Shimla-based travel writer and a tourist guide, Sumit Raj Vashisht, had released his new novel ‘Teashop at Narkanda’ very recently. Himachal Watcher received a copy of the novel from the writer for reading. After reading it we thought of sharing a review with our readers. For avid readers, the novel is a four to five hours read. Two types of characters are, more or less, idealized. People are either pure evil or are overwhelmingly kind. Writer yearned to create a balance between agonies of human life and elements of hope. Role of destiny is emphasized irrespective of writer’s intentions.
However, the writer did succeed in creating a high-tension melodrama. Behavioral attributes of some characters agreed with reality. Description of routine life in Shimla or Narkanda and accounts of socio-cultural aspects are accurate. The writer is acquainted with religious rituals, ceremonies and beliefs of native culture. Depiction of geography is convincing as well.
Those who have been to Narkanda, can match the description of this bus stop at a small market in upper region of district Shimla, Himachal Pradesh. The plot is based on one of India’s dreariest natural disasters -Kedarnath flash flood in 2013 that had killed over 5,000 people and had rendered thousands homeless. Dreams and hopes of not only families but each individual were shattered in just one moment. Birju, the protagonist in the story, is one such teenager, who had lost everything including his parents and siblings. He is left with nothing back at home, so he moves to Shimla in a hope to find means to livelihood. He should have been to school at that age when empty pocketed he struggled for shelter and food. Carrying the trauma of his loss, he wanders like an orphan only to find trivial jobs at small dhabas. At night, he sleeps under a canopy behind the church on the Shimla Ridge. The narrator often saw him sitting on a bench in front of the Christ church. The narrator, who is also struggling in his own ways, hears the traumatic story of the boy. But the narrator finds himself helpless to offer any help to the boy owing to his own turmoil.
The story of Birju is narrated by the writer.
The usual, unhealthy work-environment and poor treatment of helpers at dhabas add to the agony of the protagonist. But that wasn’t all. The circumstances take a dramatic twist when the boy discovers a news about his family. Not all of his family members were dead. This discovery was followed by a long struggle for survival by protagonist and his family. The house, land, and all possessions were lost in the natural calamity. Evil relatives add to the misery of his family.
The academic ambitions of a teenager now conflicted with desperate need to earn a living. With little education, working at a tea shop at Narkanda was all he could find on the name of employment. He is stuck there for over a decade, living a miserable life.
New characters continue to emerge as story progressed. The writer used them to introduce twists in circumstances. The protagonist is more an outcome of circumstance than his karma or hard-work. But what was the ultimate fate of the protagonist and his family?
The perfect circle of helplessness that surrounds the protagonist throughout the entire story contradicts with attributed positive personality traits. It’s towards the end of the novel when Birju punches his owner and leave him unconscious. Otherwise, Birju is always a victim. This helplessness would appeal to emotionally sensitive readers, of course.
The writer tried hard to introduce characters with detailed description, which is admirable. To conclude the review, we would say, the novel is worth a read and readers will find it motivational.
About the Writer
Sumit Raj Vashisht was born at Shimla in 1967. His father, a railway engineer by profession also a well known Urdu poet under the pen name of Talat Irfani, was never interested in leaving Shimla. Hills are Sumit’s first love, he belong to them. Here, he tells stories, conducts educational camps for school children, writes books on his travels, works as a Heritage Guide and a Tour Companion on Himalayan Valleys outings and helps those British who return to India looking for their family history. His innovative ideas of providing experiences to his traveler clients have made Shimla Walks, his company famous.
Himachal’s traditional ‘Mandi Shivratri’ fair begins today
Mandi: The traditional Shivratri Mela of Mandi district, which is a week-long international fair, began today as the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh, Jai Ram Thakur, formally announced the opening at the historical Paddal ground at Mandi.
This year’s celebrations are special for the people of Mandi as it is the native place of the Chief Minister. Also, Bhartiya Janata Party has captured all 10 seats in the district including the support of the one independent candidate.
I am happy to see all nine MLAs including an Independent who have gathered here for celebrating the festival with traditional fervour,
Earlier, after paying obeisance at the famous Madho Rai temple, the Chief Minister participated in the traditional ‘Jaleb’ (Shobha Yatra) of Shivratri fair, which began from DC office to end at the Paddal ground.
Local deities along with the Chief deity Madho Rai led the procession.
The locals draped in their colourful attire thronged the procession carrying along the palanquins of the local deities and marched towards the Paddal Mela ground. A little less than two hundred Devtas participated in the ‘Jaleb’, the traditional Shobha Yatra, from almost all corners of the district.
The life of the people of the state revolves around the local Gods and Goddesses, and the local deities are an inseparable part of the people. The Shivratri festival gives a glimpse of ‘Dev and Manav Milan’ (the meeting of humans with deities), he said.
The Chief Minister announced a hike of 20 percent in ‘nazarana’ of the local deities, 20 percent hike in ration quota, and two times increase in honorarium of ‘Bajantris’ – the musicians who accompany the deities.
As compared to Rs. 3,64,000 in 2017, with two times rise in honorarium of Bajantris, the expenditure the expenditure will be Rs. 7,31,000 in 2018.
The Chief Minister has assured that the government will register the left-out deities in a phase-wise manner.
‘Sarv Devta Committee’ will formulate the guidelines, examine each case, will pass a resolution in the house unanimously, and the committee will forward the case to the district administration for necessary action.
