Gardens in my pocket

Shriniwas Joshi

IT’s just a coincidence that I received two books, both of which were written by litterateurs who stay at Batal village in Arki, Solan. These books were published in 2017. 

The first one is 'Himachali Parivesh Mein Solan Janpad' written by Amar Dev Angiras, published by Dayawanti Publications, Darlaghat. It costs Rs 350 only and the other one is 'Sahitya ke Aaswaad' by Dr Hemraj Kaushik, published by Avishkaar Publications, Delhi, and costs Rs 995.

I had earlier read books on Solan — 'Lok Sanskriti ke Aayine Mein', whose guest editor was Late Narendra Arun, and 'Hamara Solan', whose Chief Editor is Keshav Sharma. 

Angiras has given a different dimension to the book on Solan Janpad. It deals with the history and culture of the district. He has given a brief of various rivers, rivulets flowing through Solan, its hills, mountain ranges and various caves that exist in the district. He has given the history of various princely states that composed the present district of Solan. Baghaat, of course, comes first whose headquarters was Solan, which is the corrupted form of Goddess Shoolini. He refers to an old folk song in which Solani, derived from Shoolini, was used — "Solani de bajaaro de be paya papanio dera be…O Meri Nimooye". He says the British changed the name of the town to Solan. The other princely states whose history is given in the book are Baaghal (Arki), Keonthal, Kunihar, Mehlog (Chandi), Kuthar, Beja, Mangal and Hindoor (Nalagarh). An interesting piece in the book is the method of solving court cases in Baaghal state. The hi-fi cases were docketed in a register. The other court cases were decided by the wazir following the panchayat method of deciding cases. The cases that could not be decided were solved by taking oath in different ways. First being 'Dib Ghara Gola', in which two flour balls, one containing a silver ring and the other a golden ring, were dipped in a pitcher filled with water. The person was asked to pick one of the two. If he picked the one containing the silver ring, he was considered to be the right person and the verdict was announced in his favour. The other two were 'Dib Lohe ki Dali' and 'Dib Karaahi' and both these were like an 'agni-pariksha' (ordeal by fire). A burning iron ball or the boiled oil decided who was correct. Taking oath with cow's tail in hand and Ganga-jal utensil on head were other methods. If I ignore a few erroneous historical facts, the book gives ample information, especially of Baaghal princely state. 

Dr Hemraj Kaushik is a walking encyclopaedia on literature. He has 36 chapters in his book.

It is by testing a few grains of rice that one comes to know that it is ready to be served; similarly a chapter is enough to know the readability of a book. I chose the chapter 'Parvatanchal ki dushvarion ki sangharsh gaatha' (the struggle of the burdensomeness of mountain hem) for discussion here. Hemraj has transmitted the conditions prevailing in pahaar by picking up a book 'Katha mein Pahaar', an anthology of 39 stories written by different writers of Uttarakhand and Himachal and edited by Shreeniwas Shreekant. 

The first division is named 'Anokhi Parvatyaen' (extraordinary hill-women) and contains nine stories that raise questions on conventional lifestyle of pahaari women, their faith, racial hypocrisy they face, their role in joint families, disgraced women, situation in polyandrous family, their feelings, social status and morality. The second division 'Pahaar ke Charitra Naayak' (character heroes) describes men living in pahaari villages and their personal and social events weave the stories. The third division is on 'Utpirit Gramya' (tormented village-women) which describes women who get entangled in the web of adulterers because of their backwardness, lack of education and innocence. ‘Jatidansh ke Waris’ (inheritors of racial-sting) is the next division and as the name suggests, it has stories based on caste system prevalent in pahaar. 'Dhoosar Gaon ki Niyati' (Fate of the Dusty Villages) shows the condition of those left behind in the hill villages after the heads of the families go to cities to earn their bread. 'Janjaatiya Samaj' (tribal society) division has only three stories, two of these are from Himachali pens. 'Pravasion ka Parvatvaas' (emigrants in pahaar) division contains stories that show exemplary human behaviour in the present day materialistic world.

The chapter brings forth the difficulties or comforts that the hill women and men face in the hills and what a way to describe the good or bad conditions of pahaaris through the stories. All litterateurs should have this book on their shelves!

Tailpiece

A book is like a garden carried in the pocket —  Arabian phrase