by: Dr Jaspal Singh
Source: South Asia Post: Issue 20 Vol I
Sharanjit Kaur is a well-known reviewer and commentator of Punjabi literature besides being a noted short story writer. She has already published five collections of stories which have been generally admired by the readers. Her latest collection of stories Te Hina Chali Gayee has been released a few days back at an impressive function organised by Punjabi Lekhak Sabha, Chandigarh in the Punjab Arts Council premises. Well-known Punjabi story writers including Ram Sarup Ankhi, Gurbachan Bhullar, Prem Gorkhi and Baljit Kaur Balli have applauded Sharanjit's choice of themes, her narrative skill and her courageous treatment of the intricate situations in almost superlative terms. Ankhi says, "Sharanjit's language flows like a river. Her themes are fresh and the literary treatment is fearless and without any inhibition for which she stands out among the writers of her generation." Prem Gorkhi is even more euphoric in his praise. He says that she holds a special position among the top women story writers of Punjabi.
The present collection Te Hina Chali Gayee carries eight stories, all very sensitive yet bold and audacious. The first story that lends its name to the collection is set in the Pothohar region of West Punjab. All the characters in the story are Muslim. They speak the Pothohari dialect which Sharanjit handles with the skill of a native speaker. It is a story about a teenage girl Hina who is married off to a middle aged trader Ata Mohammed as an out of court compromise of a dispute involving the murder of Ata's father. Hina's father kills Ata Mohammed's father in a quarrel for which he could be hanged by the court. But with the help of the intermediaries both parties reach a compromise and in the bargain Hina's father agrees to give his sixteen years old educated daughter to fifty years old Ata as his second wife. This bargain of the convict hangs heavy on his conscience and he dies of remorse within a couple of years. After his death the girl who now has become the mother of a son deserts her elderly husband to come back to her grieving mother. Entire story is dotted with Pothohari dialogues that make it very colourful and distinctive.
Another story Kashani Phullan Wali is a saga of struggle waged by a girl born to a Devdassi in a temple in Karnataka. Despite her best efforts she is not able to get out of the abyss. Then she makes a vain effort to save her daughter from the similar fate. Ultimately the daughter leaves the temple for an unknown destination presumably with one of her college friends and the mother too is forced to go to the city in search of her old lover Shalok. This story meticulously delineates wretched picture of the Devdassi tradition.
Darna is a story about a girl married to an ailing person employed in Chandigarh. After a few years, he is forced to proceed on long leave and thus keeps sitting at his house while the wife does all the work both in the house and outside. When the husband passes away, she is left all alone in a pit of sorrow. One of her friends tries to cheer her up by playing down her loss since the husband had become a huge liability for the working woman. But she says that he was her anchor even though he was confined to his room. He at least played the role of a scarecrow that wards off the harrying birds and animals from the field.
Addha Adhura is perhaps the best story in this collection. It revolves around a dalit boy from a cobbler family who after having done his high school manages to become a clerk in a government department where he becomes the president of the employees union because of his oratory. A college going Brahmin girl heard him delivering a speech in a rally and was so infatuated by his rhetorical skills that she makes up her mind to marry him despite strong opposition from her parents and brothers.
Other stories also deviate from the normal flow of life. The characters and events create ripples and at times the ripples make into tidal waves. The emerging trends of life play havoc with the traditional modes, carving out new patterns of life based on a different value system. In this conflict of the old and the new, invariably the latter is victorious. Sharanjit always stands by the emerging order. Her stories depict the social chaos which is always in a state flux. Her skill as a story teller lies in capturing this process of change which is so fluid and transitory.