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Posted at: Jul 7, 2018, 12:12 AM; last updated: Jul 7, 2018, 12:12 AM (IST)VIGNETTES

Guleri, unforgettable writer of ‘Usne Kaha Tha’

The story, found in all anthologies of immortal Hindi stories, brought a tsunami to that literature

Shriniwas Joshi

Chandradhar Sharma Guleri passed the middle examination in Jaipur, did matriculation from Kolkata and graduation from Allahabad. He was a brilliant student and always had a desire of doing post-graduation in philosophy, but could not do so because of poor health. He joined government service but continued writing.

India is celebrating today the 135th birth anniversary of that great litterateur, Chandradhar Sharma Guleri. A casual reader knows him as the writer of the story “Usne Kaha Tha” that was first published in a journal “Saraswati” in 1916. A few say that it was published in the year 1915. Whatever may be the year of its publication, it brought a tsunami to Hindi literature. Pick up any anthology of immortal Hindi stories, you will find “Usne Kaha Tha” in it. It touches readers’ feelings. A 12-year-old Tonga-driver saves an eight-year-old girl from being hurt in a crowded Amritsar Bazaar and asks “teri kudmai ho gai hai?” (Are you betrothed?) She replies in “dhutt” (shut up). Whenever they meet, the boy asks the same question and the girl gives the same reply. One day, she shows him a symbol that confirms her betrothal. It was heartbreaking for the boy. The boy, Lehna Singh, as a grown-up man joins the army and before going to the front goes to Subedaar Hazaara Singh’s house. There the Subedaarni asks Lehna to take care of her husband and son Bodha Singh. Subedaarni happened to be the same ‘once upon a time’ eight-year-old girl. Lehna sacrifices his life to save the lives of Hazaara and Bodha on the battlefront. This story in combination with brevity consumes the reader faster. A short story is always tough as a form but reading it is total joy. And that is what ‘Usne Kaha Tha’ reflects.

Before knowing more about Chandradhar Sharma Guleri, let us get acquainted with Haripur Guler, the twin townships of Kangra established in the year 1465. There are several neglected monuments in and around the twin township of Haripur Guler. An ancient gate is very impressive. A visit will be rewarding. Guler is a narrow-gauge railway station on the Pathankot-Jogindernagar railway line. It is the cradle of Guler Pahari paintings where Manaku and Nain Sukh were born to Pandit Seu to take Guler paintings to a high. Here also lived Pandit Shiv Ram who shifted from Guler to Jaipur where he was honoured as the chief Pandit of the Raj Darbaar. There he begot son Chandradhar on the July 7, 1883, the eldest among the three sons. Chandradhar’s mother was Lakshmi Devi, the third wife of Pandit Shiv Ram. Chandradhar Sharma Guleri mostly stayed outside Himachal Pradesh but earned the penname from the principality of Guler.

He passed the middle examination in Jaipur, did matriculation from Kolkata and graduation from Allahabad. He was a brilliant student and always scored first division marks in the examinations. He had a desire of doing post-graduation in philosophy but could not do so because of poor health. The financial condition of the household was not sound, so he joined government service but continued writing. At the age of 20 -21, he was married to a girl, Padmavati, from the Raina family of Haripur. Chandradhar use to address her as ‘Poor Brahmni’. She was a bit rigid but Chandradhar ran his family affairs well with her. He begot two sons and two daughters, one daughter died at an early age which remained a cause of disturbance to Chandradhar. 

Guleri was a prolific writer and wrote books and articles, 308 in number. Padam Singh Sharma, a critic, says, “There is no writer of Hindi who can match Guleri in sincerity.” His appreciation also flows from W Cleland of Holland and Graham of Ireland. Even Grearson who had never met Guleri said, “That he had been reading the works of Guleri and was his undivided devotee.” It is rather unfortunate that Chandradhar Sharma Guleri is considered as a story writer only and that too as writer of three stories – “Sukhmaya Jeevan,” “Buddhu ka Kanta” and “Usne Kaha Tha”. The Hindi world is fishing for his other stories too and it has been successful in finding three more – “Ghantaghar,” “Dharmparayan Reech” and “Heere ka Heera”. “Heere ka Heera” came to light in 1987 due to the efforts of another Kangra litterateur, late Dr Manohar Lal.

Guleri’s essays, especially “Kachhua Dharam”, stand right up to the level of essays written by Francis Bacon. In it, he professes tit for tat to the wrongdoer. But then says that Kachhua Dharam will not allow it because it wants a person to behave like a tortoise going back to shell even when attacked. It is a precious satire. Let me give a paragraph of one of his poems, “Soham” -- so simple but satirical. “karke hum bhi BA pass/ hain ab zilaadheesh ke daas/ paate hain do baar pachaas/ badhne ki rakhte hain aas.”

His pen that embellished whatever he wrote went silent on September 12, 1922, when he succumbed to jaundice at the young age of 39. Ramchandra Shukla, a critic, says about him, “The excellence of his style stands unmatched among the Hindi writers.”


“A short story is a love affair, a novel is a marriage. A short story is a photograph;
a novel is a film.” -Lorrie Moore 


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