Let’s talk about Hindi literature today.
With the recent boom of global literature, specifically English literature in India, we often tend to forget that Hindi literature has an equally rich tradition as well. While we do read Hindi books in school, it has now become increasingly difficult to get hold of Hindi literature. Also, in today’s world, where people are judged on their ability to talk and read English, Hindi lit is fast disappearing.
It is up to us to introduce Hindi literature to the next generation before it gets totally buried in the deluge of English books that we get.
Hindi has been the language of communication for many old texts, including those by Surdas, Tulsidas, Kabir, and Meera with a spattering of other languages and dialects including Awadhi, Brij, and Maithali. These texts and songs were easier for the layperson to understand than the more structured and rigid Sanskrit. Soon, many others followed in their footsteps just so that they could reach to all people irrespective of their socioeconomic status.
However, with the coming of the British, English literature in India has grown by leaps and bounds. Many Indian authors too are writing in English. But this English boom threatens to obliterate the quiet but equally rich Hindi. In fact, the booksellers at railway stations, who used to sell cheesy (and sometimes really good) Hindi novels that could entertain you through a journey, have stopped stocking these books now. They hardly find any buyers, with the youth preferring Chetan Bhagat and Durjoy Dutta over Hindi literature. I myself am guilty of ignoring Hindi books as I find it difficult to read Hindi.
However, if you are an ardent Hindi lover, or if you wish to introduce Hindi literature to your child, these are the authors you should look out for:
1. Munshi Premchand
Munshi Premchand is a name that you’d be quite familiar with if you are a Hindi lover (or even if you are totally new to Hindi lit). This man needs no introduction. He was born as Dhanpat Rai and he wrote under the pseudonym of Premchand. His stories are based at the grassroots level, the reality of which he describes with absolute clarity. The command over his language and his knowledge of fine nuances of a relationship make his books worth reading over and over again. His characterization is superb and he conveys difficult topics with a touch of satire and dark humour. The best works of the author include Godaan, Nirmala, and Kafan. You can also read his short stories like Panch Parmeshwar, Gaban, and Mansarovar.
2. Harivansh Rai Bachchan
If you have heard of Harivansh Rai Bachchan only because he is the father of the legendary Amitabh Bachchan, you need to read his works right now! His work, Madhushala, is one of the most popular works of Hindi literature. It is basically a romantic construct of life compared to a “drinking chamber” or Madhushala. It consists of 135 quatrains about life and its complexities. If you don’t have the patience to read it, listen to Amitabh Bachchan reciting it.
3. Bhisham Sahni
Bhisham Sahni is an actor, playwright, and author. His book Tamas, which means darkness, is written with the Partition as the backdrop. He has captured the tumultuous times so perfectly that he received the Sahitya Akademi award in 1975. Later, Doordarshan adapted this story for a TV show.
Kamleshwar is a satirical writer who writes socially relevant novels and short stories. His book, Kitne Pakistan, is a book that compares partition to the expanse of human history and discusses topics like nationalism, socialism, and communalism. He frequently writes about how religion is futile and can prove fatal for the human race. Other notable works are Rang Birangi and Aandhi.
5. Ramdhari Singh Dinkar
Dinkar’s poems are a class apart. They are included in almost all Hindi school textbooks and are known for their eloquence. Dinkar has written a lot on Mahabharata and his most notable works are Rashmirathi, Kurukshetra, Parshuram ki Prateeksha, and Urvashi. Most of his poems are awe-inspiring and are written using the Veer Rasa – or emboldening – model.
The Sahitya Akademi does promote Hindi literature. But it is up to us, the common reader to take up Hindi books and start reading them and introduce them to our children. If not, these gems might get lost.
Have you read books by any of these authors? Which other Hindi authors do you like? Do share them with us!
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