Thursday, June 9, 2016

एक ज़रा-सी कहानी, प्‍यार और नफ़रत की..

ज़ाहिर होने के परहेजों में छिपा, एक ज़रा से कमरे के ज़रा से जीवन में कहां से इतना प्‍यार खिंचा, घुसा आता है? वैसी मां के लिए जो अपनी निस्‍पृहता को डंके की चोट पर बजाती, अस्‍पताल और आत्‍महत्‍या की कोशिशों में हार के बीच की थोड़ी जगह में ममता और दुलार को पहचानने की लगभग खेलनुमा कोशिशें करती है, या क्‍या मालूम, शायद नहीं भी करती, फिर भी बच्‍चा मां की ओर कैसी तरलता की लकीरों पर सहमा, संभलता दौड़ा आता है.. क्‍या खोजने आता है?

"Em wrote. She wrote when she was with us. She wrote when no one was around. She wrote postcards, she wrote letters in books, she wrote in other people’s diaries, in telephone diaries, on the menus of takeaway places. Did she really want to be a teacher? I ask myself now. Or did she want to be a writer? In some of the letters she wrote Augustine, she was obviously flaunting her ability to write. She was demonstrating her charm, her effortlessness, her skill. She was suggesting to the world that she be taken seriously as a writer. No one did. I didn’t. I didn’t even see it. I thought she wrote as she broadcast, without much effort, without much thought. I have discovered since that such effortlessness is not easy to achieve and its weightlessness is in direct proportion to the effort put in. But unless she wrote drafts in secret and destroyed them, she seems to have achieved lift-off without effort. And then there was no reason for her to work at it, really. She had no audience other than us.

Why didn’t we see her as a writer? Her parents had an excuse; they needed money. Why didn’t we?

But then there’s equally this: How could we have seen it when Em had not seen it herself? And even if she had wanted to turn to writing in those years, would her condition have allowed her the space and concentration to do so?

Or was the writing a manifestation of the condition? It often seemed like it was, the letters growing larger and larger until there was barely a word or two on a page. If we had cared to, we could have mapped her mania against her font size."

चैन के भूगोल से छूटकर इस ज़रा से कमरे में नहीं आई थी एम, रंगून में पैदा हुई बच्‍ची को इतनी परतों में लिपटी बंबई की मां की शक्‍ल में रिसीव करता बच्‍चा औरत का अटक-अटककर कैसा पाठ करता?

"How to read those tears would always be a problem. For anyone else, they would be the outpourings of an eighteen-year-old forced out of a world she had grown to enjoy into a new one. But each time Em told me something about her life, I would examine it for signs, for early indications of the ‘nervous breakdown’. It was an obsession and might have something to do with my curiosity about her life. She was born in Rangoon, I knew, and had come to India on one of the ships that crossed the Bay of Bengal when the Japanese attacked Burma. Her father had walked, from Rangoon to Assam; legend has it that he had departed with a head of black hair and appeared again in Calcutta with a shock of white hair. Was this it? Was this the break? She didn’t seem to remember much about that crossing except how she used orange sweets to quell her nausea and began menstruating on board the ship. Was this just how people remembered things, in patches and images, or was this the repression of a painful memory?

Somewhere along the way their piano had been jettisoned to lighten the boat. When I first heard this, I thought it was a good place for things to start, for my mother’s breakdown to begin. I imagined the dabbassh as the piano hit the water with, perhaps, a wail of notes. I imagined my mother weeping for the piano as it began to bubble its way to the bottom of the Bay of Bengal. I cut between her tears, the white handkerchief handed to her by her impatient mother, the plume of dust rising from the seabed, the tear-soaked face, the first curious fish . . .

Then I heard another Roman Catholic Goan family speak of their piano. And another. And a fourth. Then I got it. The pianos were a metaphor, a tribal way of expressing loss. It did not matter if the pianos were real or had never existed. The story was their farewell to Rangoon. It expressed, also, their sense of being exiled home to Goa, to a poor present. The past could be reinvented. It could be rich with Burmese silk and coal mines and rubies and emeralds and jade. It could be filled with anything you wanted and a piano that was thrown overboard could express so much more than talking about how one lent money out at interest in the city. Or how one taught English to fill up the gaps of a schoolteacher’s salary.

