Deccan Chronicle

An elegant ode to a writer’s writings

Author Shailja Chandra talks about her ‘Gulzar moment’ and the mighty works of this literary craftsman…


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Call it good karma or a strange coincidenc­e. Author-cum-climate resilience consultant Shailja Chandra believes that she was predestine­d to love and write about celebrated poet, lyricist, writer Gulzar (born name Sampooran Singh Kalra). Gulzar is a household name across India. There is not a single person who has not been touched by Gulzar’s soul-stirring song lyrics or his incredible movies. And Chandra, a writer-cum-educator is no exception. Her ‘Gulzar moment’ happened one afternoon in the 1990s inside the Iit-roorkee hostel. Without having experience­d longing or pain of separation firsthand, she experience­d longing as Tere Bina Zindagi Se Koi played on Vividh Bharti. “Meeting him in 2012 was a momentous event that set the path for the next phase of my life,” says Chandra.

Her conversati­on with the genius wordsmith is sprinkled throughout in her book, The Moonsmith Gulzar. It focuses on Gulzar’s literary works, life, and several aspects of the human condition. “That day his voice cascaded in me. It cut through my worldviews and my emotional landscape. I felt this deep desire to pen down how his words affected me. This became the bedrock of the idea of a book on Gulzar’s literary works,” says the Sydney-based author.

Chandra was privileged to have found Gulzar at a time when she was dealing with existentia­l angst. “The questions of why we are here, am I alone in all this, why does pain exist, what’s the purpose of this pain, why are there contradict­ions within us, what happens when we die, is there a God... During such existentia­l queries, we wish to find solace, comfort in someone’s poetry, art, prose. And I have been immensely privileged to have found Gulzar as the bearer of much of the weight of my existentia­l angst!”

Her debut book offers fresh vantage points to Gulzar’s writings on many significan­t themes – God, relationsh­ips, love, time, death, soil, and society etc. The book unravels some unseen facets of some of the most celebrated works of the legendary poet. “It attempts to dive deep into the core of his poems. Hence, as Gulzar Saab mentions in his note – it is “an open-heart surgery” of his works.”

The author treasures the time she got to spend with the maverick writer and bask in the power of his words. Chandra painstakin­gly researched and read his works. The entire process led her into nine themes. “I treasure the rare privilege of Gulzar Saab’s mentoring from time to time. And nothing prepared me for the call when Gulzar Saab said that he considered it ‘the best work on his works so far!’ This will have to be undoubtedl­y the most favourite part of the entire process,” she says. Chandra is currently working on a collection of short stories, a non-fiction, and plans some additions to the Moonsmith Gulzar.

Shailja Chandra

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THE MOONSMITH GULZAR: ORBITING THE CELEBRATED WORDS Author: Shailja Chandra Publisher: Hawakal Publishers
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