The latest edition of Raj Kanwar’s book is more of an update of his first volume, writes HUMRA QURAISHI
As I read through Raj Kanwar’s second volume on Dehra Dun, three aspects struck. My immediate spontaneous reactions: This Dehra Dun based writer’s bonding with his home city and its residents. Also, his interactions with the Who’s Who of his city. Above all, at his 90-plus age his ability to put together all those relevant details, with much abundance cum enthusiasm.
In fact, his second volume is more of an update of his first volume, with few subtractions and additions . In fact, the most prominent additionsare details to “45 admirable couples” of Dehra Dun. They happen to be all the leading figures of the city! How I wish several couples or even singletons from the middle rung or the disadvantaged segments could have also got included, so that the reader could have grasped a diverse range to the city and its citizens.
Only the highs and highlights are projected in this volume. Optimists could call this positive but it surely cannot be termed realistic! For, no town and city in the country or in even the big wide world can carry the burden of the supposed well- to – do, the privileged class. In fact, the backbone of any state or society are the middle and lower middle class masses;all those adults and children, the survivors in the actual sense.
In fact, how I wish that Raj Kanwar’s next volume should delve deep into Dehra Dun’s lesser known aspects vis- a- vis its people and places. Also, focus on the changing landscape and the political patterns of the day. Maybe, he should also introduce us to those siting imprisoned, officially and even un- officially… Also, focus on the semi-dead, those who are deadened by the collapsing system and whatever it drags along. Writ large are the collapses in these Coronavirus ridden times we are destined to be surviving in.
Before I write another further, Raj Kanwar’s this volume ends with details of his forthcoming book which he has titled — Writer of Obituaries. The very title of this forthcoming book comes across as offbeat. The fact is that few Indian writers dwell on deaths and the connected details. He has elaborated why he decided to write on death and obituaries. “The year 2012 was an inauspicious one for many of the Dehra Dun’s prominent citizens. Over 15 of my friends, some older and few younger, had passed away, one after another, leaving me to write their obituaries…Too many of my friends had died during that year and I really dreaded writing their obituaries…” He also dwells on a stark reality connected to death. “Today death has become a billion dollar business worldwide. As I delved more and investigated further, I learned that the business of DEATH has assumed multiple dimentions.it starts with a notice of death, publication of obituary, making of arrangements for a funeral, cremation or burial and followed by many post cremation rituals that vary from religion to religion ,caste to caste and of course from family to family.”
Perhaps, Raj Kanwar could also include in his forthcoming volume how hundreds of our citizens died in these Corona ridden times. Gasping, dying for want of oxygen, hospital beds, medicines and the required health care facilities. Poverty also forced hundreds of Indian families to float the dead remains of those departed, in rivers and lakes and ponds,or else bury them in piles of sand. What sad and sorrow ridden times we are witnessing, with death like scenario spreading out!