NRI author tells Indian writers- Change the national mood by telling great stories in spite of Return Awards for intolerance
NRI author Surinder Deol talks about his lifelong affair with Mirza Ghalib.
Los Angeles, Nov. 19. 2015
NRIpress-Club/Ramesh/Dave/ Gary Singh Grewal
Surinder Deol first novel, “Endless Life”, a poetry collection “A Moment In The Universe”; “The Summit”, a spiritual fable; and “Japji: The Path of Devotional Meditation”, a Guru Nanak’s teachings. And fifth book, “The Treasure.
Ghalib’s poetry is like red wine that he cherished so much. You start this work and you get intoxicated and you can’t leave it.
Words are prayerfully complaining About whose playful writing? Beautiful images are seen Wrapped in paper clothing This is the opening couplet of Ghalib’s divan, and it captures his view of the badly broken world in which he lived and God’s indifference to human condition. The poet faces God and poses a question: Why did you create this universe? What was the purpose? If this is your creation, why do we have so much misery and suffering? Was this creation an act of playfulness, or did it have a nobler purpose? People praying and pleading in front of the Creator with paper clothing covering their naked bodies is symbolic of their complete helplessness. In many ways, this sets the stage for Ghalib’s struggle to make sense of reality and find a new rationale for our relationship with God.
Surinder Deol said Ghalib became popular because one can find expressions of innovative thoughts full of metaphors and similes, and also a wide range of topics and subjects in his poetry.
Ghalib came into the life of India-born author at “an early age, thanks to my father” who gave him two classics – Shakespeare and Ghalib’s works – when he was still in high school.
- Endless Life: Clad in a decorative red sari, Malti, a dreamer and a somewhat spoiled daughter of a wealthy Indian family, sat with Rakesh, an Indian physician living and working in New York, on the ground in front of a sacred fire. “We are asking you to sit on the ground,” the priest explained, “because you’re forging a new connection to live the rest of your lives as a husband and wife. The mother earth is going to be a witness to this union. I want you to feel strong, drawing energy from the center of the earth. You will always need this strength because life brings new challenges every day.” This marriage brought Malti to New York but the love she dreamed of eluded her. The passage of time brought new challenges and a heart wrenching loss. Malti moves back to India in search of someone who could unlock the mystery that was causing her immense distress. She accomplishes this mission with help from Harish, a newly minted real estate billionaire, whose love for Malti went back to their time together in college. Malti realizes her dream of having the unconditional love of a man on a New Year Eve at a sea-side mansion in Goa. She remembers the words that her grandmother had once spoken to her. “It will take a long time for you to get there, but the day you arrive, you will have become the person you always wanted to be.”Endless Life portrays a woman’s search for love and meaning in an increasingly complex world. “Life is a flow; it’s a continuum. Nothing really goes away. We continue to live despite all the hardships and tragedies. We plan new things, always expecting to see better days in the future. We never stop dreaming.” It is this act of not stopping to dream that makes life ENDLESS.
• The Treasure: A Modern Rendition of Ghalib’s Lyrical Love Poetry”, a free verse translation of Ghalib’s entire Urdu Divan, Deol tells The Indian Diaspora, he has made an attempt to meaningfully engage American readers on India’s celebrated poet. Excerpts from the conversation:
• JAPJI is a seminal spiritual composition of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikh religion, that charts a new path for defining our relationship with our Creator and how we could find fulfillment in life. . The print edition has been a best selling book on Guru Nanak’s teachings for the past 14 years.
• A Moment In The Universe: The poet is looking at polarities that define the context of our being-good and evil, sacred and profane, inner and outer, big and small, objective and subjective. We experience life in brief segments of time called “moments.” They come and go. Moments become our memories, memories condition our thinking, and we are thus condemned to lead a life of loss and sorrow, fighting shadows that are basically our own creation
• Orchids: Rediscovering the Mystique- Orchids are the most diverse family of flowers. Around 26,000 species have been identified in more than 800 genera. This unique collection of photographs taken at the Orchid Mystique expo at the National Botanical Gardens in Washington, DC in April 2012 present the vast diversity of orchids both in colors and shapes. This ebook shows the Nature’s work at its very best! .....Gary Singh Grewal
Change the national mood with your writing, Indian-American novelist tells Indian writers
Washington, Nov 16, 2015
An Indian-American author of a new novel inspired by 9/11 wants Indian writers returning their literary awards to protest intolerance to instead change the national mood by telling great stories aimed at challenging divisive forces that want the country to be “mired in the hatreds of the past”.
“Writers are agents of positive social change in societies,” says India-born Surinder Deol, author of “Endless Life” portraying an Indian woman’s search for love and meaning in a world left shattered by the traumatic terrorist attacks of Sep 11, 2001.
“But they should look upon this role as a deep personal commitment and not indulge in acts that are primarily aimed at gaining instant fame,” Deol told IANS in an interview. “Writers can change the national mood by telling great stories or writing great poetry with the objective of challenging and eradicating divisive forces,” he said.
Deol said he for one has “a strong personal commitment to the idea of secularism and a multi-ethnic, pluralistic society where all people irrespective of their faith or caste have equal opportunities for growth as human beings.”
