पिछली 15 दिसंबर को अपना नब्बेवाँ जन्मदिन मना चुके नेकचंद का निधन हो गया. चंडीगढ़ के जनप्रिय महानायक, रॉक गार्डन के चितेरे इस अनूठे कलाकार इंसान ने बीती गुरूवार-शुक्रवार की रात अपनी अंतिम साँसें लीं. मूलतः शकरगढ़ (अब पाकिस्तान में) से ताल्लुक रखने वाले नेकचंद सैनी ने अपना करियर पीडब्लूडी में रोड इन्स्पेक्टर के तौर पर शुरू किया था.
शहर भर की इमारतों से बची बेकार और कूड़ा हो चुकी निर्माण सामग्री बीनकर नेकचंद ने चंडीगढ़ में रॉक गार्डन की रचना की थी. कचरे से बनी असंख्य शिल्पाकृतियों से सजा यह पार्क २४ जनवरी १९७६ को सार्वजनिक किया गया था. तब से अब तक इस में बदलाव के तीन दौर आ चुके हैं और इसका ख़ासा विस्तार हुआ है. नर्तकों, संगीतकारों, चिड़ियों और जानवरों की अनेक आकृतियों के अलावा रॉक गार्डन में कई कृत्रिम झरने भी बनाए गए हैं. एक अनुमान के मुताबिक़ यहाँ हर साल करीब ढाई लाख लोग आते हैं. १९९६ में स्थापित की गयी नेक चन्द फाउंडेशन इसकी देखरेख का काम करती है.
आज के दैनिक ट्रिब्यून ने बी. एन. गोस्वामी का लिखा एक लेख पुनर्प्रकाशित किया है जो पिछले साल नेकचंद सैनी के नब्बेवें जन्मदिन के मौके पर लिखा और प्रकाशित किया गया था. नेकचंद सैनी के कार्य को हमारी विनम्र श्रद्धांजलि के तौर पर यही लेख प्रस्तुत है.
फिलहाल इसे मूल अंग्रेज़ी में पढ़िए. समय मिलते ही इसे हिन्दी में अनूदित कर कबाड़खाने के पाठकों के लिए पेश किया जाएगा.
|(चित्र साभार http://www.thehindu.com)|
Every passion borders on the chaotic, but the collector’s passion borders on the chaos of memories.
— Walter Benjamin
I do not recall who it was that, writing about Nek Chand, spoke of his having received endless honours, among them the Padma Shri, which he said was the equivalent of a knighthood in Britain. This may or may not exactly be true, but I liked the sound of it: “Sir Nek Chand”. I have, whenever I have been with him, always addressed him as “Nek Chand ji” but, had I come upon that reference to equivalence earlier, I would have certainly started addressing him as “Sir Nek Chand”.
The honour sits well, in fact perfectly, on him. But I am sure that had I begun using that address, he would have objected, flashing that shy but irresistible smile, saying something that one could barely have heard.
Endless words have been written about Nek Chand ji and his work, and by this time it would seem as if one knows it all: his humble beginnings from a little village that now is in Pakistan; his first job as a lowly road inspector; the surreptitious manner in which he began building “something” on government land, against all laws and rules then prevailing but on his own time; his forays on bicycle back into the neighbourhood and the region, assembling rocks, picking up waste materials that cost nothing and generally lay among piles of waste — discarded shards of ceramics, useless electrical fittings, bottle tops, lumps of cinder, broken glass bangles — , and then fashioning them into objects of fancy.
One also knows about his quiet but elegant “kingdom” being discovered by the angered powers that be, the threat of razing it down that loomed over it, and the eventual saving of it from destruction by enlightened intervention. What followed is widely known and has been justly celebrated: the enthusiasm with which his creation, the “Rock Garden” — the name was apparently given “from above”, not chosen by him — was greeted by the multitudes that started pouring into it, the honours that came to him from different lands, the endless invitations, the dissertations and volumes written on his work, the starting of an internationally based Nek Chand Foundation.
