I have always heard about the satire, wit, and humor of Harishankar Parsai. It took me a long time to pick up his first book Apni Apni Bimari. It was available to read for free on Amazon, so downloaded and started reading for some light entertainment. Little did he realize that he would touch so many chords with the independent writer in me.
I don’t think it is his best work or best-known work. He received the Sahitya Academy Award for his book ‘Viklang Shraddha Ka Daur’ in 1982. Harishankar Parsai was a columnist with Hindi newspapers where he used to answer the questions asked by readers. He must have been a fascinating personality.
Book is a collection of personal essays or fictionalized stories that definitely come from the Parsai’s personal experience with different people in life. A lot of them deal with a writer’s life, which I found quite amusing. He provides a lovely insider-outsider view of a simple situation that most of us face sometimes in life.
Buy Apni Apni Bimari by Harishankar Parsai at Amazon
Let me quote some of his interesting quotes:
If you can find even 10 pages from ancient times, many people can do their research on it and spend life explaining it.
In the common social decline, people feel pride in personal achievements, and in their personal decline, they see the general social decline. A great way to look at how we look at the moral decline of others and ours.
In the city has opened a shop of books and two of medicines. This is the proportion of knowledge and sickness the city has. The desire or need for medicine is twice the desire for knowledge.
If someone is dying from disease A, then to save him from it is a doctor’s job, who will allow him to die of another disease. If people are moving in the right direction, it is the job of the leaders to take them in the wrong direction. To teach in a way that the student goes in search of the best notes in the market is the job of a professor.
A layperson laughs and an intellectual only squirm.
Stupidity is eternal. It comes alive every time it dies.
I loved the story ‘Ramkatha Kshepak. It has a hilarious take on why the business community changes its record books on Diwali and why they wrap their account books in red cloth. Another story talks about intellectuals and how all that they say applies to others and rarely to themselves.
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There are anecdotal stories of people who would come and live in your home and all the tactics that were used to evict them. Only to find them in a neighbor’s or an acquaintance’s house. There are old-world charm stories where people could fool others by posing as MPs or high officials. We have lost these situations in the era of ubiquitous information. A story of someone who never lost temper till he lost extension to his job.
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A story where Parsai talks about being invited as a chief guest, but only remembers being constantly worried about his promised payment. The relief that he gets when he receives an envelope and his curious ways to weigh it to know the amount made me smile a lot.
These are stories of usual people around us and their anecdotes, their dichotomies, and their dilemmas. Language adds to the satirical value of the stories. Simple yet impactful stories that show you a mirror.
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If you read Hindi, read it.