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Translated from Hindi into Punjabi by Javed Boota; pp 776; Price Rs700 (hb); Publishers, Suchet Kitab Ghar, Chowk Ganga Ram Hospital, Lahore.

Yashpal a very senior Hindi writer belonged to Lahore and in the thirties was a young revolutionary arrested in Lucknow and imprisoned for a life-term. He belonged to a lower middleclass family headed by a teacher. Yashpal was married in the jail obviously with another enthusiastic partner. He was released in 1938 by the Congress government which sadly frustrated him after it came into power in 1947.

Yashpal seems to be the hero of this novel in two parts, the first under review represents the Hindu-Muslim-Sikh political conflict in the forties which he titles as “Wattan tey Des”. The second part of the novel not yet translated relates to the miserable stories of Indian and Punjab governments` maltreatment extended to the refugees from Pakistani areas. Though Yashpal`s political comrades Bhagat Singh, Bhagvati Charan, Sukhdev and other workers were also involved in activities that led him to jail in Lucknow but he was not allowed to visit Punjab even after his release from UP jail. He visited Lahore two times in disguise. But all the locations in the novel are of Lahore city except the last chapters which cover the partition period when well-to-do Lahori non-Muslims took temporary refuge in Naini Taal, a health resort in the United Province. Here had come the hero, a writer and journalist dismissed from his journalistic job for his socialistic attitude towards religious stance by the paper, owned by pro-Congress Hindu editor-proprietor. He was also a short-story writer and a young girl from middleclass Gowalmandi family engaged him to teach her Hindi, fell in love with Puri whose younger sister Tara was also a Left-oriented student involved in political activities and came close to a Muslim Leftist, Asad, who was working among those Leftists belonging to all the religious communities. The railway workers from all communities under the leadership of Mirza Ibrahim were also very active to maintain peaceful atmosphere in Lahore. Yashpal`s story revolves around the Hindu, Muslim and Sikh characters belonging to inside Lahore including Gali Bhola Pandha inside Shah Alami. All these activities going on between the people who lived in Chowk Matti, Paparr Mandi, Machhi Hatta, Kanjar Vehra, Vichhowali, Rang Mahal and Mochi Darwaza. Puri and Tara belonged to street Bhola Pandha…which the author has painted in such a way that these streets though dominantly populated by the non-Muslims presented a mixed scene with all Muslim workmen, vendors etc. were welcomed here.

In the July issue of Literary Urdu magazine, Al-Hamra, journalist Akhtar Hayat in his serial “Faseel-i-Shehr ka Noha” sadly refers to a deliberate attempt to de-name the buildings, streets, chowks and mohallas of the city which will, further make the city beyond recognition. He says that the name plates of the historical importance like Kucha Kambohan, Kucha Talwaran, Islam Gali, Gali Munj Kuttan, Haveli Kabuli Mall all now stand nameless. Even one cannot find any indication inside Bazar Hakeeman or Anarkali that Iqbal, the national poet and an idealist, lived here. With reference to the novel under review a day would come when the reader of this novel will stand flabbergasted in centre of the city being rapidly converted into a big godown. A reader could not locate the street Bhola Pandha where Tara, a very brilliant student lived whose brother Puri had to suffer for his struggle to snatch freedom from Western colonialist and where Tara wanted to marry Asad, a young Leftist stood for a tolerant progressive and free class exploitation society. Where Tara was forced to marry a middleclass trader`s son much inferior in intellect to Tara who was badly thrashed by this guy on the very first night of her marriage, the night when the whole area was set on fire by the opponents and Tara after being badly beaten by her so-called husband was forced to take refuge in the adjoining house of Muslim who raped her and then tried to sell her to the Chaudhris of Heera Mandi. She was saved by Muslim women of the street and handed over to a learned Muslim family of Bhati where the head of the family wanted to convert Tara, of course, with her willingness but Tara refused to embrace Islam and then she was sent to refugee camp, instead she was trapped again and was out in an abandoned house in some urban area close to Kamoke where other women were also kept in horrible conditions and were ultimately going to be sold to brothel houses. But somehow they were located by the parties in search of abducted women and she was sent to Amritsar…..what was her destination….that is another story which is the part of the second half of the novel…a socio-political documentary of Lahore of the forties…..Javed Boota and the publishers have done a great job to provide Punjabis a blood-soaked chapter of their history.


PUNJABI ADAB..No 98; Editor Parveen Malik; pp 144; Price Rs50 (hb); published by Pakistan Punjabi Adabi Board, Allaco Mansion, Patiala Ground, Lahore.

A special section has been devoted to articles on Dr. Akhtar Husain, president of Lehran Adabi Board and editor of monthly Lehran which Akhtar founded in 1965 and continued its publication till his death in the beginning of this year. Those who remembered him include Muhammad Ali Charagh, Prof Aashiq Raheel, Sultan Kharvi, Dr. Sajjad Haidar Parvez, Tanveer Zahoor, Iqbal Qaisar and Parveen Malik. The tributes in verse have been paid by Younis Sabir, Zafar Ahmadpuri, Sabir Husain Imdad and Virda Noor Khwaja.A critical article about the children writings by the late Bashir Munzar has been contributed by Arifa Kausar and three stories by Altaf Chahat, Shahida Dilawar Shah and Shagufta Nazali.

The contributors to the verse section include Afzal Ahsan Randhawa, Asif Saqib, Sultan Sakoon, Rashed Hasan Rana, Afzal Siraj, Muzaffar Husain Akhtar, Bashir Bawa, Prof. Zohair Kunjahi, Muhammad Ali Asad, Safdar Dogar and Amin Babar. — STM


From: The Dawn  July 21, 2011