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Life and death in an unequal world


Blessed with a blend of creative insight and social commitment, Rahman Abbas constantly tracks the pernicious design of war mongers to reflect on the innocent victims and silent witnesses

It is a time when the trouncing waves of intolerance are about to wash over us and the Horacian axiom “ Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori ” (It looks sweet and fitting to die for one’s country) still produces an infectious and renewed enthusiasm for jingoism across the globe. Notwithstanding its widespread acceptance, many authors, artists and poets express disdain for glorifying warfare by turning attention to the grotesque and appalling aftermath of the brutal reality of conquest.

For them, war leaves behind an unending legacy of pain and torment and their creative outpouring draws its sustenance from Wilfred Owen’s widely acclaimed anti-war poem “Dulce et Decorum est” that offers a satirical commentary on war. For Owen war by its very nature betrays the scariest face of human cruelty as the wounds wars create continue to ooze blood like cancer: “Obscene as Cancer, bitter as cud/ Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues/ My friend, you would not tell with such high zest/ To children ardent for some desperate glory/ The old lie: Dulce et Decorum est pro matri mori.”

In line with it, the futility of bloodshed and hatred is evocatively articulated by a well known Urdu poet Sahir Ludhianvi. War, contrary to popular notion, according to the poet, can never resolve an issue as it blots us every trace of optimism and expectation. War itself is the biggest problem. War produced borders symbolising never ending cycle of hatred and revenge, but the borders can offer an alternative perspective if the guns are raised to salute separation and it is what celebrated poet and artist Sukrita Paul captures effortlessly: “I love you the most/ at Wagah/ When the guns are raised to salute separation, division and rapture/ when the neighbour dies and wears the shroud/ Becomes enemy all at once.”

A young and widely acclaimed poet Rochelle Potkar whose poem “War Specials” was adjudged the first runner up at the “Great India Poetry Contest” does not articulate the horrors of war but rather zeroes in on how man ruthlessly bridles animals: As they went to war, animals on their plates/ animals were politicised too/ pigs squealed, camels patrolled/ mules carried supplies, oxen artillery,/ moose were trained not to be gun-shy for deep-snow cavalry/ and dogs threw their weight or sniffed out mines/ Monkeys dipped in oil n’ fire, were thrown into enemy territory.”

War generates hatred not only for the enemy but also for the power that-be. The scourge of hatred leaves us in the quagmire of turmoil and anguish. Can we go to heaven if we practice mutual butchery? This infuriates a reputed Urdu novelist Rahman Abbas whose latest novel “ Rohzin ” has been creating waves outside the Urdu world as it appeared in German and its translations in English and Hindi are about to hit the stand .

Classifying hatred

Now Rahman intends to fashion a gripping narrative on the basest prejudice of man that manifests in war and conflicts. His anti-war novel, through its nuanced portrayal of the protagonist, is set to identify hatred as a wicked but perhaps necessary trait of the world we live in. Obsession for conquest and subjugation is a malaise that needs to be eradicated. It ruins both the winners and the losers. War has become a billion dollar industry and now we have war for the war’s sake and for Rahman it has been creating an increasingly more unequal world.

Blessed with a blend of creative insight and social commitment, Rahman constantly tracks the pernicious design of war mongers to reflect on the innocent victims and silent witnesses.

His novel Rohzin bagged the prestigious Sahitya Academy Award this year. Rahman coined a new compound word Rohzin (wound of the soul) to describe the mental agony of those children who catch sight of extra-marital relations of their parents. It inflicts a wound that never heals and their unprecedented torment cannot be put into words. His layered narrative poignantly betrays a least discussed aspect of love. Promiscuity can produce a pulsating narrative of true love. Employing the charming irreverent tone, Rahman explores the intriguing aspects of hard boiled noir and takes the readers to the site of stunning complexity of the underworld and unexpected luminosity of crime fighting. Mythology provides creative impetus to writers and Rahman wrote a separate chapter on Mumba Devi (Mumbai or Bombay owes its existence to this deity). The novelist tried to set in motion a cross culture discourse involving Indian, Persian Gulf and Greek mythology. It is perhaps the first attempt to unravel cross culture dimensions of mythology.

Rahman has published seven books including four novels and his writings cannot be put into run-of-the-mill stuff. His first novel “ Nakhlistan Ki Talash Mein ” (Search for an oasis) presents a searing examination of the illusion of all pervasive central authority governing human life. His heightened sense of curiosity about uncertain world of divinity landed him into deep trouble and a case under Section 292 IPC was filed and his service (a lecturer of Urdu) was terminated. His ordeal continued through 2016 and Rahman has no regrets for writing such a bold novel but he is still haunted by the memories of termination induced anguish. Rahman’s worth admiring power to entertain, inspire, engage and entangle the complexities of life has been appreciated by prominent Urdu critics such as Professor Gopichand Narang, Waris Alavi and Naiyyar Masood, etc. His intent on depicting what has not been forgotten draws applause from all quarters.

About priyanka sharma

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