DUGGAL, KARTAR SINGH
Duggal, Kartar Singh (1917 – ) is one of the most prolific fictionist in Punjabi. He was born at Pothohar town in Dhamiyal (now in Pakistan). He is well-acqainted with the life of rural Punjab, particularly before the Partition which left ever-oozing scars on the psyche of the brave and hard working people of Punjab. After the Partition, he has been living in Jalandher, Delhi and Hyderabad and holding prominent positions in the government and is therefore well-equipped to paint in detail the urban life and its changing scenario. We find several strands in his stories are marked by a consumate artistry and psychological insight.
He excels in the portrayal of libido, using Freudian phrases in a poetic manner. Sex and nudity were the subject-matters of his early writings. Saver sar (At the dawn, 1941), Pipal Patian (Leaves of the pipal, 1942) and Kudi kahani kardi gai (She continued her tale, 1943) are his collections of short stories of the first phase. Dangar (The Animal, 1947), Ag khan wale (The fire eaters, 1948), and Nawan ghar (The new house, 1950) depict the barbarity of the Partition days. Phul torna manah hai (Plucking of flower is prohibited, 1952), Karamat (The miracle, 1957), Pare maire (In yonder fields, 1961), 1k chhit chanan di (A sprinkling of light, 1963) show the maturity of his art. Majah nahin moya (Majah is not dead, 1970), Sonar Bangia (Bengal, the beautiful, 1972), Dhoya hoy a buha (1976), Ikraran wall raat (1979), Tarkalen vele (1983), and Hansa admi (1986) are his recent collections of short stories.
He was honoured as the best litterateur by Punjab Government (1962), and the Sahitya Akademi awarded its annual prize on the collection of his short stories, Ik chhit chanan di in 1965. In 1981 he was honoured with the Soviet Land Nehru award. His characters are generally sex starved and abnormal souls. He portrays his feminine characters vividly but delicately, delving deep into the very dark recesses of their minds. Like Sadat Hassan Manto and D.H. Lawrence, breaking all the barriers, he portrays women in their periods, pregnancy and hitherto untalked of naked absurdities of their being.
His locale is Punjab and with Pothohari dialect he gives it unrivalled local colouring. Besides stories, he has to his credit some radio-plays too. In Ik sifar sifar (One zero zero, 1941) his dramatic persons have no names whereas in Auh gaye sajan auh gaye (Lo, there goes the beloved, 1942), a solitary character bears three forms; and Puranian botlan (The old Bottles, 1954) is a pungent social satire. Mitha pani; (1951), Koh kun (1952) and Ik akh ik nazar (1982) are his other dramatic works. His dialogues take the poetic rhythm for unfolding the psyche of his protagonists.
His novel Andran (The entrails, 1949)is a naturalistic portrayal of life, but Naunh te mas (The nails and the flesh, 1957) is a depiction of shattered visions and relations of the shadows of Partition in 1947, whereas Ik dil vikau hai (A heart for sale, 1957) is a story of those who deal in flesh. Hal muridan da (Plight of the Devotees, 1968), a triology and an autobiographical novel also gives a good reading. Ma pio jaye in epic style portrays the terrible days of Partition. His other novels are Sard punian di raat (1981), Mun pardesi (1982) and Jal ki pias najaye (1984). He is the leading Punjabi aestheic fictioneer who has the largest number of short stories to his credit.
He has also written a few works of criticism. Kis peh khohlas gauthri is his autobiography. Ab Na Bason Eh Gaon (No More Will I Live in This Village) is the second novel of K.S. Duggal\’s celebrated trilogy which coven an eventful period of Punjab, starting with the struggle for freedom and ending with the announcement of general elections by Mrs. Indira Gandhi after the Emergency. The first novel in the trilogy is entitled Haal Mureedm Da (The Plight of the Devotees).
t relates to life in a typical Punjab village, with Hindus and Muslims living in complete harmony. The sense then shifts to the town along with the hero where he has a brush with the British Raj. There are glimpses of the struggle for freedom. However, Hindu Muslim amity is maintained. This is shattered with the Muslim demand for Pakistan. The novel ends with the Partition.
