THIS ABOVE ALL
Tribute to a departed friend
As I switched on
my TV in the afternoon on Friday, January 27, they were showing
Kartar Singh Duggal taking some books out of his bookshelf. I
concluded he must have died that morning. So it turned out to
be. And so a friendship that had lasted 72 years came to an end.
I first met Duggal in 1940 when I set up my house in Lahore to
start practice as a lawyer in the high court. I had plenty of
time on my hands and decided to know more of Punjabi literature.
Till then, my knowledge of it was limited to a few bawdy
verses`A0 and a passing knowledge of Bhai Veer Singh’s poems.
I set aside one evening a week to invite Punjabi writers to my
home to read what they had written. Those who came included
Mohan Singh of the Sikh National college, who was acknowledged
as the best poet of the times, playwright Balwant Gargi,
Devinder Satyarthi, who emulated Rabindranath Tagore by growing
his hair and a flowing beard running down to his navel. He
specialised in compiling Punjabi folklore, and Kartar Singh
Duggal, who was working with All-India Radio. Though they did
not write in Punjabi, Krishen Shunglu and his wife Shakuntala
were always present.
Kartar Singh Duggal
contribution was a bottle of the cheapest Scotch whisky, which
was then priced at Rs 11 and plates of pakoras. At every
session, Duggal read out a short story he had written. This went
on till mid-1947. Then Hindus and Sikhs began to be forced out
of what was to become Pakistan. When Muslims and Sikhs were
going for each others’ throats, Duggal, a devout Sikh, and
Ayesha, the younger sister of Sultana, the eminent Urdu poet Ali
Sardar Jafri’s wife, fell in love with each other. They got
married in the Golden Temple at Amritsar. After the Partition,
they migrated to Delhi, so did I. For the next four or five
years, I lived abroad in England and Canada.
When I returned
home, we resumed meeting each other. Duggal rose to become the
Station Director of AIR and after retirement, the head of the
National Book Trust. When my daughter Mala returned from England
with a degree from Cambridge University, he appointed her as an
editor of Childrens Books. Duggal often dropped in to give me
his latest books. They included a translation of my novel Train
to Pakistan. His rendering of the Adi Granth in
simple Punjabi will be the lasting work of his life. Duggal was
a very devout Sikh. Every morning, after reciting Japji,
the morning prayer, and writing a story or two, he left for
Broadcasting House. He broke his journey on the way to spend an
hour or so at Gurdwara Banglasahib to listen to kirtan of
Aasa di Vaar. He was one of the authors of a compilation of
articles written by people about their religion. Duggal’s
essay, "Why I am Sikh,"carried his photograph
with the joora (top knot) and a flowing beard. I was not
impressed by his essay.
Duggal was the
most prolific of Indian writers. He wrote in four languages:
Punjabi, Urdu, Hindi and English. According to Vandana Shukla of
The Tribune, he produced 25 volumes of short stories, 13
novels, 15 plays, eight volumes of poetry, two autobiographies
and nine volumes of criticism. I don’t think any living Indian
could match his record.
The latest issue
of Private Eye of London has an interesting item in its
column "Funny old world," about English words banned
from usage in the country. It reads: "The
Telecommunications Act of 1996 is perfectly clear,"
Muhammad Talib Doger of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority
told a press conference in Islamabad, "in prohibiting the
transmission of massages that are indecent or obscene. We now
have the technology to enforce this, so from November 21, all
mobile phone operators are required to screen all text messages,
and filter out any words on our list of banned terms. So far,
this list contains 1695 words, and more will be added as they
come to our attention." "The move has caused outrage
among mobile phone users, with many`A0threatening to challenge
the order in court.
"The list is
absurd," said spokesman Shahzad Ahmed, "it includes
phrases like ‘monkey crotch’, flatulence, athlete’s foot,
kiss ass, fairy, quickie, damn, and ‘go to hell’ even ‘deeper
and harder. We are witnessing a ruthless wave of moral`A0
policing by the PTA. By forcing telecom operators to filter out
these allegedly offensive words to make our society moral and
clean, the PTA has made a mockery not only of itself, but of the
Twitter users were
both bemused and amused. "What is an ‘ass puppy’"?
asked one, while another wanted to know "the vile
significance of Yellowman". Sabina tweeted "I think
PTA just enhanced the vocab for us. Never knew words like these
Santa: What do you
understand by the Food Security Bill?
nagri chaupar raja/ takey ser bhaji takey ser khaja
Ram Niwas Malik, Gurgaon)