Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Pu La....

Update: This post, along with all my book-related posts have been shifted to my new blog.
So please click on

"Vyakti ani Valli"

for reading this post on my new blog, or
"Lazy Habits of Thinking"

for my new blog.





“[If the people in this book come alive and meet me,] I will embrace them warmly!”
P. L. Deshpande (when asked about characters in Vyakti ani Valli)



Almost any marathi person's introduction to PuLa is reading “Vyakti ani Valli”, “Batatyachi Chaal” or “Asa Me Asa Me”. These books, along with his other comedy stories are so engraved on marathi psyche, that just the mention of the names of characters is enough to invoke laughter.

Vyakti ani Valli;” consists of twenty character sketches of fictional characters written from around 1944 to 1968, but we can see those character traits even in people we meet today after so many years. And I think that's why PuLa is so popular even today.

The characters come from various backgrounds, are diverse in their traits. But almost all of them have one thing in common. They all form some part of tragedy of life, and when they try to fight their lives, that's what causes the idiosyncrasies which are the root of the comedy in their life.

So, you meet Narayan, a complete nonentity, but who is the omniscient, omnipresent being in the marriage hall. He is the person who is nothing in normal life, but he is The Person who ensures almost single-handedly that any marriage preparation he is part of will go without any incident, while remaining completely in the background.

And you have Gampu, who is known as Paropakari Gampu (Philanthropist Gampu), born to help others. You can recognize this person easily, as he is the one who will come to invite you to his marriage and tell you while leaving, “I saw some good rice in the market. Will get it for you once I am free from this marriage stuff.” In the same mold is Bapu Kane, who is born to be a secretary of every organization he sees. He doesn't differentiate between an organization which is in birth control and one which helps families arrange funerals.

All these people are nothing if seen outside their “expertise”, are extremely poor to boot. But they don't have to do anything to get their roles when their time arrives, and they have all the qualities (even slight arrogance) when it comes to finish their work.

And then, you have Sakharam Gatne (one of the most famous sketches in the book). He is the shy school boy who eats books as often as he breathes, speaks in Perfect Marathi (which is something beyond even written marathi, think about using words you read in your friends GRE books in normal conversation). And when the writer gives him the message, “Be loyal to literature” along with his signature, he is so faithful to literature that he refuses to marry.

And on the other hand, you have Namu Parit (parit = washerman), who has all the characteristics of successful laundryman: he breaks buttons, steals clothes from his clients (not steal, he wears them in front of same clients) and never gets the clothes back on time. On top of that, he drinks, has some other ahem... unsavory pursuits and is completely unaware that anything he does is wrong. Also, you have Babdu, who is the dada of his class in school, goes to jail on false charges, and comes back in writer's life for a day as a successful smuggler. But at the same time, he hasn't forgotten the laddus writer's mother once gave him, or his english teacher who was the only one who met him in jail.

Then there is Lakhu Risbud, who is an embittered writer, who wanted to change the world by his writing but instead ends up in an assistant-editorship in some second rate magazine. Also, the nameless person who is only recognised as “He”, the person who sells his scholarship to others and helps them gain recognition. “He” has created so completely his own reputation as a deceiver, that when writer gets to know his real story (“He”'s thesis advisor steals his thesis and gains recognition publishing it as his own), nobody believes him.

Then you have representative of all the poor in wealth, having characteristic sarcastic edge in their comments which can cut you to quick, but underneath all are big-hearted people in Konkan area, Antu Barva. Also, the representative of all the teachers who are devoted to their profession, Chitale Master (a teacher is called master in marathi). And who can forget 100% Pestonkaka, the perfect Parsi gentleman of yore. These characters are so representative and so completely part of marathi life, they shouldn't need any more introduction.

There are many others, but there are three characters which in my opinion, form the peak...

Nanda Pradhan, the cursed angel. He is a friend of writer's from college. This is a person whose mother ran away with their neighbor and father died when he was very young. This is the person whose wife was a jew in Germany, when he was there at the time of second world war. This is the person whose almost only love was unfortunately a daughter of an embittered old man, who asked her to choose between Nanda and feeding her three small brothers. Though he is the only person who was paired in almost every cute girl in their college (and who would have given “walk-over” by any boy in college in any affair), he is completely detached from life.

Natha Kamat, the eternal lover. He is the first one to know the complete biodata any new attractive girl in whole Mumbai. People can tell which parts in Mumbai have what quality in girls department by where he stands in local when the station arrives. He is the first one to visit all the colleges first thing in June, the day colleges open. He opens and closes many “accounts”. He gets many “cuts” in love life, but the only one which goes deepest is the girl who marries first the college hero and then a major in army, before killing herself.

Bhaiyya Nagpurkar, the so-called “gunda” of college. This was the first character sketch written by PuLa of the ones in the book. Bhaiyya is navabi, born with golden spoon in his mouth. He loves drinks, music (mehfils) and everything that comes with it. Though he is “brahmin” by birth, he is often mistaken for a muslim because of his mannerisms, not to mention his mastery of sarangi. He is recognised as the “mavali” (=tapori) by almost all, but he has photos of Mahatma Gandhi and autobiography of Jawaharlal Nehru in his room. He drinks, but is not enslaved by it (and feels for the poor who spend all their earning in drink), and decidedly keeps away from drink for all the days Gandhiji was fasting.

I can write on and on and on about the book. But I guess saying that this is one of the few books which can score negative 10 on the Book(?)...err scale should tell you what I feel about it.