This domain of his — a chaotic but endearing island in the midst of rigid geometry — is now not only an enduring part of the Corbusier city but an icon of it. Not everything works in respect of form or design on this island, but most of it does: brilliantly.
Here one can, anyone can, wander about, breathing a different air, greeting sights that take one completely by surprise: sprawling tracts of grassy land, artificially created water-falls amongst “valleys” and “gorges” with an open-air theatre set in their midst, swings and majestic colonnades, armies of cement monkeys and bears and village lasses, down to an old village well placed in the heart of a tiled courtyard, and, at one spot, that amazing creation: strings of rope-like, coiling, twisting, cemented ‘tubes’ that hang down endlessly from above like aerial roots. A memory perhaps of a banyan left behind in a village in Pakistan a long time ago?
All the accolades and honours notwithstanding, however, it has not been smooth for Nek Chand ji, it has to be said. He has faced more than his share of “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”; he and his creation have been under threat; the support in respect of money and men that should have been rightfully his, at least after his garden kingdom had been officially recognised, he has rarely received without a struggle; plain jealousies have raised their poisoned head at every other step. But — and this is the measure of the man — he has always remained himself: humble to a fault, self-effacing, dedicated, completely immersed in his work, whether thinking or working by hand. The passion that moved him from the very beginning has stayed young in his ageing heart; the vision that he had has remained untarnished.
As someone wrote after spending time with him, interviewing and taking down notes, that “what remains in mind is not the analysis (of his work) but that simple image of a man sitting by his hut in a forest clearing, mixing cement, mortar and odds-and-ends discarded by civilisation, creating … year after year, … giving shape to elements of his imagination like no one else had done before”. There are no theories he has worked with. But then, as has been well said: “Critics need a theory; creators don’t.”
There is little new that one can say about Nek Chand ji – someone translated his name once as “The Moon of Virtue” – and his work. Except, of course, to recall one’s early encounters with him and his creation, or to pick moments from “the shimmering chaos of one’s memory”, to use a phrase of Monet’s, and keep shoring them up. I remember the first time I saw his “garden”: very, very few people in the city knew about it, and it was still all hush-hush even though it was an architect friend who took me to see it. Around it, there was a tall “mud wall” made up of discarded coal-tar drums piled one top of another, something more like a fortification than a barricade, on one of which one had to tap with a stick, like a secret signal, for some worker from inside to peep out, ascertain that only a friend was at the gate, and then swing it open for entering.
What was inside was, of course, breathtakingly calm and Nek Chand ji would greet one, emerging from the little mud hut that he had constructed as a “pad” which doubled as his “office”. In the years that followed, a kind of friendship formed between us — at least he recognised my name — and one had occasion to reach him from time to time over the telephone, asking him for some small favour or the other, like sparing some time for seeing a visiting friend, and each time he would answer in his characteristic Punjabi: “Lau, kyon nahin janaab”!
One winced a little at the undeserved respect shown by him in words and tone, but each time one was grateful. Any time that one would approach him for something, to be given a preview, for instance, of a new phase that he was quietly working on, unknown to the rest of the world, he would oblige: “Aa jaao, kal shaam”. Once, when I invited him to come to Patiala (where I was teaching as Visiting Professor for some time) to come and participate in a symposium that my department had organised, he not only accepted the invitation most willingly but arrived from Chandigarh, on the morning of the symposium, in a tempo in which were loaded some sculptures of his own making, all set to gift them to the University.
That is quintessentially him: helpful, willing to share, not a touch of hubris about him. When he said to some interviewer that “I regard myself neither as an artist, nor as a craftsman … I am completely insignificant”, he was, I am convinced, speaking from the heart. This, with the burden of all the honours he has been loaded with on his shoulders.
Sheikh Sa’adi, the great Persian poet, once said:
Khisht-i awwal gar nihad maimaar kaj, Taa suraiya mi ravad deewaar kaj.
(If the first brick the mason lays is crooked/ The wall he raises will always be crooked even if it reaches the stars.)
Nek Chand ji’s work will endure. For, from the very beginning, he has never laid a brick that was crooked, either in work or in his self-denying persona.
(http://www.tribuneindia.com से साभार)