THE LAST FLICKER
The Last Flicker is an English translation of the Punjabi novel “Marhi Da Diva” by Gurdial Singh.
The author has set up the story in a rural area and developed a very captivating traditional image of the village in one’s mind. By the description of the typical village houses and fields, one feels the intimacy the author shares with the village life. It is descriptive of the Gurdial Singh’s rootedness in his village life, where he grew up.
I found the translation by Ajmer S. Rode is quite a smooth one, but with certain lines in Punjabi along with their translations. The Punjabi lines bring one into the realisation of the fact that it is not a novel in English but a translated one. Ajmer S. Rode has intensified the meaning of these lines by keeping them in Punjabi.
It is a story about relations not just with people but also with one’s work field. It is a story about emotions, emotions of love, friendliness, jealousy and loneliness. This story makes one think how social hierarchy and economic exploitation can rupture one’s inner self and generate pandemonium in one’s social and personal life.
The story is structured around a little piece of land and the sheesham tree on that land, which has a lot of emotions and memories attached to it for the protagonist, Jagseer and his father. It is about the trust Jagseer and his family put in Dharam Singh, which is smashed by Dharam Singh’s own son. His son not only walks over the sentiments of Jagseer but also his own father, all in lieu of his greed and his own selfish interest.
The story’s underlying theme is that according to an old saying that there are ten life changing experiences one encounters in his lifetime, but the story portraits that the characters face only one such change and that too an appalling one, so, they keep waiting for the other nine changes to come, hoping for a few delightful ones. So they keep singing,
Man, life gave you ten phases fine,
The first one blew you away
Where have gone the other nine?
Who can one trust? This is one of the questions that this novel raises. The first thought that hits one’s mind is Family. But reading about the actions of Dharam Singh’s family, one even loses faith in family also. Same with Raunki’s family. People whom one identifies as “friend” do not remain friends for life. Most of them are just friends in good times, but in bad times only few friends are left behind to hold our hands and walk with us. And they too are those people who have been slapped in their face by their fates. Jagseer had great friends in Gaiba and Gheela, but once settled in their lives, they never turned back to look behind. And towards the end when he was going through too much of turmoil, only Raunki and Dharam Singh were left to support him, both of them who themselves were left helpless with the way their lives had turned about.
The story brings out the purity of love. Love, which is beyond the boundaries of marriage, through the love story between Jagseer and his friend’s bride, Bhani. Though they cannot be together, yet they shared a very special bond of understanding, care and trust.
I, as a reader felt that the author could have explored a little more into the relationship of Jagseer and Bhani and bring out some more interesting facets of their relationship. Also, I felt that the author has exaggerated Jagseer’s mother’s condition, which seems too unrealistic. Comparing Gurdial Singh’s writing to other Indian writers, I did not find his work too appreciable to win him an award for this book. Jagseer is portrayed inflicted with too much of pain and loneliness that he lets himself be dissolved in opium. In all, the book plays with emotions of love, betrayal and loneliness, very impact fully, but still the at some instances there is an overplay of emotions which seems quite impractical.