As many of you know by now, I am colonel Nadir Ali’s son; many of you know him because of his speech and interview about Bangladesh, but that was not a subject he usually talked about. What he DID talk about and write about for 40 years was Punjabi literature and Punjabi culture and his contribution to it was to write dozens of short stories set in various Punjabi settings. Many of these were published in two short story collections (Kahani kara and Kahani praga), one of which won a National book award, but both of which are now out of print. But Sucheet Kitab Ghar in Lahore has published ALL his writings in one large edition of their magazine “Pancham”. I managed to catch Covid and am laid up in quarantine (I had only mild symptoms, am fully vaccinated) so decided to translate some of his stories into English. My first attempt follows. The original Punjabi version I will post as screenshots at the end of this post. The full text of Kahani Kara can also be found as a PDF on scribd here.
I had been feverish since morning but by the afternoon it was really burning up. Amma had been with me since morning and it was very late when she finally left to take food to the men in the fields; she dragged my cot to the shade of the chinaberry in the lower courtyard and left me there. The fever raged and I was too far gone to get up from the cot. The chinaberry provided little shade, but I was too weak to get up and go inside; I had recurrent cramps and a sinking feeling in my heart. When will this suffering end? In my feverish imagination, I felt as if everything in the house was about to attack me. We had one pillow in the house and whoever felt most needy could use it. The smell of every family member had sunk into that pillow, which seemed to consist of two uneven lumps of cotton wool. I threw my head on it one way, then another, but without relief. I turned from facing the hand pump to face the empty kitchen and thought for a moment that I had found relief, but it was fleeting. Kitchens are for fortunate people. Our whole house had nothing in it, what to speak of the kitchen. In the evening my mother would borrow a glowing lump of coal from the neighbors and start the fire, but what was there to cook? Everyday we got the same chickpeas; even turnips seemed to be a luxury now! Continue reading Punjabi Short Story by Nadir Ali