The second novel of the trilogy, first published as Maa Pio Jaaye (Bom of the Same Parents) and later renamed as Ab Na Bason Eh Gaon (No More Will I Live in This Village) is the story of the blood-soaked Partition. Sohne Shah and Alia Ditta are friends,nay actually more than brothers to each other. Alia Ditta\’s daughter Satbharai and Sohne Shah\’s daughter Rajkami are like sisters to each other. In fact, the Muslims and their Hindu/Sikh neighbours lived like one single family. In the communal riots which wiped off whole villages, towns and cities.
Alia Ditta is killed by Muslim fanatics because he was trying to save his Hindu neighbours. Sohne Shah\’s daughter Rajkami is taken away by the rioters because they have been told by the maulvisâ€”the Muslim priestsâ€”that looting properties of kafirs (non-Muslims), killing them, and taking away their young women are sure gateways to heaven. Chilling stories of killings and rioting spread like wild fire. Mass suicides by Hindu/Sikh women are reported. All hell breaks loose, and Sohne Shah finds himself with Alia Ditta\’s daughter Satbharai in a refugee camp, from where they come to Lyallpur, here Sohne Shah buys land and a house.
Riots flare up in Lyallpur too. Again the same tale of horror. Again refugee camps. In the refugee camp, lakhs of people have their individual tales of losing their loved ones, losing their homes and lands, having seen their young daughters being raped and dragged into Muslim homes. Shadow of death stalks everywhere; the resume of mass destruction of human lives and human values read like the tales of Nazi concentration camps. Among the people who are devotedly looking after these unfortunate refugees is Kuldeep. He was always ready to help everyone.
And Satbharai falls in love with him. Those days she was all alone in her tent, because one day Sohne Shah had just vanished for sometime from the refugee camp. He was one of those thousands of refugees who wanted to take roots in their new soil, to be self-reliant, to earn their own living. Being dependent on others was a living death for these proud sons of the Punjabi soil. August 15, 1947 and their country becomes alien soil. They once again travel to unknown destinations, and reach another camp in Amritsar and then on to a camp in Jalandhar.
Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru comes to visit the Jalandhar refugee camp. Innocent people still love him. Sohne Shah brings milk for him. Satbharai waits for him on the road, all day long, \’My brother is coming to visit me.\’ The people who have lost their hearths and homes, ancestral lands and near and dear ones, do not wait for Nehru to complain to him about their personal losses. They just love him and therefore wait for him. And Jawaharlal Nehru did drink Sohne Shah\’s milk, emptying the large glass. To this small family of Sohne Shah and Satbharai is added another unfortunate girl, Sita.
She has been rescued from Pakistan, but her fatherâ€”seeing that her daughter is pregnantâ€”refuses to accept her. Sohne Shah takes her under his wing, \’From today you are my daughter.\’ Kuldeep also reaches Jalandhar. He is now one of the officers responsible to rescue Hindu/Sikh girls from Pakistan. Love between Kuldeep and Satbharai starts blossoming. Both feel they are meant for each other. But one day Kuldeep finds her Qur\’an which Satbharai used to read with great devotion but alone in her room. And Kuldeep comes to know that she is a Muslim girl. The dutybound officer decides that she should be sent to Pakistan.
In spite of Sohne Shah\’s protests, who used to say, \’one of my daughters has been left behind, the other one I have brought with me\’, he sends Satbharai to Pakistan with military escort. After reaching Pakistan, Satbharai is married to her cousin Rasheed. Both of them try to locate Rajkami, but to no avail. Satbharai keeps in touch with Sohne Shah through regular correspondence. And then Mahatma Gandhi is assassinated by a Hindu fanatic. Then starts the struggle in Punjab: Punjab for the Punjabis. Strange, but true. When the States of independent India were recarved on the basis of their languages, Punjab was not declared as Punjabi-speaking area.
Cross-currents of political deceptions and forgotten promises and shattered faith, criss-cross each other. The novel gives here the whole historical backdrop of this great land of five rivers and the sincere, hard-working people inhabiting it. And against this historical backdrop the story moves on, giving us some unforgettable characters like Gurandaee, Pagli Chachi,Master Kala, and several others, including Pooran who has been in jail for 13 years for murder and wants to commit more murders of the people who had sent him to jail, but is transformed through the Sikh scriptures which teach love and brotherhood and forgiveness. In Pakistan, Satbharai has given up all hope to locate Rajkami.
