‘If writing novels is like planting a forest,’ says the celebrated Japanese author Haruki Murakami in an introduction to his book of short stories, ‘then writing short stories is more like planting a garden. The two processes complement each other, creating a complete landscape that I treasure.’
Gulzar, the famous Hindi poet best known for his work in Hindi Cinema, came out with his book of short stories this year. Gulzar is a lyricist, director, script writer and music lover all rolled into one, and by all accounts he is considered one of the primary role players in Hindi Cinema’s ‘Golden Era’.
The stories are typical Gulzar: biting, incisive, short, and to the point. They’re not heavy on description, because that’s not Gulzar’s style. He’s a poet first, and like all poets, he gives the impression of thinking over each word, deliberating whether or not it is necessary (or correct) before using it. The stories are linear in nature, but in each one there is a memorable image that stays in the mind.
There is a lyrical quality to everything Gulzar writes, and when you read his stories you almost hear him sing to you in a soft, lilting voice. The plots of any of these stories are not anything to write home about, so in that sense maybe calling these things stories is a bit of a stretch. Maybe ‘prose poems’ is a better definition. Indeed, in many parts of the book, Gulzar gives us descriptions of incidents from his life, which makes it a memoir.
No matter what you call it, though, you will have fun reading it. So go buy it!