Monday, December 08, 2008

PooranMashi (Full Moon Night)

Jaswant Singh Kanwal is a prominent Punjabi author. Standing literally and figuratively tall among all the Punjabi writers, he has his own niche in the minds of the readers of Punjabi literature. As a teenager, I was, like all Punjabi children my age, initiated into reading the works of Nanak Singh-the father of Punjabi novel. Like Prem Chand, he talked about poverty and idealism and appealed to an impressionable mind like mine. Kanwal, according to popular notions, was a leftist and in those days, I hated everything leftist. So, I didn’t really read him. Later, I landed upon his historical fiction Toshali di Hanso, and other novels like Civil Lines, Sacch Nu Faansi and now Pooranmashi. I admit I had been missing out on a lot of my own heritage by being prejudiced about him. I am going to make up for that and will soon be trying to find all his works and read them.

Pooranmashi (Aarsi Publishers, ND, Rs.125/-) has interesting details of Punjabi culture, rustic life, communication, lifestyle, farming habits and mental makeup of people in general. In a romantic plot, Kanwal picturises the day-to-day life of Roop(its protagonist) and Channo (his ladylove) who never get to marry due to a foolish misunderstanding. They meet a couple of times in the course of years even after their respective marriages. Later Channo is widowed. Roop’s wife is in the know of the things between Roop and Channo. The three of them arrange to marry Channo’s daughter to Roop’s son. The romance between Roop and Channo thus reaches its pinnacle. Shamo, another female character does not get married to her love Dyala who dies lonely and addicted to drugs. And then there is Bachno, a woman married to a much older man. She is constantly looking for pleasure outside marriage and as a result plays havoc with the romantic lead of the novel. Interspersed with observations from the novelist himself, the novel gives an empathetic picture of poverty, needs, and compulsions alongside the rich heritage that it reflects in descriptions of marriages and marriage parties travelling by horses and bullock carts to another village and staying overnight.

I loved the Punjabi folk couplets at the beginning and ending of almost each chapter of the novel. These songs, these bolies, these tappas, coming from the endless treasure house of Punjabi folk add a flavor to it. One thing that I felt in the reading of the novel was, the generation of today will probably not relate to the feelings and emotions of the characters. That first blush, that unwilling check on your own communication with your loved one, or the one you marry, the little chaa malhar, the little nok jhok of a rustic (pendu) life-all is missing from today’s life.

The characters Kanwal has created in this novel are highly idealistic. Roop tries to convince Channo to elope with him, she doesn’t agree. Instead chooses a life of torture for her own self. Like many Punjabi wives of her day, she falls in love with her man too late. He is an army man who dies on the front soon after his wife has accepted him mentally. Roop’s wife is totally cool about his past. At least that makes her own life easy. It was kind of totally undigestible to me. But then, a writer, like the Almighty, has the licence to play with his characters as he might please.

In all, it was a great read.

28 comments:

Jagjit said...

Sigh. Last Punjabi novel I read was Pavittar Paapi - three years back. And I loved every sentence of it.

And now, you made me want to read one more. I don't know how would I find it in Bombay, I would try to find it somewhere. I can't believe that it's been three years that I read something in Punjabi - my mother tongue.

You always succeed in making me thoughtful.

Gazal said...

so true...

the simple pleasures of rustic life have vanished...almost !!!

Ritu said...

Wish I knew enough Punjabi to read these gems - sigh! Miss out on my own culture this way.

Gazal said...

just wanted to add that marasim is one of my favourites...

Rajindarjit said...

Your posting has created a feeling to read Panjabi Literature- fiction etc. among your blog-bhaichara. A healthy contribution it is.Kanwal's novel- 'Jera' is also worth appreciation.
Go for it.

Dhindsa

zirelda said...

I wonder if I can find it on Amazon.

It sounds like a good story and you are so right. There is a lot missing in our lives today as we completely bypass the parts that made courting so interesting.

Pinku said...

hey!!! that sounds like a nice story ....though I do wish you could have pointed out how the author's left inclination affected the story...or did it at all?

Jasdeep said...

I tried to read kanwal's "raat baaki hai". It had quite a romantic beginning. But could not complete it. I felt like watching a typical bollywood movie.
But with your review of Poornmashi , I feel like reading it.

But i am huge fan of Gurdiaal Singh , "Marhi da Deeva" , 'Anhoe' and 'Parsa' all of them are milestones.

Kanwal creates the mythical environment like a Bolloywood movie. (I might be wrong on this as i have not read him extensively)

But Gurdial Singh tells the story
in a realistic set up.


P.S.- I am a leftist please don't hate me :)

Mama - Mia said...

my dasd used to always say that the advantage of knowing many languages is the ability to relish literature in that many more languages! :)

even i read a lot of Marathi authors and am glad that i had a chance to know life before my times!

happy resdiscovering! :)

cheers!

abha

Onthewingsofadream said...

its a pity that I haven't read any work by this great writer and for that matter have read very litle of punjabi literature > nevethless, I love punjabi culture and language ...and am a great fan of Amrita pritam ...

thanks for a glimse of punjab ..:-)

DeeplyDip said...

the book sounds interesting but sadly I cannot read/write punjabi...it is so true that maybe today's generation won't be able to identify much with the characters, but there are some feelings which remain the same no matter what time, generation or location one is in...and love and losing in love are some such emotions everyone shares...enjoyed reading the complicated love storeis the characters have in the book...no one is getting what/who they really want!

