Tuesday, August 24, 2010


In the God’s Creation
And the Emperor’s domain,
By the order of the town’s police chief…
All and sundry are hereby warned
To remain vigilant,
And bolt all doors from inside,
Pull down the window curtains,
And keep the children from getting on the road;
Because a seventy-two year old man
Has come out on the roads
Speaking the truth in his trembling voice.

Every townsman knows,
For twentyfive years,
It’s been hazardous to speak
Of things as they are;
To call a thief, a thief,
Or a murderer, a murderer;
Or commit the folly of protecting
A good soul being bashed,
Or a woman being violated;
Or a skin-and-bone skeleton
Pressing its hungry belly,
Or a child getting crushed by a jeep;
Being the Emperor’s jeep
Has it not the right to run over the child’s belly?
After all, the Emperor built the road!

O you ungratefuls,
Running after the old man!
Have you forgotten
That it’s the Emperor who has
Given you this excellent ambience
Where you can see day-time stars,
Even if only because of your aching hunger,
And angels keep you on the footpaths through the nights
Under the benign shadow of their wings,
And damsels wait under every lamp-post
Ready to pounce on the car-borne clients.
As if paradise itself has descended upon the earth:
After all, what more will you get
By running after that old man?

What’s your spat, after all, with those gentlemen
Quietly sitting on their respective chairs,
Waking through the nights
And working for the welfare of the kingdom;
Rambling like mendicants
Through Moscow, New York, Tokyo, London
To find out how best to mend
The gutter in the village.

Your legs will be broken,
Eyes gouged, if you walked down
To the inner courts of the royal ladies
And tried to peep down their walls.

Haven’t you seen that long stick
With which our burly young soldier
Thwacked the old man - doddering and unarmed?
We have buried that stick deep in a time-capsule
So that coming generations can have a look
And applaud our gallantry.

Now ask me where is that truth
That the old man was muttering about on the roads?
We have raised the volume of our radios
And ask for playing film songs ever so loudly
So that they drown the old man’s balderdash
In the entrancing might of their swaying tunes.

Half-witted children have flung down their schoolbags,
Tossed their slates and chalk away,
And are running and romping like mice
Behind this numskull magician;
And the woman whose child was killed day before
Has come out on the road
Unfurling her sari’s end like a flag.

Beware, this is your own country,
But stay where you stand.
No rebellion will be tolerated –
So that you cover distances and reach your destination;
We ourselves will jam the wheels of the trains.
Boats will be stalled in midstream,
Bullock-carts stopped beneath the roadside neem trees;
Trucks will be sent back from the turnings –
All traffic stopped where it is.
‘Coz, remember, the kingdom must march ahead,
And so it’s important that everything’s stopped
Right where it is!

Be not impatient.
You like jostling, processions and hullabaloo.
The Emperor, too, sympathizes with his people.
By his special orders, just to fulfil your fad,
His own court will come out in a procession
For you to have the Emperor’s darshan!

Those same trains will carry you for free.
The bullock-cart drivers will get double bakshish
The trucks will be festooned with buntings.
Water stalls will be set up at every corner,
And whoever asks for water
Will be served perfumed soft drinks.

Join this procession in hundreds of thousands,
And walk the road scraping your feet
So that the spattered blood of the old man
Is wiped off!
The Emperor does not relish bloodshed.

In the God’s Creation
And the Emperor’s domain,
By the order of…

Dharmveer Bharati’s Hindi poem ‘Munaadi’, written during the Bihar Movement (1974), rendered into English by Dr Mangal Murty
© Dr Mangal Murty.

They call him Jayprakash!

The lulled storm, the hushed gale,
The sea waves dashed on the shores,
But all their might echoes aloud
Even now in your robust roars.

The foot of the mountain shook awhile,
The sea waves ebbed from the shore.
But in the nations hands were bestowed
A brand new lusty sword.

Victory come to Bharat’s new sword
O soldier of a new country.
Victory, O new fire, O new flame.
Victory to the archer of the bull’s eye.

Welcome O trampler of the Time Serpent
Who ride on its fanned out hood.
Welcome O priest ready to jump
And burn In the holy fire as its food.

You hold the nation’s future in your fist
With a mighty roar in your throat,
Descending from the mind you hold in your hand
A world in which your dreams float.

O soldier give your salute to the future
As history heralds your coming.
The planets in the darkest sky burn out
With you the sky starts glowing.

The new effulgence formless and abstract
Has found its tangible form in you.
The fire that you swallowed and ingested fearlessly
Has turned into a glowing ember true.

The winds of our country get hot and hotter
By the countless breaths exhaled,
While the shadow skimming the Ganga waters
Sets it ablaze in its trail.