She has named her own daughter \’Rajkami\’ and writes to Sohne Shah that his grand-daughter Rajkami wants to meet her granddad. One day Sohne Shah says: “I no longer hope to see my Rajkami. It has been years. She must have been dead. I have even forgotten how she looked like. This negation of hope and the darkness of ultimate hopelessness sear one like a hot iron rod. However, one day Satbharai and Rasheed come to Sohne Shah from Pakistan, and leave their daughter Rajkami with her granddad.” Then the war with China.
The whole background, with Nehru\’s total confidence in China\’s friendship shattered into a million pieces: people losing their sons in the war, and feeling proud of it.The country comes first, filial attachments afterwords. Sita expresses her love for Kuldeep, but he says, \’Our country have been degraded by China. No young man should think of love in these dark times.\’ And she realises she was walking in a dream, in a hallucination. One day her father, now an old man, comes looking for her.
He wants to take her home. He is very old now, he says, and wants Sita to take charge of all his property and money. But he is a changed man. He talks to her in Hindi. Sita is stupefied. \’Why Hindi? What has gone wrong with you? And he says, Beti, we are Hindus. Our language is Hindi.\’ And she retorts back, \’I don\’t recognise you. I can\’t understand your Hindi. We have nothing in common. This is my home, and I am not going anywhere.\’ She get married to Gunrieet.
Pakistani agents enter Kashmir, Karan Singh and Ratan Singh are two of them. They were mere kids at the time of the Partition, and had embraced Islam. Now they were Pakistani agents. And then Pakistan invades Kashmir. Duggal narrates this historical tragedy with the finesse of a historian and a creative writer. Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri signed the Peace Agreement with Pakistan in Tashkent. And then he died there of heart failure. Kuldeep goes to Pakistan to meet Satbharai and try to locate Rajkami.
Satbharai is a changed woman, but her love for Kuldeep flutters in her eyes. Her husband Rasheed is warmhearted and treats Kuldeep like a friend. Kuldeep thinks, \’When this generation is finished, will the next one remember what sort of deep feelings and relationships the previous generation had with each other? Will they remember both people across the border, who had a common cultural heritage, and who had lived for hundreds of years like brothers and sisters, belonging to different religions, but caring for each other\’s religious sentiments?\’ Then came the upheaval in East Pakistan, resulting in the emergence of an independent Bangladesh, for which India contributed a lot. One day, Rajkarni\’s brother Kamal comes home at midnight. He has come as a Pakistani spy, carrying a lot of explosives.
Rajkami, the daughter of Muslim parents who are Pakistani nationals, makes him sleep in a small room in the backyard where dry chaff is kept for the cattle. And she puts the whole room on fire, sacrificing her brother for the country she is living in, for the country she loves. The third part of the trilogy is the novel Jal Ki Piyas Na Jaaye (Water Remains Thirsty) further divided into three parts. The locale is Delhi, and the central character is Mira, not the Mira of a bygone century, but Mira Behl, a modem woman who sources of pain are different but as intense. Life in the Behl household is quite normal, but Mira feels something is missing in*her life.
What exactly is it? She cannot pinpoint the source of her strange unrest, a quest, a fluttering yearning. This charming character is engulfed in the Emergency declared by Indira Gandhi and the ensuing high-handedness of the administration. Mira\’s complications are a symbolic projection of the illegitimacy of the Emergency and later, the announcement of General Elections in the country. Kartar Singh Duggal is unique in Punjabi litertature for having fictionalised important events in the contemporary history of India. The way he has interwoven the personal relationships of these unforgettable characters with the historical events between 1918 and 1979 shows his superb literary craftsmanship. Ajeet Caur
1. Bikram Singh Ghuman (ed.), Kartar Singh Duggal da kahanijagai, Jullundur, 1975.
2. Gurmukh Singh Jeet, Samkali Punjabi kahani, 1957.
3. Nirmal Singh, Kahanikar Kartar Singh Duggal, Ludhiana, 1960.
4. Soze, S.S., Kahanikar Duggal, Patiala, 1976.
5. Uppal, S.S., Punjabi kahanikar. 1954 and 1970
6. Vinod, T.R., Kahanikar Kartar Singh Duggal, Patiala,-1968.