Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Notes on a story 'A Chronicle of the Peacocks' by Intizar Husain

1.       Portray the horrors of war as unfolded through the image of the peacock
2.       Attempt an appreciation of A Chronicle of the Peacocks, commenting on the liberal use of various myths and images.
  In this short story titled ‘A Chronicle of the Peacocks (Morenama)’, Intizar Husain, the great Pakistani Urdu probes into mythical and historical roots of the pluralistic, complex culture of India where he was born and brought up  and at the time of partition he went to Lahore and stayed there. He is well versed in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. He says that he always feels there is a Hindu sitting inside him. ‘A Chronicle of Peacocks is a brilliant story of partition, exile and lost memories. There is a liberal use of various images and myths.  The theme of the story is the futility of war. The author believes that we are all war criminals. Ashwatthama, the war criminal of Kurukshethra still lives in each of us. This is why war breaks out between India and Pakistan, between Iraqis and Kuwaitis, between Americans and Iraqis. The heroine of the story is the Peacock, the bird of beauty, innocent and royal grace. Once upon a time the peacock was the bird of heaven. But the poor bird helped the blind old man to enter the kingdom of heaven. The old man was none other than the Satan who prompted the Eve and Adam to eat the forbidden fruit and they were kicked out of heaven by God. Then God punished Peacock too and thus peacock has come to live on the earth. There is an allegorical touch in the story. The peacocks, the koel, the duck , the royal swan and all other birds are compared to the prophets of ancient times. Those saintly souls suffered for the destructive activities of human beings. Similarly now the flora and fauna of Nature are being destroyed by the destructive, criminal activities of man, the homosapiens. Every human being is a modern Aswatthama! Who destroys Nature through wars and other criminal activities.
Now these innocent birds suffer pain and destruction thanks to the criminal activities of man. Both Pakistan and India tested nuclear weapons. India’s nuclear test was conducted on the desert of Pokhran in Rajasthan. This terrible explosion killed hundreds of innocent peacocks and many of them flew away for life. This news saddened the author. A few years ago he had visited Jaipur and  had met thousands of peacocks at the guest house.. These birds had come there to welcome the author. He thought of himself in the very cradle of beauty, love and peace.
 On another vision the author saw a lonely duck covered with oil, dust and dirt. It had not eaten for many days, because the sea was covered with dirty oils coming from the battle field.  Wars are going on everywhere and thousands of civilians are killed, innocent beautiful birds are ruined. The author says that these birds suffer for the cruelties of man. They are like the prophets of ancient times. Once upon a time, there were innumerable lakes and streams and beautiful royal swans swam in the crystal clear water. All the lakes are dried up. Even the lakes at Manasarovar in the Himalayas have been dried up and the swans are perished.
The author came from Lahore to visit Delhi. He walked through Sravasthi and saw a peacock sitting on a green hill lost in thoughts. Mahatma Buddha had lived there a long time ago. In his imagination he moved down the ages and reached Indraprastha, the city of the Pandavas. There he saw and enjoyed the beauty of thousands of peacocks, the whistle of the Koel and the songs of various birds. He saw fruit trees. It was a golden age of prosperity and peace! Then he thought of the peacocks of Rajasthan and reached there. But on seeing him, those birds screamed in terror and rose from the hills and trees and flew away. Then he felt some one was walking beside him. It was the ghost of Ashwatthama, the great criminal of Kurukshetra who used the Brahmastra and destroyed the wombs of all Pandava women folk. Lord Krishna cursed him to wander alone for three thousand years. When Parikshit, the son of Uttara became the king at Hastinapur, he asked Vyasaji why the wise men of both the Pandavas and Kauravas did not think of the futility of war. Vyasaji replied that all human beings become selfish and do foolishness at the time of war.  The author says that Ashwatthama, the war criminal is still alive in the minds of every Indian and Pakistani,who are the present generation of Pandavas and Kauravas.  When the author crossed the border, he was happy that he had escaped from the war criminal. But when he reached his home at Lahore, he heard a footstep behind him and he saw the ghost of Ashwatthama!
FILMING INDIA                                                                                             Mrinal Sen
Mrinal Sen, the great film maker of Calcutta is the pioneer of parallel cinema movement in India. His first film was Raat Bhore (the Dawn) which was released in the year 1956. He gave a new sense of direction to the Indian cinema. Sen was influenced by the Italian neo-realistic cinema and also Satyajit Ray, the great film producer of India. He has been awarded ‘Padma Bhushan as well as the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, the highest honour given to a film maker in India. His autobiography is titled “Always Being Born”. 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    In his interview with Ramin Jahanbegloo, Mrinal Sen opens his mind and reveals how he became a film maker. He says that he is a film maker by accident. In the 1940s Mrinal Sen was a voracious reader and used to go to the National Library in Calcutta to read books. At that time he was not interested in film world. But one day he accidentally came across a book on cinema on its aesthetics and sociology. Its author was Rudolf Arnheim. This book captivated his heart and soul and began to enjoy many good films through Calcutta Film Society. Then he started writing on the aesthetics of cinema, on its philosophy and social importance. He was attracted to Soviet cinema, neo-realistic Italian cinema etc. Finally he made his first film ‘Raat Bhor’.
.His second film ‘Nil Akasher Niche’ won the appreciation of not only the film goers but also Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, who enjoyed the political content of the film. It was about a Chinese hawker selling opium and cheena silk in the streets of Calcutta. The film dated to 1930s when the militarist Japan attacked China and our  national poet Tagore condemned the attack. His next film ‘Akash Kusum’ was praised by many critics for its technical quality and there was a debate between Mrinal Sen and Satyajit Ray on the film which appeared in an English newspaper.  In the interview Mrinal Sen talked about his three films better known as Calcutta trilogy. They are: Interview, Calcutta-71 and Padatik..                                                                                                                                                                                                      His two films: ‘Ek Din Pratidin’ and Ekdin Achanak dealt with the social problems of the daily lives of Calcutta people. These two films so shocked the viewers of the city that they wanted to know what happened to the working girl and also the missing professor in ‘Ekdin Achanak’. He told them “Sorry I don’t know what happened to the working girl.   I made this film for you to disturb your mind. Only then these social problems could be solved” 
 Mrinal Sen made “Genesis” in 1986. The story of the film is about the growth, development and decay of civilization. The parable of the film is that two birds are flying with a single worm.. A hunter follows them, but does not shoot. A man asks the hunter why he does not shoot the birds. The hunter replies that he knows the birds will fight and be killed each other and he gets the worm. This is the way the rich always exploits the poor.
 Mrinal Sen became famous as a film director with the release of Bhuvan Shome in 1969. It is the story of an “honest” Indian bureaucrat in the Indian Railways. Buvan Shome is brought up in British education and tradition. He seemed to be a strict disciplinarian but he is corrupted at the end of the film. He meets a corrupt ticket collector in a railway station and wishes to correct him. But after receiving his hospitality and the gifts at his house, Bhuvan Shome forgives his corruption and he is promoted to a bigger station where he can make more money. The film is a satire on bureaucracy.
“Padatik” is the film of a young extremist who escapes from police custody and the political party gives him shelter. But he questions the leadership. Although he is loyal to the party, he thinks that the leadership is corrupted. This re-examination of the left extremist movement makes the film highly controversial.
Calcutta-71 is a film of many stories of poverty and exploitation. The film begins with a family suffering from poverty and flood in the monsoon of Calcutta. They suffer silently without much protest. In the last episode of the film the young protagonist protests against poverty and exploitation and gets killed. In this film Mrinal Sen shows the horror and ugliness of poverty.