You are the diamond disgorged by revolution
Like a she-serpent at the mouth foaming,
Which the Mother gathered as a precious gift
As she went about searching and roaming.

You came back to your land as an icon
Of sacrifices made into the holy fire;
And now that name ‘Jayprakash’ rings loud
From the ardent unshakable youth’s choir.

They call him ‘Jayprakash’ or ‘Victory be to light’!
He is one who always defies death,
And leaps undaunted into the midst of fire
When he finds it dwindling in the youth’s breath.

Jayprakash is the one and only name
Whom no power can ever restrain
Holding aloft a burning beacon in darkness
Spreading light, like a hurricane!

Jayprakash is he who gives feet to the lame,
He is the one who gives voice to the dumb.
It is Jayprakash who embodies the hope
Of the country’s freedom soon to come.

Yea, Jayprakash is truly the name
Of turning time, and time’s tide;
Of the earth-shaking youth’s pledges
With their hurricane power and pride.

Jayprakash is the name, aye
Who is revered by the annals of history,
Seeking fervently to get his footprints
To record their enigma, their mystery.

The wise offer their obeisance to him
And the brave sacrifice their lives.
The singer sings him songs of praise
And to enkindle his voice he strives.

The poet’s talent, his fervent imagination
Glows and takes flight on its wings.
The tide of imagination roars and rolls
On the shores of humanity it sings.

O hear, hear, the future is calling
The saviour of the downtrodden many.
Jayprakash is the dreamer of dreams,
The maker of our country’s destiny.

Ramdhari Singh ‘Dinkar’s Hindi poem ‘Kahte Hain Usko Jayprakash’, recited by the poet himself in a public reception accorded to Shri Jayprakash Narayan in Patna Gandhi Maidan on April 21, 1946, after his release from imprisonment - rendered into English by Dr Mangal Murty.
© All text and photos:  Dr Mangal Murty

Jayprakash Narayan was a great political figure across the major span of the 20th century in India. He was born in a village (Sitab Diara) near Chapra in Bihar (Oct 11, 1902), and went for his higher studies to the U.S. in the earlty twenties. He formed a powerful dissident group of socialists in the Congress which dominated the Indian freedom struggle under Gandhi. His daring escape from the Hazaribag gaol in 1942 made him a hero among the youth of his times. He always shunned power politics and, later in life, the course of his political activities turned away from revolutionary socialism. During the sixties he devoted himself to the problem of Chambal decoits in central India, most of whom voluntarily surrendered under his persuasion. He also involved himself with Vinoba Bhave’s Bhoodan Movement in which land was voluntarily surrendered to be distributed among the landless. During the 1970s he returned to active politics by leading a people’s movement against corruption and nepotism in government. He called the movement a Total Revolution (Sampurna Kranti) which led to the declaration of Emergency by Indira Gandhi in 1975. JP- as he was popularly called – was put into prison, and released only after the lifting of the Emergency in 1977. He died in Patna on Oct 8, 1979.
JP, like many other political activists of his time, also wrote a number of books, besides many articles. Why Socialism? (1936), From Socialism to Sarvodaya (1957), Prison Diary (1976) are three of his well-known books. But besides his political writings he also wrote an article, and two short stories in Hindi which are published here in English translation for the first time ever.