Mampi said...

Jagjit-I plan to read every single work by Punjabi writers, there is not much anyway.

Gazal-Strangely, I could smell my village in the story. Marasim, indeed is wonderful.

Ritu-Wish there were a translation that I could suggest.

Mama-I would read the rest of Kanwal this winter, hopefully.

Z-I am not sure if there is an English translation available. It would have addressed many of your queries that we have been talking about.

Pinku-P can read it out to you. Kanwal's being leftist has nothing to do with the story, except for the extreme form of idealism which was present in the writers of his times anyway.

Jasdeep-DO you think I hate you? Kanwal and Gurdial Singh move at entirely different planes. Gurdial Singh is my favorite too. But I feel that I owe it to myself to also read those whom I didnt like.

Abha- I looooove reading Punjabi. I prefer it to English anyday. Please share your knowledge of Marathi works of literature on your blog.

Onthewingsofadream-Phew, it was so hard not to put spaces between the words.
Hopefully I will put some more posts on my readings in Punjabi literature here. But If you can read the Gurmukhi script, you should try to find some good works in your local library. THey are the best way to know about the culture of Punjab.

DeeplyDip-Somehow I still get goosebumps reading such stuff. :)

Iya said...

there is something for you on my blog, go check it...
will comment on this one later

sukumbho said...

Thanx a lot for introducing us to one of the Punjabi classics by Kanwal.

But cudnt understand this: "Kanwal, according to popular notions, was a leftist and in those days, I hated everything leftist. So, I didn’t really read him." Popular notion? Hated everything leftist! So didnt read it! I think a bit more explaining, if you may, would be nice for the sake of your readers.

Incidentally, have you read "Paash" and Surjit Pattar?

churningthewordmill.wordpress.com said...

got something on my blog for u!!
mandira

Mithe said...

Its been a lot of time I have read any Punjabi novel-but after this description, you have actually convinced me to read one. Will surely read it:)

thearmyguyspeaks said...

ohh... I dunno... are these books available in hindi script too...since i am from jammu.. i speak dogri..which is quite similar to punjabi...but i dunno how to read gurmukhi..

wonderful job u are doing by introducing us to gems of punjabi literature !

Indian Home Maker said...

Dramatic twists in a sweet and romantic story, specially planning to get the children to marry :)

Manasa said...

Loved the gist of the story. Is it available in English?

Mampi said...

Iya-Thank you so much. Acceptance speech is on your blog, hehe, HOpe u liked it.

Sukumbho-Yes, I should have known that you Bengalis would grill me on that comment. First Pinku, then you. As Sri so aptly says, "left to a bengali is like aloo ka parantha to mampi" Well, yes I have read a bit of Paash, and the whole of Surjit Patar. THey are leftist too, but they make more sense. Somehow I cannot digest too much of idealism, the early writers had that and I didnt like to read them. Of course it is a personal view, immature possibly, but it is the truth laid bare.

Mandy-Thank you so much.
Applogolies, hehehehe, will never forget the sweet golies....

Mithe-Guess, it is quite old, you can even find it in our library.

TheArmyGuy-I am sure it must be available in Devnagri script; Yes Dogri and Punjabi are very close. And I like Dogri for its sweetness.
which script do you use for Dogri?

It makes me happy to welcome you here. Hope to see you here more often. It is so encouraging.

IHM-Twist sey duniya kayam hai...

Manasa-I am not sure if it is.

MAN IN PAINTING said...

It was really good,packed with information and yet a very good review..are there any translations available?

mip

i have a habit of repairing the post again and again..may be you visit was on one such occasion..

MAN IN PAINTING said...

@mampi..
i posted the comment with some spelling errors..
sorry

Himalayan adventurer said...

Thanks for this post introducing some Punjabi writers. I have read very little work of Punjabi writers; only the usual famous ones like Kartar Singh Duggal, Rajender Singh Bedi and Amrita Pritam. Their work is available in Hindi. Earlier, Hind Pocket Books would regularly bring out Hindi translations of famous writers from India and abroad. I am not sure if this publishing house exists now. Raj Kamal Prakashan, Delhi still brings out Hindi translations and work of Hindi writers. I think I shall try to read this novel.

Devaki said...

Do you know if there is an English translation?

Sidhusaaheb said...

Sounds interesting...

:)

Mampi said...

MIP-We all repair our creations. Thats a good habit.

Himalayan Adventurer-I guess the writers with some Delhi connection got published in Hindi also; Kanwal remained in Punjab, hence he didnt.

Devaki-So far, I have not come across any translation of this text.

SS-It is indeed interesting.

Manish Raj said...

Thanks for sharing Mampi. Indeed our land has such great writers..

Usha Pisharody said...

That was a good intro' and narrative of the book. I remember studying Prem Chand's stories, in school, as part of the Hindi course, but I cannot recall this writer.

The story itself was bitter-sweet, and as you say, not many of the young ones today might connect to the nuances and the glimpses into the lives of the rustic and simple folk of those days. Still it must be a treasure house of such detail, and reading into it gives one such a lot of insight into the times of yore!