Saturday, August 29, 2015

THIS IS A PALESTINIAN STORY: SUSAN ABULHAWA


AN INTERVIEW





Susan Abulhawa

Palestinian-American writer and activist Susan Abulhawa talks about how the stories of Palestinians can be told without Israeli characters.

Susan Abulhawa’s second novel, The Blue Between Sky and Water, a multigenerational saga set in Gaza, speaks of the heroism of the women of Palestine during times of war and loss. Abulhawa’s debut novel Mornings in Jenin was a bestseller and was published in more than 20 languages.
How is your latest novel The Blue Between Sky and Water different from your debut novel Mornings in Jenin?
I suppose it is inevitable that this story is viewed relative to my first novel. It seems inescapable, like ‘middle child syndrome’, where siblings are compared to the first (or youngest) one. Although there are similarities with Mornings in Jenin, I hope that The Blue Between Sky and Water can stand (or fall) on its own merits. It’s a multigenerational saga set in Palestine, specifically Gaza. The main characters are women, strong but flawed and vulnerable. Although the events of the novel are set against a dramatic historic context, the real drama in the fore is the relationships between these women. I really enjoyed getting to know the characters throughout the writing process, and I hope their lives will be seen independently of my first novel.
Have you incorporated autobiographical elements in this novel too?
Yes. In this book, Nur’s life in foster care somewhat mirrors my own experience as an adolescent.
The narrative structure of your second novel is quite different from your first one. Did you do this deliberately or was it an unconscious decision?
I made a conscious decision not to think of the first novel as I wrote this one. I also deliberately did not think of audience, readers, or publishers. It is always a conscious decision to make the lives of my characters central to my thoughts. My only loyalty is to tell their lives honestly and authentically. To be honest (as oddly as it sounds), your question is my first realisation that the narrative structure here is very different than the first.
Your previous novel has a couple of Jewish characters who which are portrayed in sympathetic light. This novel has none. Please comment.
Another seemingly inescapable ‘relativism’ in judging this novel (or any Palestinian novel) pertains to the presence and treatment/presentation of Israeli characters. I think that’s an unfair meter by which to analyse Palestinian narratives and it’s a bit frustrating because the truth is that our lives and our worth in reality are often measured relative to our attitudes towards Israelis. We are an ancient indigenous society with a history, culture, and profound essence that has nothing to do with recent colonial settlers who arrived from Europe and other parts of the world. Whether an Israeli character appears in my novels or not is immaterial. This is a Palestinian story. My first novel was set in Jenin, which is in the West Bank, where Palestinians might be exposed to various Israeli personalities. But in Gaza, what people have seen of Jewish Israelis has been cruelty, from soldiers, settlers, and faceless pilots who drop bombs on them. For one reviewer, a major criticism of this novel was the absence of sympathetic Jewish Israeli characters. My first thought was that of all the novels and films and plays I’ve seen about the Jewish holocaust, I’ve never heard or read a single criticism that their tormentors and jailers were not portrayed with more nuance and sympathy.
In its review, the Publishers Weekly indirectly says that your novel is anti Israeli. How do you respond to this allegation?
This novel is not pro or anti anything. It is an authentic human narrative set against a well-documented historic context. It is for readers to make their own conclusions and opinions about it, which are never wrong or right.
Are you planning to start your next novel?
I already have.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

EK GHAZAL

Marasim to  the, per  dil  usne abhi lagaya  na tha
Nigahen meharbaan thi, per lab pe kuchh aaya na tha

Waise to hauee batein jahan bhar ki shab bhar
Lekin dil mein hai kya  usne bataya na tha

Ke lauta hoon barhan uske dahleez se main
Jata bhi to kaise, usne to kabhi bulaya na tha

Zamana kahe to kahta rahe usko wafa ki murat
Lekin usne to koi dastoor-e-wafa nibhaya na tha

Kuchh adhure se armaan aur ek toota hua dil
Inke siwa mere pass koi aur sarmaya na tha

















EK GHAZAL


Jaan ke badle kya wo apna pyar dega
Ya sara gham wo mujhe udhar dega

Dard ka mujassama hai wazood mera
Ek naya dard mera kya bigad lega

Main kyon jaaon uska haal poochhne
Use zaroorat hogi to khud hi pukar lega

Ek jhonke ne kar diya unke gesu barham
Doosra jhonka unki zhulfen sanwar dega

 Zakhmon ko ashqo ke dhage se si si kar
'Abd' apni zindagi ab yun hi guzar lega

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

EK GHAZAL


 इश्क़ में मुझे भी कुछ दस्तूर निभाना था
बस सुर्ख अंगारों पे चल के जाना था
मौत का दिन तो तय था बहुत पहले से
उनकी क़ातिल निगाहों का तो सिर्फ़ एक बहाना था
हाँ फिर हरा हो गया तुम्हारी बातों से
वरना ये जख्म तो काफ़ी पुराना था
गेस्सुएँ के हसीन साए और सुरमई शाम
सोंचता हूँ, था भी तो वो क्या ज़माना था
मैं जनता हूँ की बेकार है ये इंतेज़ार अब्द
वो तो आ चुके होते अगर उनको आना था






Ishq mein mujhe bhi kuchh dastoor nibhana tha
Bas in surkh angaron pe chal ke jana tha

Maut ka din to tai tha bahut pahle se
Unki qatil nigahon ka to sirf ek bahana tha

Hanh phir hara ho gaya tumhari baton se
Warna ye jakhm to kafi purana tha

Gessuyen ke haseen saye aur surmayee shaam
Sonchta hun, tha bhi to wo kya zamana tha

main janta hoon ki bekar hai ye intezaar abd
Wo to aa chuke hote agar unko aanaa tha 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