The family had come to Goa and then to Bombay. They had lived in a single room that would later become a laundry before Em’s father found a job as a mathematics teacher. Was that it? The years of deprivation? Only, it didn’t seem to be much more deprivation than many young women of the time endured. Was it the sacrifice of her teaching job, then? Hundreds of women had sacrificed the same or more. Every fact, every bit of information had to be scanned. Sometimes it was exhausting to listen to her because she seemed to be throwing out clues faster than I could absorb them."

कितनी कहानियां जानेगा बच्‍चा और कितनी उसकी पकड़ से छूटी रहेंगी. मगर वह जो इतनी जिज्ञासाओं से भरा हुआ है, उन्‍हें छूटने देगा? क्‍यों इतनी जिज्ञासाओं से भरा है कि उससे भरने लगते हैं? मगर बच्‍चे का मन नहीं भरता. कभी.. 

"'Why do you want to know?’

I had no idea why. I still don’t. I like details – no, it’s more than that; I delight in details. I’m never sure where I am with people who may give me the large truths about themselves but not the everyday, even trivial details – the book a friend was reading in the airplane on the way to Chicago, the number of times someone sat for his degree examination, the names of the dogs a friend had when he lived with his grandfather. I’ve been told that I exhaust people with my curiosity. Once I was told that living with me would mean being trapped and slowly asphyxiated. Should I blame Em for this? Or would I have turned out just the way I am even if she had been whole and it had been possible to reach her?

एक दूसरा बच्‍चा है, मगर एम जब रंगून से विस्‍थापित होकर, असम और बंगाल के रास्‍ते गोवा और फिर बंबई पहुंची है, वह बच्‍चा अभी जन्‍मा नहीं है. विश्‍व-युद्ध का तांडव जिसकी एक यात्रा ने एम के पिता के बाल सफेद कर दिये, उस तांडव को इस बच्‍चे के मां-पिता (इसलिए भी कि वे हाशिये के यहूदी हैं, और जिस ज़मीन पर उनका खाना-जीना है, वह सैन्‍य रूप से जर्मनी से बंधा हुआ, 'कॉलाबरेटर' देश है) कुछ ज़्यादा ही स्‍तब्‍धभाव जी रहे हैं. ऑस्ट्रिया की छतरी का पूर्वी प्रदेश और उसकी पुरानी भौगोलिकता छिन्‍न-भिन्‍न हो गई है, देखते ही देखते के पिता चेक और मां हंगरी नागरिकता के पाले पड़ गई है, और भागा-भागी और पकड़ा-पकड़ी की ऐसी हवायें हैं कि रोज़ जीकर खुद से साबित करना पड़ता है कि हम अभी मरे नहीं. ख़ैर, पिता की मां और बहन पकड़ाई में अपनी जान गंवाते हैं, पिता, मां और एक नन्‍हीं बेटी है, सिर्फ़ किस्‍मत और संयोग है कि इस भंवर से जिंदा साबित बच निकले हैं. पैसे खिलाकर और आंकड़े बिठाकर परिवार किसी सूरत, पहले बाकी के लोग, बाद में 1952 के आस-पास पिता अमरीका पहुंचता है, और युद्ध के वर्षों के अपने कड़वे अनुभव से ताजिंदगी नहीं उबरता.

"My father never forgave the Russians for perpetuating the terror the Nazis had begun. He never forgave the French for being weak and corrupt and losing a war in six weeks. He never forgave the Poles for counting on the French instead of themselves. And above all, he never forgave the Germans. My father never forgave Europe for being monstrous, and he never forgave Europeans for how easily they forgave themselves. For him, Europe was a place of monsters, collaborators, and victims. He never returned to Hungary, or to Europe. He had no interest in going there. When I was in college I asked him why he refused to recognize that Europe had changed. His answer was simple: Europe will never change. It will just act as if nothing happened.


When I look at the European Union now, I think of my father’s words. It is an institution that acts as if nothing happened. I don’t mean by this that it doesn’t know what happened or isn’t revolted by it. I mean that the European Union—as an institution and idea—is utterly certain that all that is behind it, that it has willed its demons to depart and they have listened. I doubt that history is so easy to transcend. "

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