Saturday, June 7, 2014

My grand father

used to ask us to read him
the shop-signs in Devanagri:

'मिंटू आइस-क्रीम'
'जगत हार्डवेयर'
'चित्र सिनेमा'

All his life, he
had known only Urdu
- leaving Lahore at 18,
a young railway-clerk
new at the desk then
- in the early months here
he had struggled, tried opening
a cigarette-shop in Delhi
(Pachkuiyan Road) before
being given the same job
in the Indian railways
in Lucknow.

In all this commotion,
he never bothered
learning another script,
dependent still, at 73, on his grandchildren
to read him ice-cream signs
when he treated them to
an orange-bar.

Now, years later,
when I ache to read Faiz's letters
in his own hand-writing, I have to
write to a facebook-friend in Lahore,
or ask a boy in our neighborhood,
or worse, use a translation app,
which is like rubbing stones on silk.

What grand-father and I
do not know - Urdu, Hindi -
lie in each others' glass, in
each others' loss, in their
remaining on our tongue, and yet,
as we try, in their flying from our eye.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I belong to a partition family and my grandfather couldn't read Hindi either. He'd always be slowest reading the Hanuman Chalisa, struggling to read the first line while the rest of us were through half the aarti. Also a railway clerk in Lahore, and later in Kanpur. And today, I feel that familiar ache you feel in not being able to read Faiz in Urdu. And a sense of loss in not having learned it while my grandfather could still have taught me. It felt like I'd written this- except I cannot write like this. Thanks, Akhil =)

Akhil Katyal said...

Hey thanks for this lovely message and for sharing the story about your grandfather. So many of us share this and I am so glad it resonated with you. Hope you leave your name here. Do remain in touch :)

Anonymous said...

beautiful <3