Preface to the novel: “Across the Bridge,”
History as lives, flows with time defined by the present in a perpetual state of transition. My view of this transition is expressed in one of my short poems:
Flow of Time:
Chased out by past
present in retreat
to battle future
Present novel, “Across the Bridge,” describes evolution of the countryside of India from the early days of the East India Company to recent times; the evolution defined by the lives lived in an interactive state with the political situations, national and international; and with it, my own evolution as well as of many others, flow of our lives, on the background of this countryside. The novel can be considered the ‘history’ of the countryside during this period told by a story-teller; the history taking shape with the flow of the stream of time passing through wild landscapes, often turbulent, bewildering at times, intriguing all the time. I with many others joined the journey about the time British departed from India, were ousted from, after which the stream of history flowed at a much faster pace through landscapes still intriguing but in different ways.
The author concurs with Picasso’s view: Art is a lie that tells the truth. To add to this, a good ‘lie,’ good art, tells the truth better than the factual truth could ever tell. A couple of lines of Rebecca West are in order here:
A copy of the universe is not what we need
one of the damned things is ample
The novel, in its essence is a work of fiction, not a ‘copy’ of the flow alluded to, not a historical narrative; it is a ‘lie,’ telling the ‘truth.’ How well I have been able to tell this ‘truth,’ can only be judged by the readers.
It has also been said that one can write best about what one knows best about, which is what is and was in one’s surroundings, one’s experiences as understood, interpreted, by oneself within the confines of one’s mind. With this in mind, the story is set in the region where I was born and raised and the characters and events are derived from my surroundings; derived, not copied. A work of art acquires its ability to tell the truth from what and how the ‘lie’ is created from the factual truth by the imagination of artist. I have used my imagination to construct a fiction out of my observations and interactions, experiences in general, in my attempt to tell the essential truth of the evolution of the Indian countryside. Characters in the novel emerge out of the people I knew and out of the stories my grandfather and others told me; emerge in their raw forms to take shape as sculptures at the cutting edge of a sculptor’s chisel; cutting edge of a story teller’s imagination. Events arise out of the stories playing out in my surroundings and the stories I heard; arise as historical narratives to take shape as paintings with the strokes of the brush of a painter; strokes of a fiction creator’s fancy. While the story plays itself out in a particular region in a particular setting that I know best about, I believe that it describes the flow not only of that region but of a typical region in the whole of the Indian countryside. The characters are derived from my surroundings but one may notice the intriguing fact that they present a snapshot of the entire mankind of all times, in certain ways. Come to think of it, our feelings, our reactions to similar situations, our decisions, are about the same all over, at all times; they are just modulated by our surroundings, by our cultural milieu.
The language spoken in the region is a local dialect of Hindi. I have attempted to translate the words and expressions, things talked about and the manner in which they were talked about without much effort at sanitization for I believe that art should reflect the society. Also the phrases, local verses, and other modes of expression used there are translated maintaining the meaning, rhythm and impact of the original to the extent I could. Also, some characters’ speech is accented or has some other unusual features like stuttering. I have attempted to maintain the impact of such features in their translation. The characters, in my view, could not be given life and the story would have been incomplete without maintaining such features. To what extent have I been successful can only be determined by the readers.
Some local words are kept as such since their meaning and impact could not be maintained in a translation. This is a common practice in the stories set in a milieu unfamiliar to us. I have attempted to provide sufficient information within the story to enable the reader to discern their meaning.
With this prelude, let me depart and leave you to enter that strange landscape at the bridge on the canal beside Kesari Nagar and witness a microcosm of a region, nation and even the World unfolding; leave you to stroll on the dirt roads of Kesari Nagar, wander in the sugarcane fields, smell freshly prepared gur, walk on the Black Mango Trail, march with Gandhi, witness violent birth of nations, emergence of a nation out of chaos and its march into the future; leave you to meet Marva with his Marvun, watch the dances of Ghanto, chat with the Wrestler Boy; leave you to witness the Battles of Kesari Nagar, fight Khatku’s battles and roll over on the Mall Road of Meerut Cantt together with him, indulge in romance in the Company Garden beside the Mall Road; leave you to meet the tawaifs and bankas of the exotic Lucknow; …. ; while I, with many others, let my present, chased out by that past, propel me to battle the future ….
Continued to "Bike-Bar Rider"