Surreal, yet so earthy


A bird fell in love with a kite, and thought the kite was a bird. A love story so innocent yet mesmerising — that’s the power and style of Gulzar’s words.

Many such beautiful stories, woven from the day to day struggles of a common man’s life, as Gulzar likes to put it, are a part of his soon to be published collection of 25 stories titled Half a Rupee, translated into English from Athaniyan by Sunjoy Shekhar, Indonesia-based writer.
“These stories are small but the messages are important. These stories are not mine; these are yours. I have always written in the language of ordinary people. Your emotions, pain, problems and feelings are what I pen and read out to you. Therefore, almost all my stories are biographical and you all can relate to them,” says Gulzar.
Calm and composed, wearing his trademark starched white kurta pajama, Gulzar brought alive the art of storytelling at the Spring Fever Festival, organised by Penguin Books India and Visual Arts Gallery, in the capital recently.
One of the stories is called Half a Rupee; and so the name of the book. The story revolves around a poor man’s struggle to change half a rupee into a rupee. Be it an outsider in Mumbai Chandu or the bird Guggu, every story is inspired from real life experiences. Gulzar admits that issues like terrorism and corruption trouble him deeply. “Human incidents move and hurt me. A child who thinks bombs going off around him is normal; I realise that he feels so because he hasn’t seen life beyond that. I feel hurt seeing his condition,” he says.
He confesses that he doesn’t remember all his poems and songs. “There are so many that it’s difficult to keep a count and remember all, though there are a few which have always been close to my heart,” says Gulzar.
The poet and lyricist has won countless awards and a huge fan following but he says it’s not easy to write for children. “You write Kajrare kajrare and adults will be more than happy. But with children you have to think and write according to their age and understanding. Only then will they be able to associate with your words,” says the lyricist who wrote the title song Jungle jungle baat chali hai for Jungle Book.
It’s definitely harder to write for kids, he admits. “What you write for a five-year-old will be different from what a nine-year-old would want to read about,” he adds.
But Gulzar is happy with young authors who are keeping the literary world abuzz. “Authors like Ashok Vajpayee have always highlighted the issues that we as a society have to deal with. And many upcoming writers are also doing the same,” he says.
One of his cinematic attempts to highlight one such issue found itself entangled in controversies before being forgotten altogether. His film Libaas, based on an extra-marital affair, could never release and the author says that since the producers are not interested in the film he too has given up. Since then he has closed that chapter — and moved on to new ones.

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