Our Ancient Heritage
Jayprakash Narayan

Ordinarily, an Indian Hindu is totally unaware of their ancient heritage; not to speak of the illiterate ones. At the most, they can get some acquaintance with it from the village priests, who would generally not go beyond the Bhagwadgeeta, Ramayan and some other Puranas. The educated Indians are, of course, conversant with the Western heritage. But it is our Indian education system which is to blame for this, as even those who could study the Vedas or the Indian philosophy are hampered by their lack of knowledge of Sanskrit. They could do so through English, but few of them have the requisite proficiency in that language. As a result, most of us consider our ancient heritage as something extraordinarily inscrutable and ungraspable, which interferes with our mental freedom and development. Our Vedic knowledge and philosophy become like a long sprawling Himalayan range of mountains, impossible for us ever to scale. But unless this mental and intellectual hesitancy is overcome, we can neither have the freedom of thought, nor the mental courage that we need. If we have to raise new edifices of civilization on our old foundations, then we must give importance and strength to these foundations.
It is true that this heritage is both accessible and graspable for those among us who are scholars of Sanskrit. But Sanskrit is not the language of the common people today. What is needed is that this rich ancient heritage should be made available to people by being translated in their language, which, of course, must include Urdu. The situation as it exists today is that our Vedas and philosophy are more easily available in English and German languages than in our own modern Indian languages. If we take the situation in Hindi, such translation of our heritage literature is not for small publishers. Only major institutions can take up such massive work in hand. It is not a cause for worry that an American university – Harvard, for instance - should start publishing a series of Oriental books, and our (Benares) Hindu university should teach even Kautilya’s Arthashastra in English? It should well be expected that this university will make our old heritage available in Hindi, but, on the contrary, there also we find English reigning supreme. This empire of English is so expansive that if someone tries to address the students there in Hindi, a loud clamour rises for English from all corners! At least that has been my personal experience twice in the past. The reason that is put forward is that students from all parts of the country come to this university, and students from south India, in particular, find it difficult to understand Hindi. But how strange it sounds! If these same students of the south go to Paris or Berlin, they would try to learn French or German so as to understand and speak them in the shortest possible time, but while they stay in Kashi, they are not inspired to learn Hindi even to that extent. And why blame them only, when Mahmana Pandit Madan Mohan Malviyaji himself preferred to make English the medium of instruction in his holy ‘Hindu university’? *. Who can say whether the million-rupee temple proposed to be built there will keep the old Indian heritage alive for the posterity, rather than the systematic publication of the old heritage literature by the university, which has been spoken of above? A rapid revival of that old cultural heritage through its easy and popular availability among the common masses, seems to be of lesser importance to Mahamana Panditji than embodying the soul of that Hindu culture in a magnificent stone and mortar edifice.
My ideas is that we must establish an institution with the sole purpose of publishing this old heritage material – Vedic, non-Vedic, Buddhist, Jain, social, political, historical and literary – by getting them translated into Hindi; not with any commercial motive, but only as a cultural mission. It must be taken up by duly qualified scholars, and should not be intended in any way to propagate any particular ideology. The scholars must be experts of English, German, Chinese, Arabic, etc – but they should preferably all be Indian. There could be an advisory committee of foreign scholars, of course, who can render expert advice. The language of translation - Hindi, for instance - should be easy, from which common and popular Urdu words should not be excluded. An exhaustive plan should be prepared which must be completed within a time-frame. We must also remember that all such planning should not merely be the mind games of our business magnates. Finance will be essential, but satisfactory execution of such a plan by people of the business class is simply beyond imagination. Such work can only be done by noble-minded, tolerant and selfless scholars. Scholars tainted by jealousy and narrowness must also be kept away from such an enterprise.
[ Lahore Fort: 20 August, 1944 ]

*In an editorial footnote, it was pointed out that Hindi had been introduced as the medium of instruction at the Banaras Hindu University from the same year (1946), by Malviyaji himself, as it was also introduced in some other Indian universities like Nagpur and Lucknow during the same year.
The article was published in Himalaya (July, 1946), a literary monthly edited by Shivpujan Sahay and Rambriksha Benipuri and published from Pustak Bhandar, Patna.
The English translation of the article and the note has been done by Dr Mangal Murty
© Dr Mangal Murty
The Second Moon
Jayprakash Narayan

