Between Clay and Dust, Musharraf Ali Farooqi, Aleph Book Co., Pp 215, Rs 450.00
THERE is a short novel, which leaves a lasting impact on the mind as it describes a city just after Partition. Though the story is very tourching, it is the style of presentation of the text that makes it more powerful.
Set against the backdrop of Partition of the country, the novel presents a glimpse of the life led by the two protagonists who are in the twilight of their lives – One is Ramzi and the other is Gohar Jan. They live in the ruins of the inner city, which has witnessed its destruction not because of the effects of Partition, but because most of its inhabitants have left for greener pastures and the fierce demand for construction material during the last few years is making builders pull down one building after another and pack off with the material used.
Here lives Ustad Ramzi, the head of a pehelwan clan and the custodian of a wrestler’s akhara. A man of frugal speech and austere habits, he appears stern and imposing and does not believe in accepting the futility and emptiness of life. Instead he continuously tries to give it a meaning, a purpose. He has chosen to remain a celibate to achieve perfection in his art and shut his mind to thoughts of women. Fifteen years earlier, he had won the wrestling title in the land – Ustad-e-Zaman after struggling to defend his clan against its rivals. With the abolition of princely states and nawabs and rajas, Ustad Ramzi’s world is shaken as there are no patrons of the wrestling bouts left. New challengers to eminence of his clan have now arisen, their followers having melted away and the adoring crowds long gone.
However, Ustad Ramzi’s unrelenting adherence to continuance of the sport makes his akhara a hallowed place. Adjacent to his akhara is a private cemetery where lies his own unfilled gave made several years earlier. He exults in the anticipation that the day he is laid there, he too would have conformed to that of his elders’ existence and become a part of it. As he has grown old, he assigns certain duties of maintaining the akhara to his younger brother Tamami, though very reluctantly as he is aware of his brother’s fickle nature and heedless ways.
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