Dharti Aur Aasmaan by Acharya Chatursen
Dharti Aur Aasmaan is a collection of short stories by a master storyteller. Who I thought wrote only historical fiction. There are stories based on history, during the times of Buddha and Mahavir. And then in the times of Mughals and Rajputs. There are contemporary social stories, love stories and stories based primarily on emotions.
The range of the writer Acharya Chatursen impresses the reader. This is not restricted to the range of subjects he writes about or the range of issues that he addresses. But also to the range of formats that he uses to tell you these stories. Somewhere it is a simple narrative of a storyteller. Sometimes it is a simple exchange of letters between two characters that tell the story. And sometimes it is a poetic narration that goes in a flow. Sometimes the characters do not even have names, sometimes it is the relationships that go without a name. Then there is a range of language when it is Mughal era there is ample Urdu. And when it is Mahavir’s time, you can feel that era through the language. Contemporary stories use the colloquial and English words at times indicating the times the stories are set in.
I loved the fictionalized story that tracked the arrival of British in India and how they took over. The story is hilarious as British are depicted as white crows who taught us, Tata, wearing ties, pants, and heels. The story is hilarious at one level but also shows you the insights of a thinker who can weave a folk tale out of series of actual events that changed the country forever.
Written in the first half of the twentieth century, contemporary stories are also history in the twenty-first century. They become your telescope through which you look about 100 years back. And see the simplicity that existed in society then. When an abductor could bring up a child as his own after killing her parents when a revolutionary refuses to lose faith in his friends despite all attempts to make him think so. Or when extramarital affairs were a mere exchange of love letters. When couples have no option like divorce. And when women would live with their dignity even if it meant living in poverty and not ask someone to support them. When a royal prince would forgive his father’s mistress and let go of family’s wealth only to protect the name of the family which is bigger on his mind than taking revenge or the money.
Read Dharti Aur Aasmaan to read stories that would take you to different worlds in different eras. To learn the craft of storytelling and the impact of right language on the story. Read it if you can read Hindi.