Balwant Gargi is known for his plays and sketches of writers, but he wrote fiction as well. Here two of his writings are being introduced:, one already on the blog-Loha Kutt, on an earlier page.
- Sultan Razia, Punjabi play, Balwant Gargi, 2011 ed. Is ted. 1973, Navyug Publishers, Delhi, pages 74, price Rs. 100/
I am beginning the readings in year 2014 with this first book of the year. After joining in Central University in Bathinda, my interest in Razia Sultan grew, being imprisoned in fort here, which I knew from childhood, but never aware of its historicity. With the interest growing in history after leaving Bathinda in 1977, the return to the city, marks to revisit these historic monuments and their related history. Balwant Gargi, known as ‘The Bania of Bathinda’, wrote this play, but I never paid any attention, even when he was Professor of Eminence in Punjabi University Patiala for two years, appointed by then VC J S Puar. But reading his play on Razia gives satisfaction at two levels-remembering Balwant Gargi, iconic Punjabi writer from Bathinda, now being forgotten and going through Razia Sultan time events. Bathinda fort, now renamed as Razia Sultan fort, spoiled in between by Patiala kings, is more than one thousand years old, constructed perhaps during king Anangpal time, gone through many different kingdoms, Bhatti kings as well. The region may not be called Punjab in those early times, could be Sindh or Rajsthan or any other name. I have with me Mewa Ram’s huge Hindi novel of the same title-Sultan Razia-plan to read that too later.
Razia Sultan was the first queen of India in 13th century. Daughter of Sultan Alatmash or Ilatitmash, she was favourite of her father, whose sons were spoiled and his servant turned wife Shah Turkan was bent upon getting her son Rukan ud din made king, when king was on his dyeing bed and was not able to speak up his successor, he was trying to utter ‘Razia’, but was not able to do so. Later Rukan ud din was pronounced king, but he remained drunk and enjoyed women, not paying any attention to administration, which was misused by his mother, who was too cruel towards people and got even 12 year old innocent brother of Razia-Kutab ud din killed. Razia rebelled and she had support in Altunia and her brother in law Gyasudin Balban, powerful feudal lords of the kingdom. Altunia wanted to marry her, but Razia, fiercely independent woman refused. Turkan, Rukan du din were killed in revolt and Razia was pronounced queen, but her path was full of thorns. She tried to be a benevolent queen, treating all citizens equally. She gave rights to black race warrior Yakut, with whom she fell in love too, which angered her supporters like Balaban and Altunia. Many of her regional lords rebelled, some of which she forgave also, but they again cheated her and stabbed her in the back. She came towards Bathinda, where Altunia was her appointed governor, who also joined rebellion. Yakut was killed and she was imprisoned in Bathinda fort, later she along with Altunia moved towards Delhi to reclaim her kingdom, but was killed on the way unknown and unsung, Altunia also being killed. She was buried in Delhi as per her desire. Behram Shah, her half brother became king. This is the event line depicted by Gargi in his play dedicated to Surekah Sikri and Manohar Singh-famous actors of National School of Drama in seventies. The play was staged in Urdu language by Ibrahim Alkazi and was later published. Gargi made revisions in the play after its stage production and wrote its introduction in Punjabi on 15th June 1973. Gargi mentioned in introduction that he had his childhood playing near the fort of Bathinda, where Razia was said to be imprisoned and which was scaring for child Gargi. He had different image of Razia, which was shattered after reading history of the period, which was a saga of betrayals, mutual killings of courtier lords.
Balwant Gargi in his interpretive historical play had also echoed today’s talk of ‘Aam Aadmi’-commom man, where Razia talks of fighting corruption and cruelty of her predecessors and ruling like aam aadmi, which of course she fails and meets a tragic end.
2. Kakka Reta’(Dry Sand), a Punjabi novel, Balwant Gargi, 1993 ed., Navyug Press, Delhi, pages 100, price 70/ rupees
This novel’s reference I got recently in context of Bathinda life. First book of the year in Bathinda, I read was Punjabi play Razia Sultan by Balwant Gargi and it is now his this novel, whose first publication is difficult to identify, as Indian languages publishers have this bad practice of not mentioning first or earlier editions, only the present edition year is mentioned, which is at least 25-30 years later date.
This is autobiographical novel of the writer, even name of hero, main character is kept as Balwant, whose life from early schooling of 2nd, or third class until Matriculation is depicted. Balwant studies in Bathinda and his mother’s place is at Tapa, where his grand maternal mother and maternal uncle live and where he visits in summer vacations and get the feel of first innocent love with an agricultural labourer’s daughter Rummy, who just spend few days together in vacation period, just roaming aimlessly, enjoying each other’s company. This is when he had passed eighth class exam, could be of 14 years or so and the girl may be of 12-13 years. And when he stops for a day after doing Xth class and going to join college in Patiala and stops for a day at Tapa , he gets the news that Rummy was married some time ago and no more lives there. He goes for a walk to her side, but could not meet even her father Raju, who is away to his brother’s place. Such melancholically incidents happen in most lower middle class families in early years and the literature recreates these sensitively. Krishan Baldev Vaid’s novel Uska Bachpan like novels are little more focused on this theme. Balwant Gargi has depicted school atmosphere of those days, with teachers being a terror for students, in home and around in pre partition Punjab healthy atmosphere of boys-girls playing together, even all communities children playing together. Gargi has dedicated novel to his mother, whose abuses he accepts as flow of butter…Malwai language of Bathinda region is again very fascinating. Some words may have even gone out of usage now-like “Jhagga’(Shirt), The novel is realist also in terms of depicting social reality. Balwant’s aunt dies of burns after giving birth to a male child and uncle marries few weeks after rituals are over. Presence of Bhua-father’s sister and her affection for her nephews is another interesting feature. Fairs and those of animal fairs were also regular feature of rural/semi urban life, which brought cheer for children etc. are narrated. The novel has been titled as Bathinda’s geographical feature, as the region being close to Rajasthan, had lot of sand hills and area’s defining feature. Now these hills are nowhere to be seen. This is not one of great novels, but interesting and region specific!