शुक्रवार, 13 जनवरी 2012

Who cares for Hindi laureates?// rs Ranjan Kumar Singh's Blog

Jhansi0002Recently I was in Jhansi (Uttar Pradesh) to deliver a keynote address on the birth anniversary of Late Vrindavan Lal Verma, an eminent Hindi novelist. It was heartening to see that at the entrance of the Railway Station stand magnificent statues of three of our great vernacular laureates – Mahavir Prasad Dwivedi, Maithili Sharan Gupta and Vrindavan Lal Verma. I had my share of pride as people told me that Jhansi Railway Station was the only place where one could witness some of our great literary figures honoured in such a fashion and that my father Late Shankar Dayal Singh, an author and parliamentarian,  was instrumental in getting the idol of this distinguished literary trio erected. I had no idea of it because he never told about this in the family.
Vrindavan Lal Verma happens to be one of the foremost novelists in Hindi to have contributed to the historical genre. There are not many Hindi authors who have done that. To some extent Acharya Chatur Sen fills into this category, but Vrindavan Lal Verma does not just fits in, but can be termed a writer of historical novels in its true sense. He has written about eighteen novels, eleven of which are rooted in history. His novels Jhansi Ki Rani, Mrignayani, Garh Kundhar, Virata Ki Padmini are the pride of Hindi literature and could hold a place of pride of any other language for that matter. Thus it is not surprising that most of his works have been translated in all major Indian languages and many of the foreign languages too.  To write historical novels is certainly no easy task. The profound knowledge of history apart, it also demands deep love for the regional culture and above all unfathomable respect for the character in question. It will not be wrong to say that Vermaji certainly had all these three contributing factors embedded in his character and thus he could do justice to all that he wrote.
Vrindavan Lal Verma deserves kudos also for continuing to write in Hindi. With all due regards for Hindi, let us admit the fact that a Hindi laureate neither gets as much honour in the society as he truly deserves, nor does he get the monetary rewards like his other counterparts. Thus, to contribute in the genre of historical novels becomes all the more challenging since it consumes more time and efforts than a social novel that could be written based on imagination. The forte of Vrindavan Lal Vermaji was his denial to forego the facts of history and still blend it with such imagination that readers could believe to be true. Perhaps it may not be inappropriate to say that Rani Laxmibai could attain the heroic image that she well deserved because of the poem by Subhadra Kumari Chauhan on one hand and the novel of Vrindavan Lal Verma on the other. It was he who told us how Rani Laxmibai walked, talked, lived and fought. We know of her as much as he has narrated about her in his wonderful novel. People may not know Rani Laxmibai by her name, but they know her as Jhansi Ki Rani because of the novel thus named.
While I consider it to be my honour to be part of the festivities, I also felt sorry for the overall state of affairs of Hindi literature. First, the attendance was thin and almost eighty-five per cent of those who attended were in the age bracket of sixty plus. Secondly, the organizational responsibilities were almost entirely carried out by the kin of Vrindavan Lal Verma. It is unfortunate that the young generation is unable to connect to our legendary laureates and we all fail to realise that a writer of repute is as much a social asset as he is a family asset. Thus, the responsibility of celebrating his or her birth anniversary is as much a social obligation as it is the responsibility of his or her family members. It is most unfortunate that this sense of association with an author is far less in the Hindi belt than in other regions. Whereas a Bengali would have profound respect for a Bengali author, or a Marathi would have high regards for a Marathi author, or a Tamil would have deep love for a Tamil author, we seldom find such kind of association between the Hindi authors and the people in general of the so-called cow belt.
I fear that if the books by Vrindavan Lal Verma were not part of the academic syllabi in various universities, no one would be reading it! This would be equally true for any other authors of our national language. Apart from the libraries purchase, there is hardly any sale of Hindi books. The declining sale of the Hindi books over the counter is a testimony to this disturbing phenomenon.Most of the books in Hindi are either course books or are printed in limited numbers by their respective publishers for the purpose of submission for library purchase. But for their obligation to buy books in Hindi and special grants to them for this purpose, the libraries would not be purchasing any Hindi books either.
It is therefore not just necessary to arrest the drop in readership, it is also imperative to boost its growth. It is necessary that those who read Chetan Bhagat with interest should know about Vrindavan Lal Verma and appreciate his work too. It is remarkable that we purchase gold to mark ‘Akshaya Tritiya’ or buy utensils to mark ‘Dhanteras’. Likewise, Basant Panchami or the ‘Saraswati Puja’ presents us with a golden opportunity to go for books. Shouldn’t we take a lead and start buying books on this auspicious occasion staring this 28th January that would not only a real tribute to the Goddess of Knowledge, but would also draw us closer to the world of books!

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