Saeedabai sings Dagh Dehlvi's Mujhe Bura Kahiye in A Suitable Boy | Kavita Seth

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Published at : 06 Dec 2020
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Dagh Dehlvi's Na rava kahiye on rekhta.org: https://tinyurl.com/y6rw9x42

It is rare for Tabu to be overshadowed by anyone, but this sequence belongs as much to Geeta Agarwal Sharma's acquiescent Mrs Mahesh Kapoor, of whom Vikram Seth says,

'She was the garden at Prem Nivas (soon to be entered into the annual Flower Show), she was Veena’s love of music, Pran’s asthma, Maan’s generosity, the survival of some refugees four years ago, the neem leaves that would preserve quilts stored in the great zinc trunks of Prem Nivas, the moulting feather of some pond heron, a small unrung brass bell, the memory of decency in an indecent time, the temperament of Bhaskar’s great-grandchildren. Indeed, for all the Minister of Revenue’s impatience with her, she was his regret. And it was right that she should continue to be so, for he should have treated her better while she lived, the poor, ignorant, grieving fool.'

Vikram Seth dedicates the Hindi translation of A Suitable Boy, 'Koi Accha Sa Ladka' (trans. Gopal Gandhi) to his beloved character, Mrs. Mahesh Kapoor, who would have been unable to read the novel in English. He describes her as calm, steady and long suffering (shānt, sthir aur sahanshīl bhāv)

Gardens are everywhere in the novel. Of Mrs. Mahesh Kapoor's garden, Vikram Seth writes,

'Everything, Savita thought, appeared more intense in the garden at Prem Nivas. It was almost as if the plants understood that their mistress, though she would not overtly complain about a weak performance, would not be happy with less than their best'

Of her Harsingar tree, he says,

In the garden at Prem Nivas stood the undistinguished, rough-leafed harsingar tree, the tree that Krishna was reputed to have stolen from Indra’s heaven for the sake of his wife Rukmini. It was not in bloom yet, and would not be for another two months, but Mrs Mahesh Kapoor stood before the tree for a minute just after dawn, imagining it covered with the fragrant, star-shaped, small white-and-orange flowers that lasted only a single night before falling to the lawn beneath.
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A modest, unhandsome tree by day, the harsingar became glorious at night, full of a delicate fragrance, surrounded by enchanted insects. The tiny, six-petalled flowers with their orange hearts wafted down at dawn. And tonight it would again be full, and the flowers would again float down as the sun rose. The tree flowered, but kept nothing for itself.
A Suitable BoyMira NairVikram Seth

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