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Translating Memories and Dreams

Semeen Ali

By Amritlal Nagar . Translated from Hindi by Mrinal Pande 
HarperCollins, Delhi, 2014, pp. 378, Rs. 399.00

By Shailendra Singh . Translated from Dogri by Suman K.Sharma 
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2014, pp. 160, Rs. 251.00


The sky had never made us laugh so hard That it should now force us to weep in recompense. – Wajid Ali Shah Gathering the Ashes is a translation of Ghadar Ke Phool. The preface by the author is from the first imprint when it was published in Hindi in 1957–58. The initial reason for collecting material on the uprising of 1857 was for a novel but as the author started collecting the material he felt dissatisfied and decided to visit the actual site where the ghadar had taken place. Since so little had been written about the ghadar, the author decided to follow the orally transmitted memories and legends that still lived on. It was his travels to rural Awadh that have been compiled together and brought out in the form of this book. The chapters of the book are dedicated to every place that the writer had visited and collected his information from. There were moments when the writer had misgivings about this project—what if the evidence were all fables? What if the truth he discovered turned out to be the opposite of what he had always believed in? It was his faith that he would unearth some important facts that led him to move on with this project of gathering memories of the uprising that has been transmitted over the years. The book is not a dry account of historical incidents that happened during the uprising. It takes into account the narratives of the various people whom the writer meets and their versions—some of them made up or exaggerated, some telling fables simply to draw attention to themselves and the book is sprinkled with myths and fables which form an important part of the book. There are names of local celebrities that are automatically associated with any major happenings that have happened in that particular region. These myths and fables at times do cast a shadow on the historical facts but not for long. There are people who have been witness to the uprising and display an exuberant amount of energy simply to narrate their side of the story. There are some who view the writer and his enquiries with suspicion. Versions of history that come up have been unravelled through this book but which version can lay its claim on being the most believable one? The book opens up the question of faith in one’s religion ...

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