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Volume XLIV, No.51

Book Review: Making Art of Life

by K. S. Duggal

Tuesday 24 April 2007


So Many Journeys by Shiela Gujral; Allied Publishers Private Limited, New Delhi; Rs 295.

It is maintained that a creative writer takes to biographical writing when he or she finds the creative in him or her drying up. Rajinder Singh Bedi, the renowned Urdu short story writer, once shared this fear with me: “Duggal, I dread the day when I would go dry.”

Blissfully, it is not at all true of the author of the book under review. Shiela Gujral is as active, as prolific as a many-faceted writer as ever. She continues to write both in Hindi and English as regularly and continues to be published as ever. She brought out a collection of her verses entitled Cosmic Murmurs only the other day.

Shielaji deviates from another trend in biographical writing. She seems to have abandoned the selective in favour of the all-inclusive. She appears to subscribe to the anti-exclusive spirit of our time that insists on the equality of everything and, therefore, is rooted to the theory that all facts are of equal value and a biographical writing need not exercise judgment. In So Many Journeys, therefore, we have a section devoted to ‘Reflections and Revelation’, another to ‘Travels’, the third to ‘Personalites’ and the last one devoted to odd ‘Anecdotes’.

Biographical writing is a way of getting ouside the self; it is turning self-knowlede into art. An entirely sensitive writer, Shiela Gujral makes her experience live for her readers:
To my ear, two little doves mating near a bush, fair daffodils showing their radiant faces, a young lady standing there as if waiting for some one, all this engrossed my mind till my husband had to tap my back to remind me that it was time to leave.

The fascinating sight of two Suns, one emerging in the east and the other lingering in the lap of the western horizon intrigued me and I sat on the window settee observing the splendour of a stone-studded seascape. It seemed as it a huge canvas in front of me was continuously undergoing change with the brush strokes of the master artist, nature.
Shiela Gujral has the advantage and disadvantage of being the spouse of not only a former Prime Minister but also a renowned intellectual. Albeit, she has built her own identity as a creative writer, a sensitive poetess and it is no less delight to find that that is amply recognised time and again.
The trip was a great morale for me personality. Though I expected that as a spouse I would get a chance to bask under reflected glory, I could not imagine that there would be laudatory ‘writer ups’ on me as an independence identity.

Shiela Gujral makes her imagination mediate between what she experiences and what she records. It is making art of life.

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