Land Lust |
Urdu stories/ Translation | Joginder Paul |
Ed. Sukrita Paul Kumar & Vandana R Singh |
Niyogi Books | 2019 | ISBN 978-93-86906-80-9 | pp 144 | 350
A beautiful reminder to the humankind to stretch out the arms to one and all
About the Author
Joginder Paul (1925-2016) was born in Sialkot (now in Pakistan). He has published fourteen collections of short stories, four collections of flash fiction and six novels and novellas. His novels and short stories have been translated into Hindi, English and other languages in India and abroad. He is the recipient of SAARC Lifetime Award, Iqbal Samman, Urdu Academy Award, All India Bahadur Shah Zafar Award, Shiromani Award, Ghalib Award and an International Award at Qatar.
Land Lust is a translation of Joginder Paul’s first collection of short stories in Urdu ‘Dharti Ka Kaal’ first published in 1962. The stories have been translated by Keerti Ramachandra, Chandana Dutta, Vandana R Singh, Usha Nagpal and Meenakshi Bharat. The Foreword, written by eminent Urdu writer Krishan Chander in 1959, has been translated by Punya Prakash Tripathi. The book is compiled and edited by Sukrita Paul Kumar and Vandana R Singh.
‘The world is wrapped in darkness and few are those who find their way, who like a bird escaping from a net soar up towards Heaven.’ – Dhammapada
Sri Aurobindo says, ‘This is a world of falsehood, of ignorance, and an effort is needed, an aspiration.’ Joginder Paul’s book ‘Land Lust’, a fine collection of eleven translated short stories, provides the necessary effort to shed off the darkness, to dissipate all ignorance and to dispel all distress prevailing in the era veiled by the dark clouds of slavery and racial discrimination. The stories take us back to the pre-independence era of colonized Kenya where the author spent several years before returning to his motherland. The stories present an array of incidents presenting before the readers the lives of the African people and bringing to light the inhuman and discriminatory treatment of the original and rightful owners of the land. The harsh facts of life find an easy description in the book as the readers glide from one page to the next. The racism, the cultural differences, the exploitation, the oppression of the inhabitants of Kenya are portrayed alongside the mesmerizing natural beauty and wealth of the land. The context of the stories, from the point of view of the author, whose keen observation and empathy, adds to the fervor, create a masterpiece collection of the first hand description of the life and struggles of the people.
The celebrated Hindi writer, Bhisham Sahni writes in ‘Anthology of Hindi Short Stories’ (published by Sahitya Akademi, 2018, p.17), “In prose the writer can write with some authority only about those aspects of life which are a part of his or her own area of experience.” Joginder Paul’s own experiences find an expression in the stories, merged with a pinch of imagination and the flavor of wit and humour. The heart-wrenching scenes of slavery ridden Kenya touch the inner strings of the readers’ hearts; the context of the stories hold true even in the present times, long after the abolition of the evils of slavery.
‘On this dark subcontinent, on deserted paths, different kinds of creatures get trampled upon by strangers. And they give up their lives without a scream.’ (Miracle, p. 19)
The sensitivity of the author and the emotional content in the stories highlight the deep seated complexities of the impact of centuries old slavery upon the psychological and mental upbringing of the younger generations who, according to the author, are oblivious of the ongoing development and progress in other parts of the world for want of adequate exposure, freedom and open mindedness.
‘What do we want with education, son? Mungu (God) has created us to do work. Reading and writing are for the idle.’ (Miracle, p. 18)
The mental slavery, an ignominious form of slavery, is a hard nut to break. As Martin Luther King rightly said, “As long as the mind is enslaved the body can never be free.” The stories ‘Miracle’, ‘Multiracial’ and ‘Jambo Rafiqui’ are the mirrors of the pre-independence era reflecting the socio-cultural image of the natives as well as the struggling Indian community and the ordinary lives of the citizens as a round of vicious desires, greed, torments, adjustments, the uprising of the freedom wave and the dreams to break free from the shackles of slavery. Establishing the fact that everything belongs to all, the author dreams of the day when humans can truly love from the soul and know love as the ultimate truth at heart of all creation. “The magic, the wonder, the mystery and the innocence of a child’s heart,” says music maestro and prodigy Michael Jackson, “are the seeds of creativity that will heal the world.” The author propagates the eternal law that in this world hatred can be appeased by love alone.
