‘THE EASTERN BREW’ is a translation of some selected Urdu short stories written by prominent writers from India and Pakistan. These stories are as varied in their subject matters as they are in the assortment of writers presented in this anthology. The selection is not incidental or impulsive but premeditated and is based on careful consideration. It encapsulates almost fifty years of Urdu short story writing from both sides of the border, representing the vicissitudes of life and times during the years of drastic political and social changes, and the struggles and conflicts, psychological or otherwise, of characters living through those tumultuous times. Though it is not possible to collect the works of representative writers of Urdu fiction spanning more than two generations in a short anthology of fifteen stories, an attempt has, nevertheless, been made to bring before the English readers the various threads of human relationships, social, personal, and psychological, that weaved or warped the life of characters in the exciting stories in this collection. The anthology thus provides to the readers of other languages an insight into the changing patterns and concerns of Urdu literary art during a span of two generations, and the life and times of people in the sub-continent living through the change.
An English translation by Syed Sarwar Hussain of some Urdu stories by prominent writers from the sub-continent; published by Partridge India & Author Solutions), A Penguin Random House Publishing Company, London, New Delhi, November 22, 2013. ISBN 10: 1482812568; ISBN 13: 9781482812565; 9781482812541.
Excerpts from the book
“The extremely beguiling guest house is visible from a distance, perched on a verdant hilltop surrounded by a girdle of fresh spring flowers. A bubbling mountain lake runs down the hillock and a narrow track winds its way up along this lake reaching all the way to the gate of the guesthouse. A photographer with a walrus moustache sits indolently in a metal chair near the gate, his equipment lying on the ground beside him. This relatively unknown mountain town is off the usual tourist route and, therefore, is rarely frequented by regular travellers. If perchance some honeymooning couple or traveller wanders towards the guesthouse, the waiting photographer gets up and starts walking on the garden path, holding his camera with hope and patience. There is an unspoken understanding between him and the gardener that the latter will beckon him when going to present a morning bouquet of flowers to the guests, preferably the young ladies. And when the young damsels walk down to the garden after their breakfast, they find the gardener and the photographer waiting vigilantly for them.”
from ‘Photographer’ (a story in the anthology ‘The Eastern Brew’, edited and translated by Dr. Syed Sarwar Hussain; published by Partridge India, a Penguin Random House Company, New Delhi, 2013).
“Awesome stillness pervaded in the atmosphere! Nothing besides that! And then, sounded the trumpets, followed by the bugle. With the bugle sound, the heavy iron-gate opened, and through it the spectacle, in its entirety, walked into the canopy. A uniformed woman soldier, her breast swelling above her waist-belt, was leading it. Her brown hair was sneaking out from all sides of her military cap. She held the end of a thick chain in her hand, the other end of which was tied to the neck of a moving figure.
It was not clear what that stirring being was – a man or a dog. It, nevertheless, was crawling on all fours – bulkier than a dog, stark naked. Its nakedness was as evident as that of other animals. And its bony skeleton was moving on all fours. Its mouth was lifted up like the snout of an animal, and his scraggly beard was dripping.
Do dogs have beard? He asked himself.”
from ‘Adam’s Brood’ (a story in the anthology ‘The Eastern Brew’, edited and translated by Dr. Syed Sarwar Hussain; published by Partridge India, a Penguin Random House Company, New Delhi, 2013).
“Eleven days and eleven waking nights! Time flies like gusts of wind, leaving behind, as it passes, blurred footprints down the mists of memory. It never looks back. The ocean of time is vast, endless. Our lives, like tiny waves roll out of its depths, and flow down to the farther shore, breaking on it, annihilating as they hit it.
Time is beyond measure. Kala thought and as she did her head pounded. She sighed and rubbed a hand across her forehead. A weak smile escaped from her lips. Time’s ocean is limitless, and the waves that do not break billow wildly on the crest of water, like roving lunatics. Time never stops nor does it let others rest in peace even for a moment. Was he too swept away by the running stream of time or swallowed by the rogue waves? Sudhir . . . the fulfilment of her dreams, the reason for the raging sea within her; whose love was like the infinite expanse of the azure sky!”
from ‘Sea and the Sky’ (a story in the anthology ‘The Eastern Brew’, edited and translated by Dr. Syed Sarwar Hussain; published by Partridge India, a Penguin Random House Company, New Delhi, 2013).
