलों को बचाता है । डाकघर में अपना खोया हुआ पर्स, जिसमे संकटमोचन तावीज़ था, प्राप्त करना ‘संकटमोचन तावीज़’ कहानी में दो दोस्तों की दास्तान के बहाने बखाना गया है तो ‘दोस्त का नाम मुचकंद’ कहानी में डाकघर में डकैती का वर्णन है जिसमे लोहे के पिंजरे में घुस कर डकैत सारे नोट एक थैले में भर कर ले जाते हैं । अंत में डाकू आसानी से पकडे जाते हैं ।

‘कबूतरों के साथ’ कहानी में एक कबूतरबाज़ की दास्तान है । रामखिलावन ब्राह्मण होकर भी दफ्तर की भवन में कबूतरों को मार कर खा जाता है । दफ्तर का एक साथी प्रभुदयाल उसे डराता है कि यह कबूतर जो उसने मारा है, पिछले जन्म में छंटाई सहायक था जिसने मरते दम तक चिट्ठियों का साथ नहीं छोड़ा । संयोग से रामखिलावन बीमार हो गया और उसे पेट का कैंसर हो गया । मरने से पहले एक बार उसने दफ्तर जाने की सोची । जब वह दफ्तर आया तो सभी कर्मचारी रात की डियूटी पर तैनात थे । अंत में रामखिलावन कबूतरों के पास गया तो कोई भी कबूतर उससे नहीं डरा ।   

‘बादशाह’ एक व्यंग्य रचना है जिसमें मंत्री के घर के सामने गड़े लेटर बॉक्स में कोई आग लगा देता है । यह मामला तूल पकड़ लेता है और उग्रवाद से लेकर विदेशी हाथ होने तक अंदेशा किया जाता है । पुलिस कमिश्नर की वैठक के बाद और खोजी कुत्तों की सहायता से तहकीकात आरम्भ होती है । बदमाशों की लिस्ट निकालकर खोज की गई किन्तु सब बेकार । अंत में एक पागल, जिसे बादशाह कहते थे इस जुर्म में जेल में डाल दिया गया जिसे कुछ वर्ष बाद कोर्ट ने बरी भी कर दिया । ‘इंसाफ के लिए’ भी ऐसी ही व्यंग्य रचना है जिसमें वकील मित्रभानु डाक कर्मचारी से उलझने के सम्बन्ध में बदला लेने के लिए एक बीस साल पुराने कार्ड को लेटर बॉक्स में डाल देते हैं जो ताज़ा मुहर लगाकर उन्हें वितरित फिर से हो जाता है । बस वकील उस कार्ड को लेकर अखबारों में खबर देने के साथ पचास हज़ार हर्जाने के लिए उपभोक्ता फोरम में भी शिकायत डाल देता है । कोर्ट से जुर्माने भरने के बदले डाकघर की कुरसी मेज तक नीलाम हो जाते हैं ।

ए. एन. नन्द की कहानियों में डाक है, डाक छंटाई करने वाला है, डाक वांटने वाला डाकिया है, जादुई लेटर बॉक्स है, लेटर बॉक्स जलाने वाले हैं, डाकघर में जमा पूंजी है तो उस पर डकैती डालने वाले भी हैं; डाक और तार जैसे एक से विभागों में बढ़ती दूरियाँ भी हैं ।

डाक तार विभाग कभी एक होते हुए उनकी साथ लगी कॉलोनियों में एक दीवार खड़ी कर दी गई जिसे डाक के कर्मचारियों ने पुलिस के हस्तक्षेप से पहले तुड़वा डाला । आधी टूटी दीवार अब बच्चों के आँखमिचौनी खेलने के लिए जगह बन गई । अपना सेवाकाल पूरा करते हुए पैंतीस साल के तजुर्बे के बाद अंत में अपने ही इलाके में चीफ पोस्टमास्टर जनरल बन कर आना बहुत सुखद था भारतेंदु के लिए कि अपने क्षेत्र के लिए कुछ काम कर पाएँगे । किन्तु घर का हाल यह था कि अब तक अपने रहने के लिए मकान तक नहीं बनवा पाए थे । मकान बनवाने के तरीके तो माह्तहत (?) लोग सुझा रहे थे, मगर उनके पास अभी ज़मीन ही नहीं थी । आखिर डाक लाने और ले जाने वाले एक शख्स रूंगटा बिना कमिशन लिए ज़मीन दिलाने का वादा किया । रूंगटा ने अग्रिम ले लिया, रिटायरर्मेंट तक ज़मीन नहीं ढूँढ पाया । आखिर उन्हें अपनी पैतृक ज़मीन में ही घर बनाना पड़ा ।

