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Cameos of Pre-partition Punjab

R.P. Naik

By Krishna Sobti
Rajkamal Prakashan, New Delhi, 1979, pp. 424, Rs. 40.00

VOLUME IV NUMBER 1 July/August 1979

‘Not by pen, nor by author, nor indeed by technique, but life by its own motion went on spreading, page after page, on paper, as if there had sprung up a mighty living tree on earth’, says Krishna Sobti about her novel, Zindagi Nama Ek ­Zinda Rookh. It is nothing short of a tour de force, a fascinating kaleidoscope of the life and times of pre-partition Punjab. Here are village folk in their own environment; of the earth, earthy; and simple, it also shrewd, in their own way. These are men and women full of life, the people who guarded the frontiers of India and bore the onslaught of succe­eding invaders and yet nothing daunted, continued the even tenor of their life, growing crops, milking cows, raising children. The novel begins with the open of the 20th century and depicts the life of the Indian peasant in the Punjab of those days. They are tillers of the soil and should be the true owners of the land and yet, it is the feudal landlord who reaps the benefit of their toil. They are, however, reconciled to their lot for they have been told that it has been so ordain­ed. It is a story of the rich and the poor, their joys and sorrows, hopes and aspira­tions, triumphs and tribulations. The author with an unerring touch plumbs the undercurrents of emotions, through commonplace events of life, like birth and death, marriage and divorce, love and hate. There are people all over, in homes, fields and foot-paths, near the village well, by the side of the river, in Melas, Tamashas, schools and courts; in fact, everywhere where men can be. To deal with them, the novelist has focussed the lens on the intra-personal relation­ship of the villagers, bringing out their strength, vigour and honesty. The novel is in the genre of an Aanchalik Upanyaas—a regional novel, in the tradition of Balchanna of Nagarjun and Mailaa Aanchal and Parli-ek pari­katthaa of Renu. There is no hero, no villain, no plot and almost no characteri­zation. On the other hand, the back­ground itself becomes the main concern of the novelist, the aim being to create an atmosphere and to evoke a mood, so as to recapture the life of the people in a particular region, in a given period of time, with swift, sharp and deft strokes ...

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