Kala Jal Shani

‘Kālā Jal’ काला जल (Dark waters) is an iconic novel by Hindi writer Gulsher Khan Shāni गुलशेर ख़ाँ शानी (1933 – 1995) which he wrote between 1959 to 1961. Interestingly Gulsher Khan had adopted an Arabic word Shāni (meaning ‘enemy’) as his nom de plume (pen name). What sets ‘Kālā Jal’ apart is its authentic portrayal of Indian Muslims as familiar and vulnerable people with their joys and sorrows, personal and social struggle, and their lives with passions but a collective identity. It is a story of two humble Muslim families living in the dusty hinterlands of central India in Jagdalpur, Bastar (Chhattisgarh). Among the several works of Hindi literature written in 20th century, ‘Kālā Jal’ presents to us rare glimpses of Indian Muslim households and their cultural-religious heritage.
An excerpt from ‘Kālā Jal’ with English translation –

यही है शबे क़द्र – वह रात जो इबादत और दुआ की रात कहलाती है। यही है अज़ाब-गुनाहों से तौबा करने का बेशक़ीमत मौका, जब जन्नत के दरवाज़े खुले होते हैं और जब सिर्फ एक रात की इबादत चार सौ बरस के सिज़दे के बराबर होती है । लिहाज़ा जहाँ दो जून ठीक से रोटी का प्रबंध न हो सके, वहाँ फ़ातिहा की इतनी सारी तैयारी छोटी फूफी ने कहाँ से कर ली, यह सोचना भी गुनाह में पड़ना था। सोचा, जो इतनी बड़ी दुनिया का मालिक है, जिसे नन्हीं-से-नन्हीं चींटी के मुँह में भी निवाले पहुँचाने की फ़िक्र होती है, उसी ने चाहे जैसे हो, आज फूफी को भी इस लायक बना दिया है कि वह उसके नाम से लोबान जला सके।

English translation :

It is Shab-e-qadar—a night devoted to worship and prayer. A precious time to seek atonement for one’s sins. A time when the portals of heaven are open and when one night’s prayer is equal to four hundred years of worship. It would be a sin even to speculate on how Choti Phoophi managed to assemble all this paraphernalia for the Fateha when her resources were so meagre even to arrange two meals a day. I thought the Almighty who looks after the whole world had not forgotten the Phoophi in her hour of need and had provided her the means to observe the rites with proper dignity.