‘All children white or black, are beautiful, thanks to their innocence. Our children are the common heritage of humanity. They have no race or creed because they have no knowledge of these barriers.’ (Cast in the Same Mould, p. 133)
The act of genuine self-giving is its own reward bringing such happiness, confidence and security as nothing else can give. Surpassing the dark moments and disturbances, the feeling of self-giving emerges as an unbroken line, a spontaneous movement with a continuous ascension. The impressive compassionate and loving characters such as ‘Mummy Fisher’ leave an everlasting imprint on the readers’ minds.
‘People do change and their mental state does not remain the same always. But not Mummy. She never changes. Mummy is not just a person, she is a virtue itself and never changes – never!’ (Cast in the Same Mould, p. 132)
The changing human relationships, the weakening of human bonds, the broken faith, the tyrannical system of colonization, the vanity of high elite society, the helplessness to break free from the manacles, the whiling away of the time in fruitless worthless activities, spending hours in indecisive discussions about the multiracial society prevailing in the African subcontinent bring to light the realistic and accurate picturization of the deep-rooted evils of the multi-segmented society.
‘When one is dependent on a competent system, initially he may grumble and make angry noises but eventually loyalty becomes a habit with him.’ (Jambo Rafiqui, p.68)
The author’s strong belief and faith in humanity, establishment of human values, the unbreakable bond between human hearts and the optimism establish him as a propagator and lover of humanity whose heart overflows with the love for his own culture, religion and who stands sternly against racism and discrimination, leaving no stone unturned to break the fetters, the trammels.
‘Actually we’re all very good, every man is a fountain of goodness, selflessness and love, and it is because of these sterling qualities that the beauty of life is breathing.’ (When Life Dies, p.51)
Entangling labyrinths of life that ultimately force the dreams to settle down and vanish, the ancient and modern outlook towards life, the effects of modernization and modern lifestyle on the peace and serenity of human lives and the power of love form a beautiful stream of fragrant themes that mesmerize and charm the readers. The nature, the aromatic soil, the dense forests and the effect of human follies and atrocities meted out to the Mother Nature are presented beautifully in ‘Jambo Rafiqui’ through the marvellous personification of Nature.
‘When nature witnessed her beloved mountain blasted to tiny fragments, her voice drowned in a flood of tears…Poor child of mine- this mountain stood there with such pride for thousands of years…Your hard-hearted cruel men have brutally murdered my precious child.’ (Jambo Rafiqui, p.73)
The brighter side of humanity, the humanitarian work done by the messengers of peace and harmony spreading love and caring for the wounded and unjustly hurt communities of the world are portrayed as the Angels on Earth in the story titled ‘0’ which immediately catches the readers’ attention. To wash clean the festering wounds of the soul and the body of the ‘primitive natives’, those with the flame of love and compassion burning in their hearts brighten up the lives of the lacerated souls spreading cheer and smiles.
‘No stone has been left unturned to improve the lives of the city’s Africans. Education projects worth thousands of pounds are being proposed.’ (‘0’, p.93)
Noted Urdu writer Krishan Chander, appreciating Joginder Paul, writes in the Foreword, “He comes across as very knowledgeable about the art of writing short story….By remaining truthful to his art, he has, in fact, chosen to be on a very difficult path.” (Foreword, p.14)
The lucid, easily comprehensible and straightforward writing style speaks volumes of Joginder Paul’s expertise and finesse. The book Land Lust is a beautiful reminder to the humankind to stretch out the arms to one and all…
‘Send them your heart so they’ll know that someone cares
And their lives will be stronger and free.’
(Excerpts from ‘We Are The World’; USA for Africa, 1985)
Issue 94 (Nov-Dec 2020)