The tale is of olden times. There was a small kingdom in the foothills of the Himalayas. The ruling family of the warrior caste claimed descent from the Sun-god, though the subjects were hill tribesmen. Marriages in the royal family took place either within the clan or in the caste families situated in the lower stretches of the central parts of the land.
In those days of this tale, a very talented, learned, art-loving and brave king ruled the kingdom. He loved music and philosophy, and though he was also a good hunter, that remained for him, his lesser love. He never wielded arms for the expansion of his kingdom nor did he ever cede even a yard of his realm to the mightiest of his rivals. None could ever defeat him till his last breath. His success depended on three things. First, he never cast a greedy eye on any of his neighbouring kingdoms - big or small. Second, his ruling and fighting capacity was unmatched. And, third, his kingdom had invincible natural boundaries.
He occupied the highest place in the Council of Kings which he well-deserved due to his gallantry, efficiency, wisdom, statecraft and love of justice. His wise counsel was heard with reverence and rapt attention. In his own realm, he had the stature of kings of the order of Janak.
Chandrashekhar – that was his name. He would engage himself for his own pleasure in playing the ‘veena’ and painting exquisite pictures. In painting, he invented a unique style in which the lines he sketched were characterized by an extraordinary sharpness, delicacy and acuteness. His paintings had the razor-edge quality of a fine sword. He would choose only such objects for his paintings which had the inherent quality of thinness, tenuousness and subtlety. His lines would have the flexibility of a cane and the exquisiteness of the ‘shiris’ flower. The objects of his painting would be - the second moon of the bright fortnight, the delicate hues of the sunset, the flickering tongue of the serpent, or the lotus or chameli flowers, or a thin nose and sharp eyes looking sideways, with bent brows and slender lips, or the cute spiky breasts of a fresh maiden. He would just take a few lines and set them in such an angular arrangement as to hit the very heart of the viewer instantly.
The people in his kingdom were all of small stature, with flat little noses, and did not possess any charm in their looks which could attract him. Perhaps, his love for sharp, acute lines was inversely inspired by the dull blunt looks of his subjects.
One of his favourite pastimes was looking at the second moon of every bright fortnight. It was as if the bright second moon was a symbol of his own art, which would kindle in him new artistic inspirations and experiences. He loved this gaze at the second moon so ardently that on every second evening of the bright fortnight, ere the moon would appear in the sky, he would sit at the highest rampart of his palace, or oftentimes, at some mountain-top itself, and would stare blissfully at the rising moon till it would vanish. Often the queen would be by his side, or his companions would be there – poets, artists, ministers and courtiers. Never did the king miss the second moon of the bright fortnight till his last breath. Gradually it became the usual practice not only among the nobility in the kingdom, but also among its common people, to view the second moon of the bright fortnight.
The king died at the age of seventy. A flood of grief extended right up to the Kurukshetra. On the occasion of his son, Chandraketu’s coronation, even the great emperor of the Bharat dynasty was present.
He was fondly remembered by his subjects as ‘Rajarshi Chandrashekhar’ or Chandrashekhar, the ‘Sage-King’. Even thousands of years after his death, a grand fair would be held in his kingdom on that day of the second moon, and it would be considered a highly auspicious occasion to view the moon and make offerings to the priests right on that mountain top from where the king used to view the moon for his sheer pleasure. Womenfolk would specially observe the pious day as it was considered particularly holy, to bring them a son-bearing boon.
[ Lahore Fort, 1944 ]

The Hindi short tale ‘Dooj ka Chand’ published in Himalaya, a celebrated Hindi monthly edited by Shivpujan Sahay and Rambriksha Benipuri, published from Pustak Bhandar, Patna, in its November, 1946, issue, and transcreated into English by Dr Mangal Murty.
© Dr Mangal Murty