‘जुर्माना’ कहानी में डाक निरीक्षक मनमोहन का तबादला ऐसी जगह होता है जहाँ सरकारी आवास के पीछे कटहल का पेड़ था । उस पेड़ में चार कटहल लगे । पिछले साल सरकार को कटहल बेच कर इस मद में एक ही रुपया मिला था । इस साल वे ज्यादा से ज्यादा पैसे उगाह कर सरकार को देना चाहते थे । एक बार मनमोहन के बाहर गश्त पर जाने के समय नित्यानंद अर्दली ने एक कटहल तोड़ लिया और मनमोहन की पत्नी ने मजे से पांच-पांच सब्जियाँ बना कर खाई । मनमोहन जब वापिस लौटे तो उन्हें बहुत दुःख हुआ और पेड़ के पास गड्ढा खोद कर उसमे एक रूपया कटहल का और चवन्नी जुर्माने के दबा दिए । ‘विरासत’ कहानी का मेधावी मगनलाल मेट्रिक में तिरानवे प्रतिशत अंक लेकर पास हुआ किन्तु पिता ने उसे डाक विभाग में डाक सहायक लगवा दिया । उसके साथी अच्छी-अच्छी नौकरियों में लगे । दिन भर नौकरी करने के कारण वह विभागीय परीक्षाएँ भी नहीं दे पाया और तीन बार असफल हो गया । उसके दो बच्चे भी मैट्रिक में फेल हो गए । इन नाकामियों से वह अपना मानसिक संतुलन तक खो बैठा । उसने मन बनाया था कि अपने बेटे को कभी डाक विभाग में नहीं लगवाऊँगा किन्तु अंत में अपने मैट्रिक फेल लडके को डाक वाहक ही लगवाना पडा ।

संग्रह के तीस कहानियाँ हैं या यूं कहें तीस छोटी कहानियाँ हैं । ये इतनी छोटी भी नहीं की इन्हें लघु कथा का रूप दिया जाए । किन्तु छोटी होने से ये अपनी बात सीधे-सीधे पाठकों तक पहुँचाने का काम करती हैं । इन कहानियों की दूसरी विशेषता डाकघर परम्परा से जुड़ा है । क्योंकि कथाकार इसी विभाग में कार्यरत है । अतः डाक परम्परा, जिसने हमारे जीवन में एक भावनात्मक भूमिका निभाई है, आज विलुप्त होने के कगार पर है । प्रत्येक भारतीय, विशेषकर ग्रामवासी जिस कदर डाक, डाकघर से जुड़ा रहा है, वह अदभुत है । आधुनिक तकनीक, तेजी से बदलती सूचना प्रौद्योगिकी और बदलते समय के प्रभाववश आज डाकघर और डाक परंपरा एक विरासत बनती जा रही है । पत्र, जो एक सशक्त माध्यम था संपर्क का, जिसका इंतज़ार लगा रहता था पल-पल, छिन-छिन, आज इतिहास होता जा रहा है ।

एक ही विषय, एक ही भावभूमि पर लिख पाना एक चुनौती भरा काम होता है । इसमे एक रसता और नीरसता हो जाने का भय बना रहता है । संग्रह की लगभग सभी कहानियाँ डाक व डाकघर पर होते हुए भी नीरस नहीं है । इन में विविधता और सरसता बराबर बनी रहती है । 
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Posted by
A. N. Nanda
Shimla
14-02-2015
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Labels: ,

Monday, February 09, 2015

And Quiet Flows the Yamuna


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I felt like a thinking traveller. I had camera to supplement my thinking. The weather was glorious, perfect for a travel, for photography, for those right scenes to unfold before me. There was so much to see, feel and words did muster themselves to help me articulate what I saw. In a way it was to shape a post for my blog...and I knew it even when I was going through the visuals frame by frame.
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Another Hill Begins: Near Kala Amb

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The hills of Nahan are different. They are not as rocky as the ones we find in Shimla; they have no cedars, no pines, no Himalayan oaks. Rather they look like the deciduous forests of central India. It’s the only place in Himachal where we find sal trees. I liked the difference. 

