There are so many things I want to do today. But where is the time to do anything now?
This destructible waystation is not a pleasure house
He who stays, stays for a night and then must move out
I am a guest now in this world that, by the grace of god, I built and adorned in this house. The echoes of life ring out from the banks of time that ramify on either side. The large and small bells of Gaurishankar’s temple are ringing–like a few pearls of boondi given as prasad, just a few days more, or maybe just a few hours.
He who comes must also go. Birth and death. Keep being born, children! I know that even when I am gone from here I will continue to wander in the bylanes of Delhi. Through the eyes of my grandsons, I will continue to keep watch on my favourite pushcarts. The clamour of the citizens of Delhi is like a bouquet and I will continue to breathe in its fragrance.
Jamun, shehtoot, khirni, chaat-pakodi, imarti, jalebi, bedmi kachaudi, rabdi, khurchan. Ah! Ghantewala’s piste ki lauj! Strolling towards the Ghantaghar on a winter afternoon, ambling to Chandni Chowk on a summer evening, watching the clouds preen above the Jama Masjid in the monsoon–what beautiful sights are woven into this city!
The spirit of this city – abutting the Jamuna, bound to it – who knows who all it has called out to over the centuries, who all it has drawn to itself and nurtured with its soil and water like its own child. God, never let Delhi become desolate! Let it always flourish in its word and its deed! Let the hearts and the eyes of Delhiwalas always stroll through its lanes!
Which Delhiwala would not want to find himself in the crowd thronging Dariba! Who doesn’t yearn for Rasiya Benarsi’s paan that seems to dissolve in the mouth! Live long, my friend, live long! Let the paandaan in every home remain fresh and moist along with you, and let the price of your paans keep increasing! Where am I going leaving this enticing Delhi behind, leaving this flavour, this love of life, behind?
Why does it feel like the lights are dimmer? Have they dimmed?
Master Amichand, that angel-like man, used to say something.
I can’t remember what.
Those mushairas at Mission College that passed so quickly...that line...let the garden of the world flourish in a hundred colours.
Now I take leave – from you, from myself, and from this world where I lived for so many years. Khuda hafiz.
Translation of a fragment from Dil-o-Danish, Krishna Sobti, Rajkamal Prakashan, by Amitabha Bagchi.
I remember exactly where I was sitting, what time of day it was and what the light in the room was like when I first read the last page of Krishna Sobti’s Dil-o-Danish. The back of my neck tingled, a sensation that was to recur each of the many, many times I reread that page.
I like to think that everyone who has read this fragment has felt the same as I have. I like to think that everyone who is from Delhi certainly has, and so has everyone who is not from Delhi. After all, we are all from somewhere, even if we were not born in that place, even if that place called out to us at some point in our lives, drew us to it and nurtured us with its soil and water, the way Delhi did to Krishna Sobti.
I once had the good fortune of mentioning this fragment to Krishna Sobti, of telling her how much it moved me. She told me the following story: “I had sent the manuscript to the publisher when I woke up one morning and thought, Vakil saheb hain to vasihat bhi honi chahiye (if he (Kripanarayan) is a lawyer then there must also be a will).”
That’s when she sat down to write the last chapter of Dil-o-Danish, entitled “Lal bahi ke pannon se” (From the pages of the red ledger), of which the fragment translated above is the tailpiece. Whenever I remember this story I can’t help but think of Ghalib’s famous she’er “Aate hain ghaib si ye mazameen khayaal mein / Ghalib sareer-e-khaama nava-e-sarosh hai” (These thoughts appear mysteriously in my mind / Ghalib the sound of pen scratching paper is the song of angels).
Last year when Krishna Sobti passed away, I was far from my copy of Dil-o-Danish so this year I am fulfilling the urge my body felt when the news of her passing came. I am rereading that magical passage in the most intimate way I can think of, by translating it into the language that is most intimate to me.