Monday July 16, 2018

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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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.
Sanasar, Jammu and Kasmir- wikimedia commons
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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)

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Punjab’s Aam Aadmi Party and Its Political Self Goals

Each one of the top leaders in the AAP Punjab unit is on its own journey

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Punjab's Aam Aadmi Party Is In Confusion, Due To Political Self Goals
Punjab's Aam Aadmi Party Is In Confusion, Due To Political Self Goals, Flickr

For a political party that was taking a serious shot at coming to power in Punjab less than two years ago, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) appears to have gone wayward.

Despite the electorate in Punjab reposing trust in the party by making it the principal opposition in the first ever assembly polls that it contested in February last year, the party leadership in Punjab and in Delhi have brought it to a new political low with a series of flip-flops and self-goals.

The AAP, which has 20 seats in the 117-member state assembly, relegated the formidable political alliance of the Shiromani Akali Dal and BJP to a humiliating third slot but is fast losing its votebank in the state.

In recent by-elections, be it for Lok Sabha or assembly seats, the AAP candidates have not only fared badly but had to face humiliation by even losing their security deposits.

In the Shahkot assembly seat bypoll last month, the AAP candidate got a mere 1,900 votes.

Each one of the top leaders in the AAP Punjab unit is on its own journey while the Delhi leadership of the party, including AAP national convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Punjab in-charge Manish Sisodia, show wariness, indifference and even suspicion about the Punjab leaders.

Senior AAP leader and Leader of Opposition in the state assembly Sukhpal Singh Khaira is known to shoot off his mouth on every matter. His recent comments justifying the ‘Referendum 2020’ propped up by foreign-based radical elements who are demanding a separate Sikh homeland, or Khalistan, has sparked a new controversy for him and the AAP.

Khaira, a former Congressman, has left the party embarrassed on earlier occasions as well.

Just about two years back, the AAP was riding high on popularity in Punjab and many believed it was all set to form its first full-fledged state government.

That was not to be Kejriwal and his core group of leaders seem to have lost interest in Punjab affairs for now. Kejriwal’s apology to senior Akali Dal leader and former cabinet minister Bikram Singh Majithia earlier this year, which happened without even consulting the Punjab leadership of the party, led to resignations within the party with the cadres on the ground feeling disappointed.

AAP has scrapped the list of its Donors, leading to its own volunteers launching a Chanda Bandh Satyagraha against their own party.
AAP has scrapped the list of its Donors, leading to its own volunteers launching a Chanda Bandh Satyagraha against their own party.

AAP Punjab unit president and MP Bhagwant Mann, who has had his own string of controversies earlier, and co-president Aman Arora, resigned from their posts after Kejriwal’s sudden apology.

Kejriwal and other AAP leaders, in the run-up to the 2017 assembly polls, had openly accused Majithia of patronising the drugs mafia in Punjab. They even called him a “drug lord”.

When Majithia went to court in a defamation case against the AAP leadership, the Delhi leaders chickened out and Kejriwal wrote an apology letter to Majithia.

Offering apologies and doing voluntary service (kar seva) to atone for political sins is nothing new for AAP leaders.

The ‘Youth Manifesto’ of AAP, released before the assembly polls, carried a photograph of ‘Harmandir Sahib’, the holiest and most revered Sikh shrine of Sikh religion, with an image of a broom, the AAP’s party symbol. This led to a religious uproar in Sikh dominated Punjab.

Kejriwal and other leaders washed utensils at the Golden Temple complex to “atone” for the political and religious faus pax.

AAP leader Ashish Khetan compared the same manifesto to religious scriptures like Granth Sahib, the Bible and the Gita. The AAP had to again seek forgiveness for this.

The AAP’s stand on sharing of river waters varies in Delhi and Punjab, leaving the party embarrassed at times.

Chanda Bandh Satyagraha back in Delhi after successful Campaign in Punjab, Feb 24th 2017
Chanda Bandh Satyagraha back in Delhi after successful Campaign in Punjab, Feb 24th 2017

The electorate in Punjab, which gave four seats to AAP (out of 13 Lok Sabha seats), has been left disaapointed. Two of the AAP MPs continue to be suspended from the party for the last three years.

Also read: Dogfight in Aam Aadmi Party : The audio clip of Kumar Vishwas reveals the party is no longer for principles but for personal aspirations

If AAP is to revive its position in Punjab, its leadership — in Punjab and in Delhi — would have to take drastic steps to stop the erosion of its base. Otherwise, the party would end up being a one-time wonder. (IANS)