The Chief Minister also released a souvenir of the festival on the occasion.
He said the government would soon come up with parking places to decongest traffic.
The Chief Minister said Mandi will be connected with air services under UDAN scheme, (a regional connectivity scheme of Government of India). A helipad will be constructed in Mandi, he said.
The state government will take up the issue with the Union government along with the demand for direct flights from Chandigarh to Kullu, Kangra, Shimla and for tribal areas, the Chief Minister assured.
Pahari short-film Pashi wins best Cinematography award at Marietta Film Festival in Georgia
Siddharth Chauhan’s Himachali short-film Pashi has won the best Cinematography award at Marietta International Film Festival in Georgia, Europe in the short-film category.
Earlier, Pashi had also made it to an Oscar qualifying ‘Rhode Island International Film Festival’held in USA in August 2017. It was the first international premiere for the film. Like Rhode Island, at Marietta too, Pashi was the only entry from India, said Sidharth.
Siddharth was the Director of photography while Yashwant Kumar Sharma was his cameraman.
The film is inspired from Siddharth’s childhood memories in his village Dhanoti, Rohru of Shimla district and produced under the Secret Corridor Picture.
In the regional Pahari spoken in Rohru, Pashi means a trap – an ancient concept used by villagers & children for hunting birds and animals.
Pashi will be showcased at Shanghai International Film Festival in Shanghai on the September 17. On February 2, 2018, the film will be showcased at the World Music and Independent Film Festival in Washington where it already has five nominations – Best Director, Best Screenplay Writer, Best Cinematography, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actor.
Siddharth has emerged as a talented filmmaker from the Hill state where the film industry is still in infancy. Luckily, the parents of Siddharth, Mr. Balwan Singh Chauhan and Mrs. Bimla Chauhan offered a thorough support to him in his endevour.
Lead actors of the film include Chetan Kanwar, a Class XII student at the Chapslee School, Shimla, John Negi, a model/actor from Rampur, Kamayani Bisht, an English Professor at the Government College Theog, Savitri Devi Sunta, the oldest family member of the Sunta family in Khawalan.
Supporting case includes Dewansh Kanwar (Chapslee School), Aditi Sunta ( Rohru), and Dev Ranta (Rohru).
Other crew members are as followed.
- Assistant Directors: Mridul Surbhi, Shefali Chauhan & Ankit Rathore
- Music: Prabir Sekhri from Canada
- Sound: Tanmaya Das from Mumbai
- Visual Effects: Himanshu Hirwani from Pune
- Story/Direction: Siddharth Chauhan from Shimla
- Associate Producers: Swati Chauhan & Ankit Rathore (from Delhi)
Artists in Himachal allege serious irregularities in distribution of top Academy awards
How the Academy can distribute prizes four months prior to completion of the year. Moreover, without procuring the copy of published works, how would it assess the artists?
Shimla: The Himachal Pradesh Academy of Language, Art, and Culture was alleged of irregularities in the distribution of the annual top three awards to best artists in various fields.
The Academy is preparing to distribute the top Academy awards for the year 2017 in advance without following proper procedures and even rules of the Academy.
The awards for the year 2016 were presented in March 2017. Just five months after it, now, the Academy is preparing to distribute prizes in haste before the end of the year. Artists cite the upcoming Assembly Election as the main reason behind this unjustified act.
For the 2017 awards, the Academy has invited artists to submit their entries with details by August 26, 2017. Surprisingly, the Academy has not asked the candidates to submit any books or other published works for the assessment.
The artists and social organizations are questioning how the Academy can distribute prizes four months prior to completion of the year. Moreover, without procuring the copy of published works, how would it assess the artists?
Several artists would publish or reveal their works of art during the next four months. But if the prizes for the year were already distributed before completion of the year, these artists will face injustice. All artists deserve equal opportunity to represent their works.
The 2016 awards were distributed without actually assessing the art works or the artists, said the allegations. A few members of the Academy distributed the prizes to some pre-selected candidates without properly inviting other artists to submit entries. There was no in-depth assessment of works of art and literature before giving away prizes worth lakhs of rupees.
These allegations were labeled by Guru Dutt Sharma, an artist and the President of the “HP Sarvahitkari Sangh”. He said the Academy distributed the last year’s awards just five months ago, and now, the Academy is trying to distribute top three awards for the year 2017 in advance.
Sharma also alleged that every such institute or organization is bound to properly advertise the invitation for entries along with details regarding the eligibility criteria, rules, and norms. However, the Academy issued only a press note that did not contain any of the aforesaid details, he alleged.
He further alleged that the constitution of the Academy was hijacked by a few members. These members were taking undue advantage of their positions and working arbitrarily.
As per the Academy rules, the position of the President in the Academy always belongs to the Secretary of the HP Department of Language and Culture. However, the Academy has defied this rule and even the post of the Secretary was not filled as per rules.
Guru Dutt Sharma has also written to the President of the Academy and the Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh asking them to publish proper details regarding the eligibility and rules before inviting entries.
He also asked the Chief Minister to ensure that the awards for the year 2017 should be given in 2018 after appropriate assessment.
The artists are pleading the government to spare the Academy of corruption for the sake of the art.
Sharma has requested all artist community to join hands and fight against the irregularities in the Academy to ensure justice with deserving artists.
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