The first story in this collection
is "Deela" (a weed) which revolves around the life of
a soldier Subedar Gajjan Singh who is a friend of the author.
After retirement he returns to his village with a pension and
other retirement benefits. He plans to cultivate his eight acres
with the help of his unemployed post-graduate son.
wins a lot of goodwill and respect. But after teo years of crop
failure he falls on bad days. The local police is also after him
since he has given some military training to a few village boys
so that they could join the army or the police. But the police
thinks that he is training terrorists. Consequently he gets
involved in a few court cases as well.
condition the villagers also distance themselves from him. Now
he is utterly disillusioned. His son, in a state of penury,
joins a gang of anti-social elements and the retired soldier is
forced to compromise.
This story is
not about retired soldier Gajjan Singh. No doubt the sons and
daughters of most army officers do well and are able to find
attractive jobs. But what about the children of other ranks?.
The nature of a soldierís career involves frequent transfer.
He does not strike roots anywhere.
is a story of decay and dilapidation. An old widow Gian Kaur
lives in a big crumbling house with her cat. She is a devoted
Sikh and a regular visitor to the gurdwara. But towards the end
of her life she goes mad and her real self comes out. She in
fact is Gulbano, a Muslim, who may have been taken as his wife
and converted by Phuman Singh during partition riots in 1947.
But in a state
of madness when her unconscious erupts and the real self
appears. She talks of allah, azaan, Mecca, namaz, abba, aslam
and a few other Muslim indicators. From the village gurdwara,
the loudspeaker blares advising the people to become staunch
is a story that analyses the generation gap and family
maladjustment and the ultimate break down.
is about women liberation. The author makes sarcastic comments
on the aberrations in the feminist movement and how the leaders
overlook them. According to the author, most of the arguments in
the feminist discourse are flippant and untenable.
is again a satire on the popular folk psyche. There is a man
riding a horse and a donkey riding a man and the town crowd
makes a fool of itself. Everything is allegorical here. "Pashu
Andar Pashu", the story that lends its name to the title of
the collection, is about caste divisions in traditional Indian
society. AGarg boy, son of a progressive father, marries a low
caste girl. The social order based on caste relations comes
under severe strain and is shaken, which leads to the mental
disorder of the progressive father. The story brings into focus
the interplay of deep-rooted caste equations invisibly
distorting the socio-cultural discourse.
Nahi Riha" is a pathetic tale of a family whose sons have
settled abroad leaving the ageing parents behind. The sons
cannot even attend the last rites of their father; rather they
engage somebody to make a video film of the funeral. They want
to show it to their family members and friends in the USA. For
the small children in the family, it is a matter of
entertainment. But the scene of disposing of the body in an
electric crematorium frightens the children and they run away
screaming. Now their mothers take a hint and find a very good
use of this film for frightening and disciplining the unruly
kitta-Mukhi" is perhaps the best story in this collection,
which throws light on a deep-rooted malaise in the present day
education system in Punjab. The teaching community in village
government schools is mainly comprised of shirkers with rabid
caste prejudices. Most of the well-to-do residents have
withdrawn their children from the village schools and sent them
to the so-called English-medium schools in nearby towns. The
village schools take care of mostly dalit children.
teachers have a vested interest in not teaching them properly so
that they do not rise above the gutter level. Master Bikkar
Singh in this story tries to give vocational training to such
student by making them clean the street, grounds and rooms of
the school. The dilapidated school building requires repair
which too is carried out with the labour of the students. He, in
fact, is turning them into farm labourers, sweepers, cobblers,
rickshaw-pullers or at best butchers. Then he proudly claims
that he is infusing dignity of labour and a sense of discipline
in the students.
teachers because of their links with the lower bureaucracy
seldom attend the school. Similarly some teachers are busy in
trade union work while some others are running parallel
businesses or even parallel English-medium schools. They have
very little time to attend the school where they are formally
Bikkar Singh is
very regular in the school but he has a caste axe to grind. In
the end he is recommended for a national award. Many hilarious
situations in this story are deftly handled by the author, which
vividly bring out the underlying sickness of the system.
Amar Giri has
an insight into the social processes but he needs to demystify
his style and diction. In many stories he is taken in by the
mystique of expression that makes some of his stories opaque and
convulated. The reader is at times irritated since he is
occustomed to a certain chronology of events and conceptual
linearity in his perceptions. The reader does not mind a subtle
use of symbols and metaphors since he can interpret them
Giri can better utilise his
talent in creating social narratives, depicting characters,
events and situations in a natural way.