Wednesday January 16, 2019

Return to Jammu- A Novel About a Journey

The author has superbly captured the life of the kid in a cantonment, growing up with two sisters, his mother's struggle to run the house on a tight budget and his father, a happy-go-lucky man, who avoids the responsibilities of a good husband.

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JAmmu and Kashmir
Sanasar, Jammu and Kasmir- wikimedia commons

This is the engrossing tale of Balan, a kid from South India who grows up in the towns of Punjab, Jammu and Haryana. It captures the eventful journey of Balan’s childhood, his schooling, and the friends he makes and loses due to transfers of his father, serving in the Indian Army.

“Return to Jammu” is a first-person narration and with the timelines, places and real-life personalities and events, the reader gets a feeling that it is an autobiographical novel. The author clarifies that all characters and the story per se are fictional but confesses to borrowing liberally from many episodes of his childhood in telling the story.

“If you happen to be acquainted with me enough to perceive a passing resemblance of me in Balan, you would be right; and yet if you find the resemblance rather tenuous and liberally adulterated, you will be equally right too,” says the author in a preliminary note.

Settled in Jammu, Balan is admitted into grade two, though just four years and seven months old. He remains younger and tinier than his peer group all through his schooling and even in college.
V. Raghunathan-Author of the book Return to Jammu, wikimedia commons

Balan, son of a junior commissioned officer hailing from Kerala and having Tamilian roots, is born in the Ambala cantonment in 1954. He narrates his story even before his birth, relying on family tellings.

The author has superbly captured the life of the kid in a cantonment, growing up with two sisters, his mother’s struggle to run the house on a tight budget and his father, a happy-go-lucky man, who avoids the responsibilities of a good husband.

He describes vividly how the family shifts to Jammu on his father’s transfer, giving even the minutest details of their belongings, and of their journey to Jammu via Pathankot.

Settled in Jammu, Balan is admitted into grade two, though just four years and seven months old. He remains younger and tinier than his peer group all through his schooling and even in college. Because of his diminutive size, he is saddled with sobriquets like pocket edition, Lilliputian and Madrasi, and sees his self-esteem falling dangerously.

He describes vividly how the family shifts to Jammu on his father's transfer, giving even the minutest details of their belongings, and of their journey to Jammu via Pathankot.
Jammu and Kashmir Map, wikimedia commons

It’s at Satwari near Jammu that he develops childhood friendship with many, most importantly with Jeevan Asha or Jeesha, who was two years older and also taller than him. Soon, however, Balan’s father is again transferred to Ambala and he is separated from his friends, especially Jeesha. He writes letters to his friends and receives responses from all, except Jeesha.

Overcoming all odds and with hard work, Balan completes his studies and joins the State Bank of India. Now a confident young man, he works hard and finally makes it to the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad. (It was at IIM, Ahmedabad, that the author taught finance.)

Also Read: 70 years after Independence power reaches Elephanta Isle near Mumbai 

There he comes across a girl called Jasmine Pundith. He believes she is his good old buddy Jeesha. Bu she shows no sign of recognition and when he tries to remind her about their childhood friendship, Jasmine tells him that she is a citizen of the US and has no link with Jammu.

Convinced that she is none other than Jeesha, Balan travels to Delhi to find out more about her family. He even returns to Jammu, where he meets her brother Niranjan. What Balan comes to know from him forms the climax of the story.

The book is worth a read also for the author’s eye for detail, whether it is canal system of Jammu, the picturesque Kashmir valley, especially Uri, the pilgrimage to Vaishno Devi, or a visit by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. (IANS)

Next Story

Over Three Lakh Drug Addicts Treated By Punjab Police in 2018

The action plan named Comprehensive Action against Drug Abuse is aimed at choking the supply of drugs through enforcement and reducing the demand through de-addiction and prevention.

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drugs
The action plan named Comprehensive Action against Drug Abuse is aimed at choking the supply of drug

Over three lakh drug addicts were treated in Punjab in 2018 and more than 63,000 people are currently being treated, out of which 25,000 are heroin addicts, a top police official said on Tuesday.

The retention rate is 91.71 per cent, Director General (Special Task Force) Mohammad Mustafa told reporters here.

The Special Task Force, constituted by the state in April 2017, has been implementing a three-pronged strategy of enforcement, de-addiction and prevention (EDP) to combat the menace of drugs.

The action plan named Comprehensive Action against Drug Abuse is aimed at choking the supply of drugs through enforcement and reducing the demand through de-addiction and prevention.

india-china trade
Generic drugs produced by Indian pharmaceutical companies make medicines affordable, but India says that China does not provide market access to its generic drugs. VOA

Mustafa said a multi-layered monitoring and implementing mechanism has been put in place. The Cabinet sub-committee on drugs headed by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh is monitoring it.

He said the outpatient treatment being rendered at 168 Outpatient Opioid Assisted Treatment Clinics is a great success.

To make students aware about the ill-effects of drugs, the Buddy Project has been implemented.

Approximately five lakh Drug Abuse Prevention Officers have been registered, 1,500 cluster coordinators and 15,000 Nasha Roku Nigran Committees are being trained through 523 master trainers.

drugs
Over 3 lakh drug addicts treated in Punjab in 2018

Under this project, he said, 329 master trainers are training three lakh school teachers and college lecturers who will impart skills to approximately 40 lakh students.

He said 27 lakh students have already been covered.

A separate drug division is being set up in the Department of Health for efficient drug administration and better monitoring of de-addiction.

The Punjab Chief Minister in October 2018 sought a national drug policy to save the young generation, saying a comprehensive formula was needed at the central level to effectively check the drug abuse.

Punjab CM
Punjab CM Amarinder Singh

Earlier, six northern states unanimously decided to set up a common secretariat, to be based in Panchkula near Chandigarh, for data and information sharing, which was critical to the joint action.

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The states that have joined hands are Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan and Delhi as also the Union Territory of Chandigarh.

The meeting accepted the suggestion of Amarinder Singh to hold regular meetings at various levels to tackle the problem and monitor the progress of the anti-drug fight. (IANS)