Suman K Sharma
Imagine you are in a decent club. Dim lights, clinking glasses, muted sounds of laughter, snippets of conversation petering out softly like confetti, unobtrusive comings and goings of bearers; and amid all that razzmatazz, a debonair man ‘over forty’ (that is how Darshan Darshi describes himself) talking to you at leisure. His compilation of thirty-nine essays, Musings from My Attic (Akshay Prakashan, New Delhi, 152 pages, Rs.250/-) can afford you that luxurious feeling, provided you have the patience.
‘Darshan Darshi’ is author’s nom de plume. In official records, he goes by the name of D.K. Vaid. And thereby hangs a tale: What is there in a Name (pp.55-63). The slim volume abounds in tit-bits about his personal life. Agitated on being admitted to school, he bit his nursery teacher’s wrist as the hapless fellow ‘tried to tap (his) right cheek’ (p.144). The school boy Darshan ‘was nicknamed as ‘lass-lad’ because of (his) fair skin and girlish looks’ (p.101). Much later, marriage made him – ‘a willing meat-mincer all through (his) youth’ – adopt ‘the religion of vegetables’, only to live in peace with his strictly vegetarian spouse (pp.25-26). And when invited to his old school to deliver a lecture, he – by now a retired senior civil servant – left the principal red-faced with his unwonted bonhomie with the students (p.145).
The author is a former KAS officer. One of the assignments that he held was the Director of School Education. An accomplished poet and writer in Dogri as well as English, he was awarded by the Sahitya Akademy in 2006 for his compilation of Dogri poems, Kore Kakal, Koriyaan Taliyaan. Not the one to rest on his laurels, post-retirement he keenly shares with the hopefuls his rich experience as a motivational speaker and teacher of life-engineering. As the blurb on the book says, ‘the author has been wearing (sic) many hats.’
Musings from My Attic could not then be just a random collection of anecdotes about Darshan Darshi’s life and times. At least thirty of the essays are devoted to his opinion about the world around him and his favourite subject, life-engineering. But you don’t have to be apprehensive of dry and lengthy philosophising here. We live in the times of hurry. Life has to be taken like ice-cream. Darshi quotes his son approvingly. ‘And we want to lap it up in full while it is still tight and frozen’ (p.147). The confusion of the earlier generation is history. The young today are sure of themselves. They go for the things big: big dreams, big cities and big pay-cheques. But big, says the author, is not always beautiful (p.21). The older generation clings to its traditions and rituals, yet it can do little to protect the vernacular from the onslaught of English (p.28). Darshi, though no longer Director, Schools, celebrates the institution as the best in the world as it ‘knows what sharing is…'(p.47). About babudom, he lets us in a secret:
‘In our system of governance,…where hierarchical order has to be revered…, your efficiency…rests mostly on your method of reporting. If you lay your eggs in one go,…you are doomed. Take your papers out, slowly, gradually, looking at your boss expectantly for encouragement and guidance. Commit minor mistakes deliberately and allow yourself to be correctly graciously’ (p.15).
But it is in the pieces on life engineering that the author excels himself. In simple, pithy words, he drives home his point. ‘Always remember the old rule,’ he taunts a putative macho man about to punch an adversary, ‘that you can measure the size of a person by what makes him… angry (p.87).’ On the parent-child contretemps, he says: ‘The biggest cleave between the children and the parents is that the child has more trust in a deed, whereas his parents rest their belief in intentions’ (p.97). The parents, he implies, must lead their offspring by example. And why do you think the Good and the Bad exist in close proximity? It is because, offers the author, ‘(God) wants us to remain in a constant learning mode’ (p.121).
Darshan Darshi says with a hint of authorial pride, ‘As an old handler of words and Jack of all trades, I have treated my manuscript well’ss (p.24). Albeit, typos, malapropisms and solecisms have crept in; which are enough to deter a less committed reader. But for that matter, isn’t it true that only a select few can enter the portals of a select club?