“If we reject this idea, then India will never be a modern, economically developed industrialized country,” he said. “We shall be mired in the hatreds of the past for which we have already paid a very high price in terms of India’s partition.”
Deol, a former World Bank official, said he was inspired to write “Endless Life” after he “watched the images of towers falling down and the Pentagon in flames,” which “I actually saw from the window of my office in (Washington) DC.”
“Those people who died didn’t know that they were not coming back that evening to their loved ones. What if they had some secrets or stories that they had not shared with anyone? Would those stories also die with them?” he mused.
“This idea stayed in my mind for some time and then an image of a woman started to appear in my subconscious,” Deol said. “I started an inner dialogue with her. Who are you? What is your story? Why are you looking so sad?”
“When that woman started to answer these questions I had the outline of a story,” he said, speaking of the genesis of his novel.
Deol chose “Malti” as his main character to relate a tale left untold by 9/11 “because women fiction writers and strong female characters in novels had a great developmental influence on me.”
“Malti’s story is unique because we meet her at the start when she is only 7 and then when the story ends she is 47. This 40-year period gives me sufficient scope to develop the character and put some depth into it.”
“Because her own life runs like a roller-coaster, she is the symbol of what I call ‘endless life,'” Deol said.
He also wanted to weave into the story “the idea of educating young girls,” as “I see this as a major motive force for economic and social development in developing countries like India.”
Explaining the idea behind his novel’s title, Deol said: “Life is not endless that much is known. While this idea that life is endless may not be true at the individual level in a biological sense, it is true in a metaphorical sense.”
As German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche put it, “Everything goes away, everything comes back; eternally rolls the wheel of being. Everything dies, everything blossoms again.”
“If we apply this logic to one person’s life, we find that life is a roller-coaster. There are bad times and there are good times, but nothing lasts forever,” he said. “What is important is not to lose hope.”
Deol’s previous publication, “The Treasure: A Modern Rendition of Ghalib’s Lyrical Love Poetry”, a free verse translation of the preeminent Indian poet’s work, has received rave reviews from well-known literary critics.
Many readers have however complained about intentional exclusion of the original Urdu text as the book was intended for readers who do not know Urdu or Hindi.
Since a “majority of the readers are actually those who want to see the original text along with the translation,” Deol said, he was working on a revised and enlarged edition of the book that would contain the original text in an easily readable Romanized format.
Besides this, he is researching a novel set in 1960s America that will have no Indian characters and no personal connection with him since he came to live in America in early 1980s.
Deol thinks this “was a period of great hope and excitement in America coupled with great anguish and suffering arising from tragedies like the assassinations of John Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. and Vietnam war.” …IANS
India-born author brings Ghalib’s treasure to Americans
WASHINGTON, Aug 24, 2014
: India-born author Surinder Deol has penned a new English translation of Mirza Ghalib’s works to bring the famous Urdu poet to North Americans as also those South Asians who have lost touch with their native languages.
Deol, who worked as a World Bank staffer for nearly 25 years before turning a poet and novelist, says he undertook the task “with the objective of bringing Ghalib to those North American readers who have found Persian poets like Rumi and Hafiz interesting to read.”
“That is a very large audience. And if I succeed in getting their attention, then my job is done. But I also feel that my book is useful for South Asian readers too,” Deol told IANS in an interview.
Published by Penguin-Random House imprint Partridge, Deol’s 378 page free verse translation of Ghalib’s entire Urdu divan titled “The Treasure: A Modern Rendition of Ghalib’s Lyrical Love Poetry” was released here last week.
It’s not easy to understand Ghalib even for those who have a normal level of proficiency in Urdu, Deol said, but “My book makes life easy for everyone.”
“If you have high school level understanding of English, you can read the whole book and get the true essence of Ghalib’s poetry without any difficulty.”
“The younger generation of Indians in the US and other foreign countries who do not read Urdu or Hindi scripts or can’t speak the language can now enjoy India’s most loved poet in a language that they speak every day,” he said.
Deol said he was quite satisfied with the result of his efforts to bring Ghalib to American readers as also Indians abroad, but the key factor will be how people react to his work
“Most importantly, I have used a language that is poetic but it is not archaic. Look at the reason why Americans love Rumi in Coleman Barks’ translation. It is simple, direct, and touches you at a deep personal level as you read it.”
Asked what inspired him to translate Ghalib, who is considered “untranslatable”, Deol said “Because I loved Ghalib, I wanted to see his work made available in a good English translation so that he gets the recognition as a great world poet.”
“Since I was very impressed with Coleman Barks’ free verse rendering of Rumi, I thought of using the same technique for Ghalib.
“My idea was to apply this technique on 15-20 compositions or ghazals as a creative experiment.”
“But you know Ghalib’s poetry is like red wine that he cherished so much. You start this work and you get intoxicated and you can’t leave it.” Deol said.
“The task got harder as I proceeded but by then I had become an addict.
That took two solid years of my life. But I have no regrets.”
“A book like this takes much longer to find acceptance but I’m very hopeful that my rendition of Ghalib will one day become a popular text for ordinary readers as well as for students of oriental literature,” Deol said.
“The Treasure” is available on amazon.com internationally and on FlipKart in India….IANS