P.S. Read introduction about Pu La, here.

Update:
For all people asking for english translations, check out this excellent translation of "Chitale Master"...


The Eagle has spoken...

Quote of The Day:
He was a genius - that is to say, a man who does superlatively and without obvious effort something that most people cannot do by the uttermost exertion of their abilities.
- Robertson Davies, "Fifth Business"

22 Comments:

Cuckoo said...

Heyy Many Thanks for enlightening us on PuLa. Yes, you have told me earlier about Bhaiya Nagpurkar. :)
Could you find out if there is any English translation available of these books? Otherwise we’ll have to rely on you for more on these books. You have made it look so interesting.

Nice post. Well written. Keep it up buddy!!

Cuckoo said...

When is the next enlightenment?

Have you finished reading Labyrinth? If so, one more review to come. :))

Fleiger said...

@Cuckoo: Yes, Bhaiyya Nagpurkar is how all this started (same as the book)... I will surely search for english translations, but I don't think you need english translations, you can read marathi book. Originals are always best...

And next enlightenment? Given the huge response....

Cuckoo said...

Response? Aayega aayega.. why are you so impatient?
you can read marathi book. Me & marathi book? Are you trying to make fun of me? :P

Sreejith Kumar said...

:-) Good post... The quote at the top and the regular one at the bottom added more lustre to this one.... Do write more.......

SiD said...

I guess i need that english transalation more than the marathi+punjabi cuckoo..

there is a variety in characters.. and yet, as u said, the traits can be easily found in common pple...(vaise yet to see a person like Sakharam Gatne.. interesting chap.!! :) )
to identify that itself is a mark of greatness and to weave them into a story... well .. a dream...

Natha Kamat and Nanda... would really like to read about them.. pretty interesting sketches..

Fleiger said...

@Cuckoo: I guess we have established that I am impatient ;)
And I am sure you can easily read any marathi book by now, you understand marathi pretty well...

@Sreejith: Thanks man... I wanted to write about marathi books for quite a long time. Maybe I will make this regular feature ;)

@Sid: That was actually what PuLa was famous for... capturing small traits in people, and capturing the tragedy behind comedy. Reading Natha Kamat, you laugh a lot, but you can see how sad he is that he lost his love...
Sakharam Gatne? Any extra-ordinarily sincere guy, following authority blindly would do I guess. His style of speech (higher marathi and quoting from some obscure books that nobody but he has read) is added touch I think...

SiD said...
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SiD said...
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SiD said...

yes natha has that edgy side to it.. smthing like happy outside.. sad inside..

and u can find SAkharams but the fact that he marries literature and refuses for another marriage(the obvious one) makes the character rather amusing..

Fleiger said...

@Sid: I meant, he tells author that he is ready for marriage with the girl his father wants him to marry, but he has sworn to the author that he will be "loyal to the literaure". But the author is finally able to convince him to marry, and gives him a new message (with all his books), "be loyal to literature and life". The story ends with the author telling us that he came to know Sakharam is loyal to life within an year ;)

SiD said...

ohh... then its fine.. i am happy for sakharam...;)

tulipspeaks said...

i must admit i'm lost here.

between, Happy Deepavali in advance.

=ammu=

Fleiger said...

@Sid: Don't worry for him. Sakharam is too shy and obedient to do anything revolutionary.

@Tulip: Happy Devali to you too (I guess you will be reading this after coming back from your break)
And why are you lost?

Phoenix Rises said...

I'd heard of PuLa from a friend of mine, but never paid much attention to what she was saying. This book sounds like an R. K. Narayan book, populated by "everyday" characters.
I'll return to read the translation some other time...

Fleiger said...

@Phoenix: Sure, try to get your hands on some books from PuLa, but I am not sure whether there are any translations available. If there are, plz tell me too, so that I can give ref to people :)
R K Narayanan? Now that's an interesting thing, I havent heard anybody comparing them. From what I have read (and of course seen) it is pretty close too, though PuLa is more... prolific might be a word here...

Ashley said...

Hey, This is very nicely written description of "Vyakti aani Valli" :-). Me is total fan of PuLa's writings. The way he portrays people is amazing, you almost feel the character is sitting next to you... Antu Barva being my favourite character from the book.

Fleiger said...

@Ashley: Thanks... and welcome here. Yes, PuLa is really great. And really, I don't think I have done him justice.
Antu Barva is great... what do you think of Nanda Pradhan though?
Hope to see you often here. :)

Ashley said...

You are welcome. Yeah I will definately be visiting this place more than often. You write very well :-).
And about Nanda Pradhan... he is goos as well, I like the part where his college affair is described.
Also there is another character I can't forget, Mukh a travel agent PuLa met on his trip to orient in "Purvarang". Have you read that ?

Fleiger said...

@Ashley: Thank you... Is that the Indonesian guy? The one who took them to see dance and all?

Devadatta S. Rajadhyaksha said...

Eagle, that was a nice blog about Vyakti ani Valli.

I liked all the vyaktichitre, except perhaps Lakhu Risbud, who appears to be portrayed without any positive characteristics.

Hari Tatya was awesome - the way he inspired the kids is amazing.

Fleiger said...

@Devdatta: Thanks... and welcome.

Yes, Lakhu is more of a negative character, or maybe his main negative trait of blaming everybody but himself completely overshadows every other positive trait of his (if any).

Welcome again, and do check out my other posts...