"One night," tells Wajahat, "the Revolutionary
saw Karl Marx in a dream, but strangely enough, Karl Marx was
clean shaven. The Revolutionary asked, ‘Lord, what have you
done?’ Karl Marx replied, ‘I haven’t done it; you people
have done it to me.’"
Lao Tze says the
Tao that can be told of is not the Absolute Tao; the names that
can be given are not absolute names… Each of Wajahat’s 90
word shots brings to the reader the essence of these words, each
of them easy and enigmatic at the same time. By the 119th page
of the book, you are ready to hail him as the new rebel who in
Osho’s words "lives with such totality, so intensely, so
coherently… that wisdom arises as a by-product…"
Lies: Half Told
is that by-product, and a brilliant one at that. The brilliance
spares no one, nothing – untruths, half-truths, lies, and
white lies. Be it the farce of democracy or development, the
crassness of communalism or consumerism – Wajahat’s pen hits
like a slap without a sound.
common man, religious man, poverty, peace and all else that
drive a writer become bullets for his biro. The unknown man,
says the author, wants to live in Peace. But she is forever
running away from him. One day, however, she turns around and
says to him, "Why do you dog me at every step? This is the
age of terrorism and look at you – you are still chasing an
old hag like me?" The man says’ "I will always chase
you. I like you." She asks him, "Do you know what I
have come to you as today?" "What," he wants to
know. "A human bomb," she says and explodes. The
unknown man is blown into a million smithereens.
It is tough not to
feel these shards sear your very skin when newspapers and
televisions brim with a bloody Kashmir or a bombed New York.
Politics, then, is where this professor of Hindi at Delhi’s
Jamia Millia Islamia finds "most grist to his mill". A
simple man, he writes, tries to mediate when he sees two hungry
dogs fight over a bone. A clever man runs away with the bone.
But a politician sets two more hungry dogs on the scene.
The author writes
about the simple man, the clever man and the politician – but
his truth is minimal, subtle. "The hallmark of Asghar
Wajahat writing is its steadfast refusal to strike any loud
notes. Each of these 10-part series carries a tiny picture of
our everyday life; a cameo of our very ‘Indianness’, an
unabashed look at the times of an ordinary man from the eyes of
any ordinary man…" says Rakshanda Jalil whose skilful
translation is reveals the earthiness of Wajahat’s Hindi
sometimes the author reminds you of Kabir’s Kaankar paathar
jori ke masjid lai banaye, Ta charhi mulla bang de kya behra hua
sings with Bachchan Dharm granth sab jala chuki hai jiske
antar ki jwala, mandir-masjid girije sab ko tor chuka joh
Much like Manto’s
eponymous Toba Tek Singh is Wajahat’s madman whose insanity
only hides the pain of existence. So, when an inmate sees that
the door of the lunatic asylum had been broken down, he begins
to cry inconsolably. He cries and cries till he falls ill. Some
one asks him why he is crying so much. He answers: "There
was only one place in the entire country fit for human beings to
live; that too has now been vandalized."
He is so
beautifully blasé in parts that all too often he reminds you of
the spiky RK Lakshman. He sees, feels and speaks of the things
common, things that you and I have seen and felt but not had the
courage or the concern to articulate. TP Dev sees an ad.
"Fill your neighbour’s heart with envy. Buy this
car." Mr Dev buys the car. But he doesn’t know who his
neighbour is or where he stays. However, he knows what envy is!
So, whether it is
the constipated civil servant or the kid who dies from watching
a black and white TV, the escaped lunatic or the revolutionary
turned fence-sitter, Wajahat stays "witty, acerbic and
unsentimental… in this collection… that snaps a metaphorical
finger in front of our eyes."
The finger forces
you to open your eyes without poking into them. And forces you
to smell these "smelling salts" and come to our senses
before it is too late. But Lies: Half Told isn’t a book
that needs alibis, excuses or even reviews. It needs reading.
The author, widely acclaimed for his play Jis Lahore Nai
Dekhya O Jamyai Nai, says, "Look for the child within
you. Look at the world with a child’s smiling curious eyes.
But who listens to me."
They will, sooner
or later, Wajahat sahib. Cynicism is the last resort of a
pessimist. And the world, you will agree, isn’t made up of
Narendra Modis and Bin Ladens alone.