Just about 24 hours ago if someone would have asked me what ‘The Shaving of Shagpat' means, I would have probably shrugged shoulders and pleaded ignorance. But not now. I am enchanted by the efforts of Shibli Bagrag, Noorna bin Noorka, unfortunate Bhanvar the Beautiful, Sword of Aklis... everything that George Meredith wrote.
No, yesterday I did not know anything about George Meredith either. I went to a book shop with a colleague; saw a book written by one of my most favorite Marathi authors Mr. G A Kulkarni. GA (as he is popularly known) was a fantastic writer and one of the best translators. I have read almost all his books. Presently I have none of his books in my collection. I was planning to purchase one GA book. So, I grabbed it.
This particular book I have purchased is a translation of ‘The Shaving of Shagpat’ by George Meredith, which was published in 1856. It always amazes me when I read books from earlier period. So much has happened before I was born, and so much more will keep on happening after my death… and still I cling to this life as if nothing else is important in this world….
Shibli the hero of the story is a barber…. very interesting. One Astrologer had told at Shibli’s birth that the child is destined for great things. Shibli keeps on wandering in search of that opportunity to enact the ‘great task’. Here George Meredith says, “a wandering person has a wandering mind, it cannot have peace”. I have been wandering for many years. Frankly speaking, I was shaken by that statement as if struck by lightning. It opened many doors within me.
Funnily, the whole efforts of Shibli and Noorna are directed towards shaving Shagpat, whose long and wild hair have some magical power. That’s right! Many times Power is more of a myth cleverly created by the powerful. Power comes through heredity, through seniority, through better education, through a particular religion… … then why not through uncut hair? George Meredith is sarcastic at his best here. And the idea that a common man like Shibli can challenge the existing authority is also interesting.
The book is an ‘Arabian Entertainment’. It is about magic … good and evil both. It is about greed and shattered dreams. It is about loneliness and it is about myth of power. It is about cooperation and humility. It is about love and distractions. It is about simplicity and ambition. It is about determination and direction. It is about learning while doing. It is about efforts and it is about destiny. The main statement is that the destiny drives human being in a particular direction, to a specific end. If you cooperate with your destiny, your journey is made easier (with different gifts approaching you), if you don’t you have to carry the burden of your sorrow. (I remembered the shloka from Bhagvadgeeta – ‘swadharme nidhanam shreyah, paradharmo bhayavahah’)
There are stories within the story and poems have been used very appropriately. The story of ‘Bhanvar the Beautiful’ is absorbing. For a moment, she wishes for a precious jewel… and what price she pays for that one moment of lust! Life and Death are woven together … and the complicated relationships made me wonder about my own existence. For some time, I could feel that everything around me is unreal … and reality evolved through that solid unreality around me.
If you are a complete adult, without any trace of child in you, you will definitely question the logic of the story. But if there is a child in you, (does not matter if it is latent), you will enjoy the book. It completely takes you to other world and slowly brings you back to your own world. In real life there is no Sword of Aklis and no drop of water can make all things around speak……
One realizes that even with all these magical wonders; life is a combination of happiness and sorrow. It is up to us, what we choose and how we live. George Meredith highlights this age-old truth meaningfully and artistically. Thanks to GA, otherwise I may never have read this great story.
Please, read this book. You can find digital version at any search engine. I found it easily on Google.
If you want Marathi translation by GA, you can have my copy.