Annual of Urdu Studies, v. 7, 1990 p. 62.

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Surendra Prakash


About one thing there was no difference of opinion among us: he was an absolutely free man. By 'free' we meant someone whom even the earth's gravity could not affect. Whenever he met us it felt as if a huge wave had rolled out of the sea, to spread itself on the beach, and for a while there was nothing visible except the roily water. His words could mesmerize people. At such times one was aware of his presence alone-or perhaps of God's.

Once a friend of mine, who wrote short stories, tried to impress him; he said to him in English: "You know, a story of mine is to appear in one of the foremost magazines in America."

"That's good but you could've said the same in Urdu," he responded. "Incidentally, when I was visiting Sri Lanka a woman came to interview me for a newspaper. I told her I wanted to meet some of the story writers of her country. After a moment's silence, she said. That might be very difficult.' Why?' I asked. She replied. The fact is, here mostly housewives write short stories, for they have nothing better to do—and they are published in the Sunday supplements of the dailies. Otherwise, none of us has the time to write stories-or to read them. But if you are interested in poetry or drama...'"

By now, however, my writer friend had disappeared like the proverbial ghost in a ghost story.

That was just a tiny sample of his quick wit. So many other incidents are preserved in my mind, and several would require hundreds of pages.

Most of the time—after long or short intervals—we would catch sight of him rushing down the street. Sometimes, seeing his haste, we'd be reluctant to stop him, not wishing to waste his precious time. But, even on such occasions, he would stop and chat with us at length. He always carried a leather briefcase, which made us think he was a salesman. But we never felt bold enough to ask him what his business was. We only knew that he was constantly in motion. We, and this world of ours, were mere brief stops for him. He seemed to have touched the boundaries of the earth. He had even been to Vladivostok. Songs of different lands, their folktales, their unusual ways and customs—he knew everything. He even knew that the bowl held in the hand of the yogi meditating in a Himalayan cave was in reality

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