The river Yamuna flows from Uttarakhand to Himachal. It flows by Poanta Sahib, the place where Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708) stayed for four years out of his short life-span of 42 years. It’s a peaceful place sanctified by the prayers of the gurudwara. There are many inspiring stories associated with the guru that one comes to know while visiting the place. One such story was that once Guru did not conclude the prayer meeting because a lady in the gathering did not come forward to give her offering. Though optional, it was conventionally expected that a devotee visiting a temple or gurudwara should offer something in the name of god. The sikh religion encourages its followers to donate one-tenth of their earnings, dashans as they call it. Guruji asked the lady to offer whatever she had brought with her as her offering and so she complied. It was with a lot of hesitation that she complied. What was that she offered after being exhorted to do so? It was only a cowrie or the conch shell which was not as valuable as the metal coins that were offered by others there. Despite that, Guru was appreciative of the value of the cowrie which, according to him, was much more valuable than the other offerings of that day.

The story has a powerful message. It is the message of equality and the mantra of inclusive economy. In the development of our nation, the contribution of the poorest of the poor is more crucial than that of the rich. From each according to ability, to each according to need.

A Rivulet Meanders
There was another interesting story. Guru Gobind Singh was a poet besides being a religious stalwart and a brave warrior. Every full moon night he used to organize poetic gatherings. One day the poets complained before Guru ji that river Yamuna was flowing beside the venue with gurgling sound for which all of them were getting disturbed. Then Guru Gobind Singh took the complaints seriously. He ordered the river to behave. Then on Yamuna has been flowing beside the place but silently. A few meters upstream it is noisy and it is noisy a few meters downstream; but it’s not so when it passes by the gurudwara. Taking the cue from it, I exhort the family members of a writer to cooperate with the creative fellow in their family by ensuring that peace prevails in the house, or else Guru Gobind Singh, the patron of all poets will be unhappy. Remember: Guruji is watching. And if on any day I’m disturbed, I will pray Guru ji to help me, asking those responsible for my distraction to behave!

The Avian Conference
Even before entering the holy place I had had my quota of meanderings though. Asan Barrage on Yamuna is a wonderful place to visit at this time of the year and I had headed for it. The place was full of birds. They were perhaps the migratory ones from Eurasia.

Walk the Talk: the Avian Style
At the bank of Yamuna beside Poanta Sahib I came across a scene that was easily the most interesting of all I saw this afternoon. It was about the clever activity of two exceptionally smart children. They were about seven years old, fishing not for fish but for coins. They had in their hands a fishing line each, tied to their ends was a round magnet. Purpose: that would attract coins for them from the depth of the flowing water, the ones thrown by devotees into the river. Quite an interesting method to earn money, isn’t it? I felt interested and asked them as to what their daily catch was. Oh, it was three hundred rupees every day as per their admission. That did not include 50 paise coins that were caught few and far between, for nobody accepts them these days even though they are legal tender. Inflation decides the economic behaviour of the people, not necessarily the law of the land. Anyway, I had difficulty in believing what he said about his daily catch. True, they were not saying the truth, yet it was not an instance of their bragging altogether. I was soon to find that coins did actually get stuck to the magnets as one between the two catchers lifted his line. The boys' assertions thus vindicated, I had no more disbelief left in me about the efficacy of the method. They deserved kudos. I blessed them aloud to grow up as the two successful geologists to prospect gold. Listening to that the senior between them asked--rather surprisingly, ‘Is gold found from underneath the surface of the earth?’ I quipped, ‘Oh yes. What else do you think? Do you think gold is dropped from the sky? Remember: The sky can only give you snow and nothing else.’ I knew the fellow was telling lies: about his daily income from the river; about his study; about the investment he made to prepare a magnet-tipped line, and so on. 

Even the Sun was Happy
And soon, as we were returning, another boy came following us just to report us that we were being told lies by his friend. Standing at a distance, he was overhearing our interaction with his friend and had felt the need of giving us the correct perspective. He, too, was a school dropout. When asked the reason behind his aversion to study, he informed that it was ‘waste’. As we insisted, he said his father was no more, and as such he was not going to school after his fourth class. Well, I’m not sure if he was also speaking the truth.

His Fishing Line was an Extension of His Eye
Anyway, before leaving the riverside, I had managed to get a hands-on experience of the sport called “catching the coin”.


