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SOMEmen are romantics and lyricist Gulzar is one of them.

Love for the life lived, days yet to be and it is difficult not to be buoyed by his boyish charm. He was at his storytelling best when he was in town as a part of Penguin Book India's Spring Fever Festival to read from Half a Rupee ( Penguin; ` 299) , his new collection of short stories.

Having come along with the translator of his book, Indonesia- based Sunjoy Shekar, Gulzar says, " Urdu is my first language. All these stories were written in Urdu and some have been published earlier, but Sunjoy has translated all of them for this edition." With his stories as a backdrop, Sampooran Singh Kalra, who goes by his pen name Gulzar, talks about a time when Delhi was Dilli and when you would get kulia cht and m papad for a pie each. " That unit of currency doesn't exist anymore. It began to disappear when we converted to the decimal system in 1957," he adds.

Dressed in his crisp- white kurta- pyjama , Gulzar says that the title of the book is derived from a common man's struggle to make it. " A common man has only half of the things. They strive to make this atthani a full rupaiah ," says the lyricist.

" There is a lot you can take from life. And most of the stories are biographical.

Some have been shared with me and some my own," says the poet. Just like the stories in his book that leave a melancholic tune in your heart, Gulzar says that his inspiration has been life.

The master story- teller tells stories about Kuldip Nayyar's trip to the Wagah border on August 14 every year, Javed Akthar's unrelenting anger against his father but his love for his father's indulgent friend Sahir and lyricist and writer Bhushan Banmali's ( of Do Qaidi and 100 Days fame) nomadic nature.

But these are not the only tales Gulzar weaves in his 25- story compilation, Half a Rupee . He renders your heart raw with a story titled LoC and in Gagi and Superman , he lets you saunter into your childhood, where superheroes could do everything.

Talking a walk through the memory lane, all the while keeping his eye on the TV watching the current Test series between India and Australia, Gulzar says, " Values of life were extremely different back then.

Even water would be given with gur.

Social respectability was unlike today, even beggars were respected." Such thoughts are reflected in these short stories.

Staying true to the poet in him, Gulzar recites, " Main ek sadi se baitha hoon/ Is rh se koi guzra nahin/ Kuch chnd ke rath to guzre the/ Par chnd se koi utra nahin ( I have been sitting for a century, No one has passed through this path, Some processions of the moon had passed, But no one has come out of the moon)," while signing off.

The Penguin Spring Festival is on till today at IHC

The title of Gulzar's new collection of short stories, Half a Rupee is derived from a common man's struggle to earn a rupee

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Mar 24, 2013

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