The Horns

October 23, 2009 at 2:23 pm (Dominic Alapat, Poetry)

 

blared in the distance.

All numbers, colours,

shapes pouring

the sun’s gold

into the day.

The birds dived as usual;

dived, climbed.

The world gave birth

to its own history.

 

The buildings talked.

They stood singing

and singing.

 

You gave your soul away.

You became nothing.

 

–          Dominic Alapat

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Remembering Mulk Raj Anand

October 7, 2009 at 6:40 pm (Essay, Katie Sahiar Dubey)

Five years have passed since 28 September, the day Mulk Raj Anand 
 
left us. Recall is a strange thing. Although it was many years ago, 
 
I can still see him sitting on his divan at his home.
 
 
 
Clad in a churidar and tunic, legs neatly crossed, 
 
Uncle Mulk sat beneath the portrait of Leo Tolstoy, his hero.
 
The doors of 25 Cuffe Parade, his home, were always open. 
 
No one rang the bell. They just walked right in. Uncle Mulk never 
 
budged from his seat, but greeted visitors warmly with a strong 
 
handshake or a kiss on the forehead as in my case!
 
Artists, writers, students and all manner of people came to visit 
 
him.They sought his help and advice or sometimes just wanted to 
 
share a drink in the evening. 
 
Yet, just five years after his death, Mulk Raj Anand has been 
 
forgotten. My dear Uncle Mulk is gone and his name ground in the 
 
dust.
 
The old historic structure, in which he lived and fought so hard to 
 
save from its current fate, will soon be a lobby for a high rise 
 
building.Where every other country preserves the houses of its 
 
legendary figures along with all in it and offers them to the view 
 
of the world,we in India callously tear down historic structures 
 
but talk glibly of past glory. We will do nothing to honor our heroes,
people who have sacrificed the best part of their lives to give us the
freedom we enjoy today. 
 
 
 
It is painful to see the so-called intelligentsia that milled 
 
around Uncle Mulk at one time, melt away. Not one person has come 
 
forward or lifted a finger to honor the memory of a man who did so 
 
much for others.


 
I can remember the time when we were in Khandala over a weekend.
 
I was at the age what Uncle Mulk called ‘the foolish young’.
 
Over breakfast we got into an argument and he said to me: 
 
“You know dear, you young will never know the sacrifices that 
 
we have made for this country. You have never had to fight for 
or give up anything. You have received freedom on a platter 
and I can see it being thrown away once again to the West".

 
Mulk Raj Anand was born to Rai Sahib Subedar Lal Chand of the 17th 
 
Dogras Regiment in Peshawar, on 12 December, 1905.
 
 
 
He was a lovable, sensitive and demanding child, favored above 
 
his brothers by his parents.Mulk was nicknamed ‘Bully’ by his father,
 
who in fact had made up a little ditty with the word.
 
‘Bully, bully, bully my son.’ A nonsensical rhyme that he 
 
would croon with little Mulk in his arms. This ditty remained 
 
forever fixed in his mind, associated with the love of his father.
 
His childhood is re-counted in his well-known autobiographical book
 
Seven Summers.
 
 
 
Mulk saw many shades and hues of life at a tender age, as his 
 
father’s regiment moved from place to place. He studied at Khalsa
 
College, Amritsar; Punjab University, 1921-1924;University College, 
 
London, 1926-29 and Cambridge University 1929-30, 
 
where he obtained a PhD. 

 
He lectured at the League of Nations’ School of Intellectual 
 
Co-operation in Geneva, worked with the BBC in London and 
 
plunged headlong into the vibrant intellectual life of the city. 
 
Touchy and sensitive, he was grief-struck when his dearly loved 
 
aunt Devaki committed suicide after being ostracized by the Hindu 
 
community for her friendship with a Muslim.The episode roused a 
 
barrage of questions about the communal divide in our society.
 
 
 
Mulk vowed to fight the evils that distorted and destroyed the most
fundamental human values.
 
 
 
He chose to wield his pen as a sword.
 
 
The first assault was Untouchable – a day in the life of a scavenger in India.
 
Untouchable was written over a long weekend in 1930 and revised
 
several times.
 
 
 
Then, Mulk came to India and visited Mahatma Gandhi’s ashram to
 
show him the manuscript. He narrated the story thus:
 
"First, the Mahatma insisted on Indian clothes. ‘Why are you
 
dressed like a monkey? Go, put on some Indian clothes,’
 
he admonished.

 
Next, his novel was rejected right away as being unrealistic!
 
‘Have you ever heard an uneducated, rejected scavenger
 
who has been nowhere near a school mouth such big words?
 
Rewrite it and be natural,’ the Mahatma had said. 
 
Mulk returned to England and following Gandhi’s advice to the T,
 
rewrote the entire novel. It was a frontal attack on upper
 
caste hypocrisy.
 
 
Nineteen publishers rejected his book by September 1934.
 
"Do you know what it is like to be rejected time and again?"
 
he asked me, once as he recounted the story to my aunt Dolly and me,
 
one evening in Khandala.
 
 
British publishers were incredulous. ‘A novel about the poor,’
 
 they asked? "No one writes about the poor"they said.
 
"The poor are a joke and we ignore them." Mulk was devastated.
 
Dangerously close to a nervous breakdown,he began to contemplate
 
suicide. 
 
 
Then, fate intervened. A young British poet Blake Oswell took the
 
manuscript to Vishart Books. The editor liked the novel for its
 
‘sincerity and skill’, but wanted his decision endorsed with a
 
preface by E M Forster.
 
 
 
Forster had already read the novel while it did the rounds of
 
the publishers and willingly wrote the preface,
 
saying the book ‘has gone straight to the heart of the subject and
 
purified it.’
 
 
 
Untouchable hit the bookshops in May 1935 and Mulk Raj Anand was
 
launched as a novelist.
 
 
Incidentally, Forster received a larger payment for his preface
 
than the author for the novel. Forster, however, generously passed
 
on the money to the struggling young writer. 
 
Mulk Raj Anand never faltered. He practiced what he preached.
 
His robust humanism, love for the land, compassion and forthright
 
outlook remained unchanged and are strongly visible in all his works. 
 
Therefore, through the hundreds of pages of his novels, short
 
stories, essays and letters, we return to the ‘promise’.
 
The promise to uphold values at all costs. Values that enrich life,
 
that strengthen relationships, that spread peace and are finally
 
woven into the fabric of a strong, civilized and cultured nation. 
 
He wrote in 2001, on the occasion of 200 years of Maharaja Ranjit
 
Singh’s coronation: "Our recalls of the heritages of the past
are not from the wish to revive bygone splendors, which cannot come
back. We wish to show how the purposive will of men in certain
periods of our history have created, out of anarchy and disorder,
glories which heightened the quality of life and which may inspire
 our renascent efforts today.”
 
- Katie Sahiar Dubey

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