Thursday, July 16, 2009

Train to the past

I boarded the Metro from Krishi Bhavan, having followed very clear instructions from concerned parents about how to buy the token and how to use it. The cleanliness of the station, the silence and the discipline were amazing -- it seemed like I had descended the stairs to another world, where rickety buses, shouting conductors hanging out of the doors and rushing hordes of people didn't exist.

The train was 'wow' and the journey was great fun, as I observed fellow passengers, trying to make out how many were regular travellers; how many, like me, were excited, yet apprehensive; and how many were not really there in the train. I disembarked at the DU station, came out, and stood still. A couple of cycle rickshaw guys saw my uncertainty as the opportunity to make a fast buck, but I 've lived long enough to see through that. I didn't know which part of the University I was in. I looked around for familiar landmarks, but much has changed and 10 years is a really long time. Finally, I was able to make out Chhatra Marg and gladly moved that way.

Better dressed students, more cars and mobile phones, more parking, more cycle rickshaws and facelifts to certain areas was my impression of DU, until I entered D School. It was as if I'd never been away. The building's facade was much improved -- seepage ridden walls had been repaired and the canteen looked, to use a less-used word, posh. Ratan Tata Library was under renovation, but everything else was the same, from the colour of the walls to the bench outside the office.

Voices from the past followed me down the corridor, and many faces that I'd all but forgotten suddenly came back. The new-look, much cleaner canteen served filter coffee as before, and, it tasted just as it had all those years back. I wonder if they have a patent on that recipe. Even the man behind the cash counter and the man serving the coffee were the same as a decade ago. The entire experience was like being reconnected to a part of me that I'd forgotten about, that I'd left far behind in the race of life. It was wonderful to be able to find that bit of my life again, to get re-acquainted with the time gone by.

I took the familiar route through Kirori Mal to Kamla Nagar, and was assaulted by the passage of years. The bookshops facing Kirori Mal had given way to those hallmarks of retail culture--branded goods showrooms, Barista, et al. A walk down one radial revealed that the infestation was widespread. There were very few signs of the neighbourhood shops or the humble restaurants that I remembered; everywhere I looked, I could see big showrooms, the 'Hey look, I've got money' syndrome, and exhortations to spend, spend, spend.

The nostalgia trip did me a world of good, though I wish I hadn't been jolted back to reality so suddenly. The one thing that was unchanged, and I was glad of that, was that the biggest stockist of Hindi literature books in Kamla Nagar still existed, and I was able to add to my collection significantly with his help.

Just read...

"क्या भूलूँ क्या याद करूँ", the first part of Dr. Harivanshrai Bachchan's autobiography. I got this one a couple of years ago from one of the bookshops in Connaught Place, and could come round to reading it only now.

It's the story of a common man, who began his life in a 'mohalla' in Allahabad. The scale, however, is breathtaking, as the writer talks about history, mythology, culture, religion, social issues, art, literature, family, and of course, poetry. Nowhere is it preachy, nowhere is it a dry discourse. The writer weaves in all the influences that have shaped his life so effortlessly, with so much feeling and in such simple, rich language, that I felt part of the story he was narrating.

This is one of the books I read voraciously. After a long time, I've come across a piece of writing that is so human and yet so thought-provoking. It's been a marathon read till 2 am almost every night, until I finished it. And any book-lover who met me in this period didn't even need to ask, "What are you reading?" before I launched into my impressions of the book. My husband, of course, has had to bear the brunt -- I've been exploiting his limited grasp of Hindi literature and yet, his interest in poetry, to wax eloquent.

The second part is waiting to be read, and I'm waiting to read it. It was quite an intense and absorbing experience, but more than me, those around me need a break.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

कुछ सुंदर पंक्तियाँ

हाल ही में फिर से हिन्दी साहित्य की ओर जाने का मौका मिला, तो ऐसा लगा जैसे वर्षों की तलाश पूरी हो गयी। यहाँ दो पंक्तियाँ जिन्होंने दिल को तरंगित कर दिया:

- कवि कुछ ऐसी तान सुनाओ कि सब कुछ उथल-पुथल हो जाए...

-जब भी अतीत में जाता हूँ, मुर्दों को नहीं जिलाता हूँ
पीछे हटकर फेंकता हूँ बाण, जिससे कम्पित हो वर्तमान

मुझे किसी भाषा से कोई आपत्ति नहीं है, मैं उनमें से भी नहीं जो सोचते हैं कि अंग्रेज़ी की लोकप्रियता से हमारी संस्कृति भ्रष्ट हो रही है। लेकिन फिर से हिन्दी पढने से अपने समृद्ध साहित्य की ओर मेरा ध्यान गया। मुझे लगा कि जो हमारा है, उसे हम क्यों भुला दें? क्यों उसे संजोने की, उससे कुछ सीखने की कोशिश न करें? हमारी भाषाओं का साहित्य हमारे अतीत की कहानी है, हमारा सच है। उसे भुलाना मतलब अपनी जड़ों से नाता तोड़ लेना। क्या तभी आज हम इतना भटक रहे हैं? क्योंकि हम अपने कल से नाता तोड़ चुके और आज में अपना अस्तित्व ढूंढ रहे हैं?

हिन्दी से फिर से नाता जोड़ने से कुछ ऐसे महापुरुषों से भी मेल हुआ, जिन्होंने अपने समय में भाषा को बढ़ावा ही नहीं दिया, भाषा को अपनी संगिनी बनाया। उनमें से एक हैं भारतेंदु हरिश्चंद्र, और दूसरे हैं संत कबीर। इनको पढने से भाषा की ताकत का अनुमान हुआ, कलम की ताकत क्या होती है, इसका पता चला। कबीर के बारे में तो सचमुच लगता है कि इतने हजार वर्षों बाद भी, वह जो बोल रहे हैं, आज के बारे में बोल रहे हैं। और क्या साफ़, सपाट भाषा में बोलते हैं कि बात सीधी दिल तक पहुंचे, सोचने पर मजबूर करे। अंत में इनकी कुछ पंक्तियाँ:

पोथी पढ़ पढ़ जग मुआ, पंडित भया न कोई।
ढाई आखर प्रेम का, पढ़े सो पंडित होई॥

काकर पत्थर जोड़ के, मस्जिद लिए बनाय।
तो चढी मुल्ला बांग दे, क्या बहिरा हुआ खुदाय॥