The Dawn: May 12, 2006

Digging for new stories Punjabi Books

Shafqat Tanvir Mirza 

TEY FER by Mir Tanha Yusufi; pp168; price Rs150; published by Punjabi Markaz, 7/A, Street 6, Koocha Muhammadi, Sultanpura, Lahore.

MIR Tanha Yusufi has already published a col lection of short stories and a novel. His first collection was Suraj uggan taeen which was well-received and also earned some literary awards. This new collection published last year has also won a Masud Khadarposh award.

Yusufi has quite a different concept of fiction, and this he explains in the very first story, Unjami ik kahani. The main character Chander or Lakho is very fond of fiction and being a well-to-do person affords to listen and read the fiction of the world, particularly love stories like Hir Ranjha, Saiful Muluk, Dastan-i-Amir Hamza and the stories related to mythology of different countries. But he is in search of new stories for which he decides to travel in foreign countries and ultimately returns home to find that people have forgotten his name and identity. Nobody recognises him, and his relatives have either left the place or lie buried in the local graveyard.

Lakho is desperate now and he decides to visit the court of the king to know from him whether he has heard any new story from his court storytellers. He gate-crashes, and is asked by the courtiers to introduce himself which he does. He narrates his personal experiences which were so interesting that the king and the courtiers happily declare it the best story they have ever heard.

Yusufi’s view is that the best fiction is based on your own experience and observations. One cannot say whether the stories included in this collection are based on his personal experiences but most of them come out of his own observations and knowledge.

Soohey di kahani comes out from the daily experiences in our rural society which is sharply divided between landowners and the landless workers known as Kammis who can be thrown out of the village by the Khans or the Chaudhrys without assigning any reason. They can be publicly humiliated, and they have to live with it. But what Yusufi wants to say is that today’s menials also have a glorious past and that glory can return to them. Such is the story of the cobbler Rana, a descendant of the Ranas of Rajputana and the Khan who owns a vast tract of land which was granted to his family for the services they had rendered to the British rulers.

Another story is about a rural teacher who believes in hard work and honesty. He had taught and trained his students on the same pattern. But one day when he comes to know that some of his students have become robbers, he is shocked and loses his senses. Then, another kind of robbery is committed with the active connivance of the police, who are duty-bound to check and curb criminal activities. Titled Nikka bhara, it is the story of a marriage party which is returning with the bride when intercepted by a police party who direct it to change the bus’s route, where horsemen with covered faces stop and loot valuables of the party. Khalid, a daredevil young man, proud of his brilliant and brave police-inspector brother, pursues the robbers. To his surprise, he comes to know that his hero brother was heading the band of robbers.

Another story Darya is about corruption in government offices. It narrates how a man who had never indulged in this practice is forced to surrender when he for the first time in his life attempts to take a bribe. He is caught on the spot. One cannot realise the agony he goes through. Written in fluent Punjabi, these stories leave a good impression on the reader.


DHUKHIA NIMAASHAN VAILA by Akhtar Sheikhi; pp168; price Rs200; published by Idara Punjabi Zaban Tey Saqafat, 24 Ameer Road, Bilal Gunj, Lahore.

N IMAASHAN (evening) time creates some fears in the minds of common Punjabis. Daylight is taken over by darkness which is full of fear. It is the end of the day in which it is expected that all the work in hand should have been completed but what is left undone, puts you in uncertainty, and that is not a good omen. That is why the poet requests the master to extend favours to him before darkness sweeps. He says:

Arzi aey tahng vargi, suchi aey bang vargi, Dhukia nimaashan vaila, meri nabairr saeen! (My request is like a wish, true as the prayer call Master, it is evening time, do extend you favour) In the mystic tradition, the poet is sorry that Alif does not guide him while the sufis, including Bulleh Shah, stress on one thing:

Iko Alif tairey darkar (The only letter you need is Alif) Peenghan da hulara boley/Nimha nimha tara boley Jind da khilara boley... Alif naheen bolda (The swing speaks, the dimlit star speaks, all activities of life speak but Alif does not) Because of the non-communication with Alif, an atmosphere of fear prevails throughout ghazals, poems and kafis. The symbol is sham or evening.

Sham payee tey dar fer valia jana naheen Khali ghar noon chhad ee jaeey diney diney (Let us leave this haunted house before the sun sets. In the evening we will not be able to face and control fear). Akhtar Sheikh has many new images and symbols to convey his feelings, thoughts and concepts.—STM

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