Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Topi Shukla

I read this brilliant book sometime back (about 4-5 months back). Might have read another 4-5 books after it but have been profoundly affected by it. I wanted to write about it just after reading it. But got distracted by the wedding etc :)

And today, I was talking to a friend of mine who is from Lucknow. And suddenly, Topi from Rahi Masoom Raza’s book quietly slipped into my consciousness. He was there and I could not ignore him. Iffan was also there of course. How can one be without the other? It is not possible to think of just the one of them. They are like the yin and the yang. Not really, they are more like two shades that go really well with each other. So much that you forget for a few seconds that other shades exist. And it is ok, because you are not missing the other shades really.

Topi Shukla, is a hindi-urdu-khichdi novella from the 50-60s. Though the context is post-partition India but the flavor is universal. It tells the story of people wherever they might be. It tells the story of who people have suffered separation/ loss due to events much larger than themselves. It tells the story of those who have loved in vain. It tells the story of innocence and realism. It tells your story and it tells mine. It does all that a good book is supposed to do.

I read the Khichdi version. Two reasons for doing so. I could just borrow the hindi version from a friend (who is coincidentally named topi as well) and throw return it if I did not like it. The other one being that I knew the language and there was no reason to read it in a foreign language. I would strongly urge you to pick up the hindi version if you can understand (not just read) the language.

Set in Aligarh, it is the story of two friends and the people around them. Raza deftly tells the tale of people who become hapless victims of history. The small ways in which partition affects conversations, silence, love, hate, friendship, daily actions, language, food and everything that might and might not matter have been superlatively captured. It did not want the book to end. In a long long time, this was a book that made me fear for its end. May be because the characters felt so close… may be because the characters felt so real…

You can read a sample of the book at Google Books

You can buy it at Rajkamal Prakashan. You can also buy the book at Rediff.com. Both Hindi and English editions available. You have the option of buying the book from Amazon/ Barnes and Nobles etc as well. But you cannot get the hindi version there.


PHarMA InT3lli6ence said...

I just happened to stumble upon your blog while searching for topi shukla, actually searching for Rahi Masoom Raza.

Just one word of uninvited suggestion(how funny tht all of them ae uninvited..), Try Adha Gaon by Rahi. If you like topi, you would love adha gaon(if you have not already read it)

Though RMR uses heavy bhojpuri and a predominantly shia muslim background, i m sure you'd love the spirit all the same

Prateek said...

Hi Pharma,

I have been planning to read up Adha gaon. Have not been able to do so.

Frankly, i would not have the background to appreciate the nuances on the Shia muslim streak that you have mentioned. But I love his style of writing - Dark and Profound!