Very rarely you come across a book which you absolutely love, treasure and savor page by page scared that you may finish the book and the magic fades away. Dozakhnama was that kind of a book for me. A total collector’s item, a book you will hate to lend, lest the person does not take care of the book as much as you do. What sets the book aside is the theme in itself; conversations in hell between Ghalib and Manto.
What I absolutely loved about the book is the how strains of ghazals keep coming up every now and then, stringing the stories. It becomes almost difficult to keep track of the stories as it occurs, as there are too many characters. Magic realism probably helped the characters who are set apart by almost a century to converse. Their identical and parallel lives made for a solid ground for the two notable writers of their time to become characters and narrate the story of their lives which was always shrouded by the magnificent work they produced. I need not say just how much I loved the book, how lovingly I turned each page, internalizing the beautiful couplets that brought back memories of college, where I was first introduced to Ghalib and Manto.
Spending a Sunday in one of Delhi’s coziest cafes in discussion with the translator Arunava Sinha of Dozakhnama which had captivated me was an opportunity I did not want to miss in the world! The meeting left me wanting so much more and in awe of the translator who took about a couple of months to finish translating this body of work. There were so many questions, about the challenges of translating and managing a full time career. The love of books, writing and literature made me ask the question that had plagued my mind, and to my amazement, Arunava turned out to be alumni of my alma mater. The icing of the cake was getting to talk to the author, Rabishankar Bal himself. It took me time to realize how soon time had passed while we were all engrossed talking, celebrating a book which had us spellbound! Sunday could never been spent in a better manner, it is always great to celebrate a book which has touched me with people who have read and loved the book as much as I did!