REVIEW OF SIDDHARTH CHAUDHARY'S Latest Book

City tales

The most enjoyable features of Siddharth’s stories are his expertise to invoke a sense of nostalgia and to write juicy descriptions of places
City tales
There is an oft-quoted saying in the Indian state of Bihar about Biharis living outside their home state and it goes like this: “You can take a Bihari out of Bihar but you can’t take Bihar out of a Bihari.” And this adage perfectly suits Siddharth Chowdhury.
As it happened in his previous two novels, Patna Roughcut andDay Scholar, the historical city of Patna and other cities of Bihar remain to be important settings in many stories of his latest offering also. A collection of interlinked stories, the book is aptly titled The Patna Manual of Style.
The first story of this collection opens in Connaught Place in New Delhi with beautiful descriptions of the locality and its surroundings. The readers are made to walk on the roads around Shivaji Stadium, then made to climb the stairs of Madras Hotel before you are properly introduced to Jai Shanker Sharma aka Jishnu da, the redoubtable character from the author’s previous novel Day Scholar.
Once upon a time, Jishnu da used to be a typical Bihari civil services aspirant. Now, he has become a pimp and importer of Russian and Ukrainian blondes to cater to Indian neo-rich.
Along with Jishnu da we also meet the protagonist of Day Scholar and a budding novelist from Patna, Hriday Thakur, who is the narrator of this story titled ‘The Importer of Blondes’. The meeting between these two unlikely characters are accidental. Hriday has just been thrown out of his current job and trying to think about his future course of actions when Jishnu da bumps into him. Jishnu asks for forgiveness from Hriday for the awful things he did to him in the past. The old scores are settled when Hriday slaps Jishnu. After that, both the men sit down together in a bar to drink.
And here the main plot of story unfolds in Odessa (a city in Ukraine) and we are told the sad story of a Ukranian girl, Anna Kuchma, and learn about her journey from a Ukrainian city to Delhi where she works as a belly dancer. Anna’s story of transformation from an innocent lower class girl to a belly dancer has universal appeal because such things keep happening in all the neo-liberal and capitalist societies where the impoverished and downtrodden have no option but to sell their bodies and souls just to keep themselves alive.
Written in first person, the author has beautifully captured the idiosyncrasies of the characters. 
Jishnu da for whom morality and ethics make little sense is madly in love with Anna, the prettiest girl Jishnu has ever seen and, to everybody’s utter surprise, he is a perfect gentleman with her. The denouement of the story comes as a big surprise when Jishnu does something which is least expected from him.
Written in first person, the author has beautifully captured the idiosyncrasies of the characters. As he always does, Siddharth describes the places and locations in very lucid and interesting manner. Despite the fact that this short story begins in Delhi, travels to Odessa and London, and returns to the Indian Capital as the climax approaches, Patna and Bihar keep making their presence felt throughout the story.
Siddharth’s Patna connection and Bihari identity shape the narrative of another tale titled ‘Death of a Proofreader’. The main character of this story is Samuel Aldington Macaulay Crown, the best known proofreader of Delhi. Son of an Anglo-Indian father and a Bihari mother, Crown is not sure about his identity but feels strongly about his Scottish lineage. What he is sure about is his job as a proofreader as he takes pride in whatever he does. And that is why he is the best in his profession.abdullah
Despite his pretensions of being a Scottish, his taste buds are of a Bihari as he has a weakness for a well-known Bihari delicacy called Litti-Chokha. And, on the bench of the famous eatery Yadav Littie Centre in Paharganj, Delhi, he meets Hriday Thakur from Patna. Both of them have been there to enjoy their favourite Bihari dish. They strike a bond in a few minutes of conversation as they discover that they both love litti-chokha and both are the part of the publishing industry. Their relationship continues till the day Crown dies.
Told from the point of view of Hriday Thakur, this story, in fact, starts with Hriday attending the funeral of Crown in a cemetery in Delhi. Crown’s childhood was not easy. He spent his youth in a low paying and demanding job as a proof-reader. In his personal life, too, he couldn’t save his marriage, and had solitude as a companion to him in his post retirement years.
The life story of Crown tells Hriday to re-think of his mission to pursue the path of literary excellence ignoring almost everything in his life. “From Crown’s despair at the loss of his family and his daily pinning for his daughter” makes Hriday realise “the pain he had caused his own parents by cutting himself off” from his family and for not fulfilling the wishes of his parents. And this pondering over his indifference towards his parents brings changes in Hriday’s life as he starts caring about his family which reflects in the increase in the frequency of telephone calls to his parents.
An interesting aspect of the story is that it gives an insider’s view of the Indian publishing industry and we get a chance to meet many eccentric and idiosyncratic editors, writers, publishers, etc. The way the readers feel about the protagonist of this story, Crown, speaks volume of the author’s ability to create a believable character with complexities who is able to garner all the empathy of the readers despite his flaws.
Nestled between these two wonderful stories, there are seven more short stories; each of them makes a fascinating read. The most enjoyable features of Siddharth’s stories are his expertise to invoke a sense of nostalgia and to write juicy descriptions of the places where his stories take place. The time travel as well as travel across the geographies in his stories is so smooth that the readers feel no jerk at all. It is almost like travelling in a Mercedes on Japanese roads.
In short, The Patna Manual of Style is a perfect example of a good fiction book. My only complaint against the author is why on earth does he write books that are so slim. My only request to him is that his next novel should be at least 300 pages long if a magnum opus likeA Suitable Boy is not possible.
The Patna Manual of Style
Author: Siddharth Chowdhury
Publisher: Aleph Book Company, India
Pages: 143
Price: INR 295