Tommy Peer
Jayprakash Narayan

At the outskirts of the town, lies a famous mausoleum of a peer (or Muslim saint). An annual fair is held there to mark his death anniversary which is attended by all and sundry – Hindus or Muslims, men and women, the children and the old alike. They would throw flowers and coins, and touch their foreheads on the grave in prayer, and then join the crowd in the fair. Even on normal days at least five or ten people must visit this mausoleum.
On the road leading from the town to the mausoleum, there lay, next to it, another small grave. The square table-like platform of this small grave suggested that it could be a child’s grave. Those who went to offer prayers at the peer’s mausoleum, would also stop for a while at this small grave, put some flowers on it, and would make some sacred wishes there, too. It was said that this was also a minor mausoleum of a ‘Tommy peer’ who was supposedly the disciple of the great peer. But nobody was very sure. Quite often it was said that the present keeper of the peer’s mausoleum used to forbid people to offer prayers at the other grave. But he would not explain why. Be that as it may, except for some of the present keeper’s own disciples or people close to him, nobody would listen to his admonitions. Or, rather, would hardly care to know why not. Thus it was quite usual that people visiting the peer’s mausoleum would stop at the Tommy peer’s also, put some flowers on it, burn a lamp and offer prayers, there, too.
One day, I also went for a stroll towards the mausoleum. The small grave next to it was just there. On way back, I met a few Muslims who were returning after offering prayers at the main peer’s mausoleum. I struck up a chat with them. They spoke highly of the great peer and the power of his piety. A minor poet among them also sung a couple of verses in his reverence. By then we had arrived at the smaller grave of Tommy peer. I expressed my curiosity, and was told that it belonged to a lesser peer who was one of the minor disciples of the great peer.
The name ‘Tommy’ struck me as rather curious and I put my queries to them. All the others, except the poet, were illiterate rustics. They knew nothing, and, may be, the poet had some idea, but he, too, could’nt shed any light on the subject. But his way of speaking clearly suggested his irreverence towards this other ‘Tommy’ peer; in fact, he would never even care to visit it, although he would often be at the main mausoleum for his love meets!
The name ‘Tommy’, and the seeming irreverence of the poet, fanned my curiosity still more. My enquiries in the next 3-4 weeks led to the discovery of a reality which seemed to me as ludicrous, as it was dismal. I wondered what absurdities our superstitions could lead us to?
Just near that small grave was an old brick and mortar bungalow – though rather in a shambles. The rotting roof lurched low, and the bricks of the boundary walls were fallen helter-skelter. The bungalow was in such ruin, may be, also because the town itself seemed to be in a marked decline. The market had been slowly dwindling, and towns like these seemed to be slowly decaying. Also, it was widely rumoured, that the bungalow was haunted by ghosts. The issueless owner had been dead for many years, and none dare enter it even as a tenant. The remnants of the owner’s family had long shifted to some other town.
When I went close to the grave, I found it situated within the boundary of that bungalow itself. The slightly lower boundary wall drawn around the grave had been constructed with the same bricks as of the bungalow’s boundary walls. Although, apparently, the grave seemed totally unrelated to the bungalow.
When I found out this peculiar relationship between the grave and the bungalow, I became curious to discover who its last tenant had been. Eventually, I also met the distant relatives of the owner who had shifted to another town. There I could only gather that about 70-80 years back, a white European lived there as a tenant who was involved in the opium business. From documents I discovered his name to be Robinson. Further queries revealed that he used to pay the rent through his clerk on every seventh or eighth day of the month. Ultimately, the name of the clerk could be deciphered from the several slips signed by him as one ‘Naurangi Lal’.
My curiosity aroused further, I tried now to find out where did this ‘Naurangi Lal’ belong to and whether any of his existing relatives could still be traced. However, nothing more could be discovered there, and I returned to my own town, where after persistent efforts, I met an old opium-seller, whose father had been in business partnership with that Robinson. With the cessation of opium farming, the opium trade had declined, but that old man still had a small licenced shop selling opium. He did not know Naurangi Lal, of course, but he knew of a big shot of the town – Hira Lal, whose ancestors had made a fortune in the opium trade.
I went straight to Hira Lal’s shop, and it was there that I learnt from the manager that Hira Lal was none other than Naurangi Lal’s own grandson. The manager’s age must have been around seventy. I thought, who better than this fellow would know the inside story of Naurangi Lal’s business affairs. In course of our rambling conversation I tried to learn something more about Robinson. The manager soon opened up – “Nauragi Lal was only the manager of Robinson sahib. And, to tell you the truth, the old Lalaji had always taken the sahib for an easy ride, and swindled him so thoroughly that the sahib couldn’t even have the wildest guess about the whole bluff. Lalaji piled up all the wealth in his house, while the sahib kept adoring him for his honesty till his last days.
When I enquired about the ruined bungalow, the manager smiled and said – “Spooks there? It’s all bullshit. The sahib’s own relatives had spread these stories, so that the property is ultimately reduced to ruins. As God willed, not only the sahib perished, but his relatives, too, turned into beggars. One who digs a ditch for others, himself falls into it, Babuji!”
Shadows of such suckers suddenly floated before my eyes, but I just kept mum, and only nodded my head in sombre agreement with his views. After a while I asked about ‘Tommy peer’ which made the manager burst into laughter. “ Don’t you know the real story which half the town surely knows?” Puzzled, I blurted out – “ For weeks I have been trying hard to find out the truth, but till now I haven’t found anyone except you who knows anything about it at all.”
The old man stared at me in wonder, and uttered with a sigh – “Yes, that’s true. The older folk are all gone. And the town itself is now in decay. But let me now soothe your itching heart a little. This ‘Tommy peer’ was, in fact, the name of the sahib’s pet dog; he had till then not been consecrated into a ‘peer’, but was just a cute little fearless dog of sound pedigree. Both the sahib and the memsahib loved him dearer than their lives – because being issueless, they used to pour all their love on him alone. Unfortunately, the dog fell ill and just passed away one day. You can well imagine the unfathomable grief of the couple. They buried him in one corner of their compound, and raised a small square table-like structure there to enshrine his memory. Every morning they would pick flowers from their garden to place on the grave.”
“O I see! So even today we and our Muslim brethren are offering prayers at a dog’s grave? I would sooner let the cat out of the bag, indeed!”
The old manager kept mum for a while, and then slowly said – “Forget about it, Babuji. How’d it matter? All those who put flowers on that grave and pray for divine boons, do they ever know that it is a dog’s grave? They must be thinking that it is some pious saint’s small mausoleum – which would only wash away their sins by their virtuous prayers.”
I had no answer to the old man’s plea. For a while I sat still, and then, thanking the old man profusely, and totally lost in my thoughts, I rose listlessly to go.
The Hindi short story “Tommy Peer” published in Himalaya, a celebrated literary Hindi monthly edited by Shivpujan Sahay and Rambriksha Benipuri, published from Pustak Bhandar, Patna, in its December, 1946, issue, and transcreated into English by Dr Mangal Murty.
© Dr Mangal Murty