Smoldering Coals and Other Stories…

Angarey- a collection of Urdu stories ( 9 stories and 1 play) by four young writers , back in 1932, literally created sparks. Banned in 1933 by the Government of the United Provinces, the books published by Nizami Press, Lucknow was burnt in the Office of the City Magistrate, charged with containing matter punishable under Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

The authors were a briliant, irreverent bunch, highly erudite and burning with rebellious optimism. Sajjad Zahir, whose taste for high thoughts were nourished at Oxford, Ahmad Ali, who taught English in China, and whose novel was praised by none other than E.M.Forster himself, Dr.Rashid Jahan, medico, all brilliance and passion, who was one of the founders of the Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) and of the Progressive Writers Association (PWA), Mahmuduzzafar,  who studied Economics at Oxford and wrote his story Masculinity (Jawanmardi) originally in English !

Almost 83 years later, the stories still make eminent sense, as they laugh at the hypocrisy of patriarchy, religion, rage at the objectification and exploitation of women…In the story “Heaven Assured”, Sajjad Zahir creates such a beautiful farce of mindless religious following, forgetting the beauty of living.  The character of Maulana aka Moulvi Doud Sahib who dreams of stunning Houris in his assured Heaven, but ignores his beautiful, young wife is as pertinent today , as 83 years before. The one act play, ‘Behind the Veil,” by Dr. Rashid Jahan points at the fate of many women even today, in different parts of the world, doomed to be just instruments of procreation- religion regardless. Mohammadi Begum epitomises the horror of a life that is under dictates of an unquestioned power structure.

This translation, published by Rupa in 2013, and translated from Urdu by Vibha Chauhan and Khalid Alvi, Professors at Zakir Husain Delhi College is a must read for anyone who was ever curious about “Urdu mein Angaray ki ravayat!” (The foreword is by Sajjad Zahir’s daughter and eminent theatre personality and writer Nadira Babbar)


Dame Snap, runs a school, which asks ridiculous questions.

” Why is a black board?”


The questions are non sense, so the answers are non sense too!

That was my little girl, informing me wisely, from her Magic Faraway series.

That made me pause:

Very relevant.

In the book ‘Game of Life,’ by Florence Scovel Shinn, she says we literally create sense and non sense into our lives.

There was a man who feared certain disease, that was rare and very difficult to get. But he pictured it continually, and read about it until it manisfested in his body and he conked off.

Why was black board?

Don’t Snap!

Just beware (Be-aware) of the Scissors of the Mind- the pictures you focus on daily.


In Vikram Seth’s ‘Rivered Earth’, he does beautiful calligraphy of Surdas’s Braj bhasha verse:

Little Krishna Wants The Moon

” Maiya, mei to chand khilauna laiho..”

My knowledge of Hindi and its fantastic dialects, including Braj Bhasha, is very limited, but with a sparkling joy I discover that with a little help from translators, I can read and understand the original lilting rhymes!

“Surdas hai kutil baraty geet sumangal gaiho!”

Not copying Seth’s learned translation, trying a bit of free wheeling myself (That is the coolest God of all ages- Krishna! He  will not mind, hehe!)

Here goes:

Ma, please get me that moon to play with!

Until you get me that, I am not going to play in your lap!

Won’t drink Surabhy’s milk nor comb my tresses!

Will be  Baba Nanda’s boy and not yours anymore!

Hey, come here my son, I won’t tell even Balram!

Yashoda laughs,  I will get you a pretty bride, come my son!

Really? Oh please do arrange my marriage now!

Surdas is  going to be a part of the procession

Am going to sing the wedding song!


Naseeruddin Shah’s memoir, ‘And then one day,’ is a fat book. It looks slightly formidable but is actually quite a breezy read. Swear words and irreverence impishly poke up every where.

Yeah, what hooked me was the first sentence..”I was born in Barabanky..”.

His mother’s photograph made me sigh.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s