Catching the Coins:credit-Ratan Sharma
The icing on the cake was yet to come. We had timed our visit to the gurudwara in such a way that there was a glorious sunset to greet us. We stood feasting our eyes on the golden aura of the western horizon.
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 By
A. N. Nanda
Poanta Sahib
10-02-2015
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Monday, January 19, 2015

Ekalavya: Even Vyasa was Unfair to Him


 Ekalavya: Even Vyasa was Unfair to Him
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All of us know the episode of Ekalavya of the Mahabharat. We feel pity for the young and talented forest-dweller whose devotion to Drona, his master-in-absentia went unrequited, hate the way the great teacher of archery rendered the young man totally unfit for archery, doubt the talent of Arjuna the insecure hero of the epic etc, etc. I agree with all these observations. Plus, I’ve my own little observation too.

What’s that?

Look: Drona, after finding Ekalavya a greater archer than the one he had groomed in the shape of Arjuna, asked the fellow to tell him who his master was. Credulous simpleton as he was, Ekalavya said that he had achieved excellence in archery by the blessings of the idol of Drona whom he used to worship as his master ever since he was refused to be taught by him. Now Drona, standing before him in bone and flesh, demanded his fee (Guru dakshina, mentor's fee) and stated that the appropriate fee would be the right thumb of Ekalavya. Upon hearing this, Ekalavya chopped his right thumb off with his arrow and presented the same to Drona.

So, as the story goes, Ekalavya chopped his right thumb off, not with any knife but with his arrow. The probability is that he did not use the arrow in any other way than the way an expert archer would have thought appropriate. That was his dignity; an archer would not like to use his arrow as a sickle. A writer would not use his pen as a pair of tweezers for extracting a thorn from his foot! This means that Ekalavya had used bow and arrow with the help of his left hand and some other limb, say his leg (toe), to chop off his own right thumb. Having done that, he proved himself an expert archer not as a right-handed person alone but as an ambidextrous performer, one who had the ability to perform the archery with either of his hands and with the help of his legs (toes). This is my explanation. Don’t we find these days expert but differently-abled painters who paint with their legs?

If the above explanation sounds plausible, then ambidextrous Ekalavya remained the same expert archer even after the trickery of his notional teacher Drona deprived him of his right thumb. It is a fact that the epic does not say if Ekalavya died of bleeding. So he was very much alive even after this heart-rending episode. Vyasa abruptly left the character thereafter: he was left to fade out and die. Having been made a victim of exploitation, (and at least for the sake of compensation) he could have been given some celebrated role in the war of Mahabharat to prove himself, how he could outlive the trickery and jealousy. This can be treated as an unintentional omission. Maybe Vyasa had only this much to show how mean a fellow was Drona and how insecure was Arjun. Thereafter even Vyasa forgot Ekalavya. In a way, not only Drona and Arjuna were guilty of dealing with Ekalavya unfairly but also Vyasa, the creator of the character did not bother to highlight the talent of that forest-dweller when the fellow had all the qualification for it!
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By
A. N. Nanda
Shimla
19-1-2015
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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

On the Cusp: Three Sixty-Five

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I wish all my readers a very Happy New Year 2015. 
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On the Cusp: Three Sixty-Five
= = = = = = = = = = = = =

Won’t you ask me
What I did with the gift you gave
What I did with the money you lent
Exactly before days three hundred and sixty-five?

Now, again, your generosity is abloom
Your coffer is open and your offer alluring
You’re the great giver, not for nothing.
The investment you make in me
Not waiting for the return,
No balance sheet is ever drawn,
What’s that you expect of me?

What sort of business you are in!
Aren’t you the optimist incorrigible?
When you see me squandering
All you gave were thinning and thinning
Did you ever bother me to stop
And demand a report from me?

Nope! You didn’t.
The blunder is yours you’d better own
And now, how can a better tomorrow
Grow out of a yesterday wasted?
Where is the seed you’ve sown?
You want me to till that land
Sprinkle it with my blood and sweat
And wait for that better tomorrow!

You’re the great merchant
You know your business
Your investment:
You’re the great peasant
You know your crops
And your yielding patch of land:

Looking forward to a turnaround…
Now, the business is the same
A cycle of three and sixty-five,
The land is as big and as fertile
As a year ago it used to be,
I know it only too well
There’s only so much capital in the business.

Your business must go on…
It hardly matters
That one day I’ll be eased out.
Your crops must grow luxuriant…
It hardly matters
That one day I’ll fade out of memory
And lose count of three sixty-five. 
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By
A. N. Nanda
Shimla
1-1-2015
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