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Celebration of love

PREM-TAPASVI: Ambika Prasad Divya; Bharatiya Jnanpith, 18, Institutional Area, Lodi Road, New Delhi-110003. Rs. 150.

THIS BOOK is the fictionalised life-story of a folk-poet of the Bundelkhand region blessed with an extempore poetic composition who reeled out light, musical songs called "phaag" usually associated with the Holi festival mostly in praise of the dearly loved one. He lived in the era of the princely states and his "phaag" songs survive only on the lips of rural folks.

The preface mentions the author's tour to the villages in transcribing and collecting the songs, stories and other traditions of the poet whose life was a continuous penance of steadfast love, celebrated through his songs. Though his early love for his girl-playmate did not materialise it kept alive the flame of his poetic creativity and caused the unfortunate reverses and ultimate success in society. Obviously the liberty of a fiction writer to add imaginative details to a truthful core of facts gathered by him, has been exercised here.

The story begins with the poet as a boy developing love for his playmate. The two separated by their caste divisions get married to different persons but the memories of childhood love persists steadily in the boy's heart who has an inborn genius for composing emotionally appealing "phaag" songs; he celebrates this undying love of his early age with his effusions which attract everyone and causes a rift in the married life of the girl whom he names in all his rhymes.

The boy's poetic talent is recognised by a neighbour who encourages him; this neighbour is mistaken as the real composer of ribald love-songs with the innocent boy as his medium of expression, and is imprisoned by a rural court. Meanwhile the boy's songs fascinate the local chieftain who employs him as his agent.

But while doing his duties the poet gets severely beaten up by the husband of his former lover. He is later dismissed on the basis of false accusations made against him. Disowned by his father too, he leads a vagrant life. Unproved charges are levelled against him and he gets convicted. But he is released through a sympathiser's influence.

The story revolves round the rural background of the princely states where the land disputes of Zamindars and machinations of land-revenue officials whom they bribe for their ends, are the focal points.


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