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‘Abhiley’ is a short story written by Abdul Ghani Sheikh. It revolves around the story of an old woman named ‘Abhiley’ and her experience in the modern world. The story beautifully captures her emotions as she experiences a change to what she had always known. The text here is a translated version of his by Ravina Aggarwal.
About the Author:
Abdul Ghani Sheikh (1936-) is a prominent writer of Ladakh. He also worked previously as a stock assistant and a school teacher in addition to being a playwright. Famous works of his include Woh Zamana, Dil Hi To Hai and Ladakh ki Kahani.
The theme if this story revolves around generation gap. The stark contrast between traditionality of modernity is highlighted. The simplicity of the women of Ladakh is also a recurring theme that can be observed.
The story begins with Abhiley hearing of the earthquake in Turkey and her resultant shock. This is ridiculed of as her cause for concern, her granddaughter Rukhsana, was nowhere near its vicinity. This shows the blinding love she has for her and her limited knowledge about the world. With Rukhsana having left for Srinagar, all Abhiley could think was “Is my Rukhsana safe?”
Abhiley has never ventured outside of Ladakh much, her experience limited to ten miles within her village. Crowded places including fairs distress her. An interesting incident where the visit of Dolma, daughter of a distant relative to her, is mentioned. Abhiley assumed she was a ‘memsahib’, showing how disconnected she was from the modern world. Her incessant questioning and subsequent helpless tears upon knowledge that Dolma, who was from Delhi, couldn’t see Rukhsana is a testimony to this fact. This also lets her being taken advantage of, even by the persona themselves.
Unsurprisingly, Abhiley’s connect with the modern world is limited. Her calling a pilot ‘plane-sahib’ and her inability to watch films prove this fact. In fact, it is not just her who lacks this knowledge. Her neighbour ‘Abhi’ is described in a similar fashion. She is seen to call radio ‘reldi’.
Unfortunately for Abhiley, floods strike Srinagar. No amount of consolation puts her mind to rest. In the end, the persona takes her to Srinagar where she finds Rukhsana, hale and healthy. A tearful reunion ensues, following which Abhiley promptly announces that she wishes to return home.
‘Abhiley’ is a story which portrays society’s perception of the old. Abhiley is the standard grandmother figure who is ridiculed of and who is unaware of modernity. In this story, Abhiley shows how she is unbothered by it, how she chooses to remain her simple self instead of aspiring for more.