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JOGINDER PAUL,
FICTION WRITER, INDIA

 

"I was indeed moved by your capacity for love; after all these years of involvements in creative writing, I have come to believe firmly that the relevance and survival of litera ture and of the literary artist depends precisely on his capacity to love and suffer in fellowship, not on, as some writer appear to believe, (a) patch work of clever and callous writing done in self-celebration. These are the qualities my very dear young friend, that should, with constant, religious involvement in literature, make you a real jewel amongst writers. I pray to god that you might continue to get ahead likewise in your literary pilgrimage..."


He did his M.A. in English literature, which he taught until he retired as the principal of a post-graduate college in Maharashtra. Mr. Paul chose to put his creative expression in Urdu language, as he believes that Urdu is 'not a
language but a culture' and for him writing is to be in the culture. He was part  of the progressive Urdu writers' movement.
Mr. Paul's nineteen fictional works are widely read not only in India but also in Pakistan. In all his writings he exposed social ills and all his characters are full of life and their struggles. He has won all the important awards that an Urdu writer can achieve.  The Library of Congress has acquired twenty-two works by and about him


MY MEETING WITH GENUINE ARTIST JOGANDER PAUL

It was one of the nicest surprises I got during my short visit to India. I was staying with Dr. Sharib Rudaulvi, his wife Shamim, and daughter Shua for a couple of days when they told me that they had already invited a few writer friends for dinner. One of them was Jogandar Pal. They weren’t sure whether he would be able to make it because he lived nearly forty kilometers from their house and he did not drive. So he was at the mercy of his wife and wondered if she could drive him all that way for a couple of hours.

I knew Jogandar Pal was a living legend of Urdu literature. I had read many of his stories. He had been writing for a few decades and had published quite a few collections of his short stories. I was excited with the idea to meet him but I was a bit apprehensive too. I am usually nervous to meet a big writer, nervous because of the unpredictability of the situation. I usually don’t know what to say. Neither do I want to come across as phoney, by praising their writings. Nor do I want to be quiet, as if to appear like I am not interested. Usually it turns out to be wonderful, better than I always expect. So I was hopeful too.

While we were still waiting for Jogandar Pal, Dr. Sharib Rudaulvi was telling me that once he read a book in English and thought that Jogandar Pal would be the best person to translate it into Urdu, so he approached Jogandar Pal and shared his ideas with him. Jogandar Pal thanked him for the offer but told him that he was resigning from his job.

“Why is that?” Dr Rudaulvi was shocked.

“I have an idea for a novel that is haunting me, and I find that my job is interfering with my creative endeavors. So I am leaving my job to devote all my time to my novel.”

I was impressed by the story. I had not met any other writer who had resigned from his job to write a novel.

Then there was a knock at the door. Sharib went to receive the guests. It wasn’t Jogandar Pal. Instead, it was Dr. Qamar Raees and Dr. Irtaza Karim. They came in and we started talking about the literary and political situation of Delhi. Dr. Raees shared with us that the etlmic riots were getting out of control. Dozens of Muslims and Hindus were being killed everyday. Aligarh University, which was a Muslim University and Taj Mahal, a favorite tourist attraction, were special targets. Assassins were hired by rival groups to kill innocent people. Some people felt that those were the worst ethnic riots since 1947. Dr. Karim suggested that I should play it safe and not visit the Aligarh University and Taj Mahal during my visit. They had already received my books ‘Struggle of Black People’ and ‘A Broken Man’ from Calcutta and were planning a Book Launching Ceremony. I felt flattered. While we were chatting and sipping our cokes, thedoor bell rang again. Sharib went to the door again and on his return announced, “Mr. Jogandar Pal and his wife are here”. A grey haired, tall, healthy looking man entered the room. His wife was behind him. He was casually dressed. He was wearing a blue sweater.

He looked right into my eyes and said, “You must be Khalid Sohail” and he embraced me. It was a warm and affectionate hug. After meeting other people he looked at me and said, “Come and sit down next to me. I want to talk to you.”

I felt privileged sitting next to him. He was so friendly and unassuming, it was unbelievable. He radiated genuineness. He had cut through all the formalities in a few seconds. It felt as if he knew me for generations.

It was as if he took me under his wing. He talked to me in isolation from the rest of the crowd. Then he stared into space and talked to me like a guru talks to his disciple. I listened attentively. He said, “I came especially to meet you. I wanted to meet you because I read your book ‘A Broken Man’ today and I wanted to talk to you. I wanted to tell you that you have courage and honesty and are very straight forward. You are bold. These are the qualities that most of our young writers lack. You use words to reveal yourself. You don’t use them like others do, which is to hide behind. I want to congratulate you on your writings.”

I could not believe my ears.

Then he was quiet for a few seconds. He looked around and then said, “But Sohail! I want to tell you another thing. Writing is not a part-time job. To be a genuine writer one has to be committed to it. One cannot do it halfheartedly. I can see you are committed to it. That’s wonderful. But let me give you some advice. I am old now. I may not be around in a few years, but writers like you give me hope. You have to carry our traditions. I want to share my views with you. I don’t want you to waste fifty years learning the art of writing. I think you have to be careful that your knowledge of psychology and science does not undermine your writing career. The things that are our asset in writing an essay in psychology can be harmful when writing a short story. In psychology you have to explain things, whereas in fiction, explaining things can spoil the story. This is what you have to be careful about. But that doesn’t come easy. It is like swimming against the tide. There is a lot of hard work involved. Perfecting the art of writing is not easy. But I see potential in you. You have an open mind and you are courageous and you are hard working. You are young too, and you travel and read as well. So I have a lot of hope from you. You are only in your thirties. You still have a lot to write, so it is far better to write.”

And then he gave me his most recent collection of short stories called ‘Open’. He autographed it for me. I was thrilled. I was so excited I was tongue-tied. I didn’t know how he knew so much about me.

After the dinner, Dr. Karim asked Jogandar Pal if he would be willing to preside the book launching ceremony for my book He responded with, “I would love to.”

 

I saw him again the next week in the book launching ceremony. He was his usual self, kind and gentle and polite. We talked about some of his stories which I had read from his book ‘Open’.

He said, “Writing for me is like driving a car in the fog. I don’t known myself what is ahead of me. My stories disclose on me as they disclose on my readers. They surprise me as they surprise others.”

He said, “A genuine writer should be open to any new experience. We should not force ourselves to write in a certain way. Many well established writers even Intizar Hussain, who I have great respect for, has imprisoned himself to his own style. Life is ever-changing, so is art and literature. We should let our creative potential guide us. We should be courageous enough to follow our inner voices and risk new avenues.”

During the ceremony he listened attentively to other speakers and in the end Jogandar Pal said, “I am glad to preside over the ceremony of these two books ‘A Broken Man’ and ‘Struggles of Black People’, the creative efforts of Sohail and Danish, our two young writers.

I always thought that a book was like a baby. At birth, a book, just like a newborn baby, does not have a well developed personality. So, we can only talk about our initial impressions and the potential. Let these books grow. Great books are those that grow with us.”

In the end he wished us well. When we were parting he gave me another affectionate hug and said, “Sohail! Your visit was very short. I would have liked to take you to my home, and I wanted you to spend an entire day with me. Maybe next time we can do that.”

When I left I was excited and sad at the same time. I decided then, that if I ever returned to Delhi again, I would spend a day with Jogandar Pal, and if I never got that opportunity, I would always cherish my visit with him.

Meeting Jogandar Pal was an inspiring experience. He is a genuine artist and an affectionate and thoughtful man.

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