Habu Ki Aag And Other Stories by Gulzar: A review

Thirty-third book reviewed as part of the 130 Challenge.

This one I got from Utkarsha Kotian. It’s a really rare book, but Utkarsha is my go-to person for rare books. So, after having received the book from her, I promptly got down to reading it. That wasn’t so hard considering that there were only 4 storied to read. But each of those stories was really simple and enchanting.

Gulzar is a highly accomplished lyricist and scriptwriter and I’ve always wanted to read him. This was my first time and I was lucky to find an English collection because he usually writes in Urdu or Hindi. I got exactly what I had expected – simple narrative, diverse backgrounds taken from everyday experiences in India and a story woven around an incredibly rich imagination.

The stories almost told themselves and flowed effortlessly. It was more like reading a small fable; no pretense about it, no philosophical overtures, just the stories. Beautiful stories.

However, I did feel that there was a slight disconnect due to the stories being in English. The names and places are so Indian and so Urdu. That it is difficult to imagine them in an English context. Gulzar perhaps understood that, because he has retained some terms and some phrases in their original language to have the desired effect.

I don’t think one should hesitate at all to pick this book. It’s a small and wonderful read and perhaps an introduction to the simple world of Gulzar.

Like I said, the language is simple. So, there aren’t many quotes in the book that dazzle. But here is one that I found really nice. It talks about the abstract nature of fire in the simplest way possible –

Fire is not a plaything. It bites and claws and tears the flesh. Fire is a beast and it is rather strange that at the same time, it is a bird and an insect too; an insect like a wasp, small and yellow, which leaves a blister when it stings.

Fire is not a plaything. It bites and claws and tears the flesh. Fire is a beast and it is rather strange that at the same time, it is a bird and an insect too; an insect like a wasp, small and yellow, which leaves a blister when it stings.

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