“Niyaz sat unmoved in his room, hearing the rising and then falling noises in the house. He heard the car starting and then leaving his house, consigning him to his liberty and his ego. The house was turned into wilderness after a brief interval. There was silence everywhere. He walked over to Shahina’s room, and stepped accidentally on the fragments scattered on the floor. They creaked and groaned under his shoes, but the picture lying on the floor was still smiling. His eyes glowed with happiness when he realized that the smile that had threatened to snatch his vanity, his self-love, has vanished. But when his eyes fell on the golden haired doll lying broken and lonely in the childless cradle, his heart strings suddenly started vibrating violently, and he became restless.
Tears coursed down his eyes, and picking the doll up, he clutched it to his chest, bringing it closer to his eyes, cuddling and kissing it passionately, crying in desperation, “My darling child! O, my little doll!”
All around the house, he found his own being, his existence, the self he loved madly, lying scattered in bits and pieces wherever his eyes could see.”
from ‘The Broken Doll’ (a story in the anthology ‘The Eastern Brew’, edited and translated by Dr. Syed Sarwar Hussain; published by Partridge India, a Penguin Random House Company, New Delhi, 2013).
“The depraved gewgaw of society was transformed into a glamorous celebrity. Before she stepped into the film world, she was an attraction for licentious nobles and uncivilized businessmen only. But now a few moments of her company were considered to be a matter of pride by even the most successful and dignified people. . . . Cleopatra’s traditional figure was sketched on the canvass of words and proven inferior to her beauty.”
from ‘Shades of Pain’ (a story in the anthology ‘The Eastern Brew’, edited and translated by Dr. Syed Sarwar Hussain; published by Partridge India, a Penguin Random House Company, New Delhi, 2013).
“Amazing stories about maharaj were rife among his followers. Some said that he was seen flying like birds, during the dark, moonless nights, while others said that every part of his body split up and worshipped God separately. There were the others who said that he often stood for the whole night in the river, as an act of religious penance. And then the glorious light that exuded from his face, brilliantly illuminated the dark night to a distance. In fact there were many mouths of village gossip going around the place about him. But there was not a soul who really knew who the maharaj actually was.
As I was conveyed to the presence of the holy man, our eyes locked together, and I felt a sudden shiver running through my body. My lips lost their quiver and I lost my speech. I still remember those piercing red eyes! They looked like those of a drunkard. Long dishevelled hair, flowing unkempt beard, and bushy moustache, all combined to make his face appear so glorious and divine!”
from ‘Sadhu’ (a story in the anthology ‘The Eastern Brew’, edited and translated by Dr. Syed Sarwar Hussain; published by Partridge India, a Penguin Random House Company, New Delhi, 2013).
“Long, long ago, there was a seer called Kaushika¹. Though a good old seer, he was in actual fact a very irascible man. And so fierce was his wrath that those who met his furious, flaming gaze were burnt to coals. The seer would then regret why he burnt the poor fellow away. Once when he was sitting under a holy fig tree, lost in profound meditation, an ill-fated swan, exhausted after a long non-stop flight, descended on the lush green tree, shedding its droppings as it alighted on a branch.
The seer was engrossed in his contemplation right under the same branch. The droppings landed directly on his holy head, interrupting his meditation. The wise man fumed with rage and looked up. So, it was the swan’s doing! The seer thought, and cast such a fierce look at it that the poor bird burnt into a lump of coal, and dropped to the ground in front of him.”
from ‘The Seer and the Butcher’ (a story in the anthology ‘The Eastern Brew’, edited and translated by Dr. Syed Sarwar Hussain; published by Partridge India, a Penguin Random House Company, New Delhi, 2013).