Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Reading Hindi

It was with Hindi books that I began reading. Every evening, my dad would bring from his library a copy of Champak, which slowly grew to Nandan, Balhans, and gradually shifted to short story books. And yet, as soon as I got access to the series of Blytons, I almost completely ignored all Hindi writing. Of course I have all sorts of reasons - Hindi books are not easily available in most parts of India. No one from my peer group reads them and they are scarcely publicized, so I hardly get to know enough even to hunt for a title.
However, it was because of two reasons that I suddenly found myself interested in Hindi literature. One, I was directed to a website which not only has a reasonably good collection of Hindi stories, but also gave a good background on some of the famous authors and their signature works. Two, my parents are now living in Bhopal, a city which has a surprisingly good reading culture, especially in Hindi. So while they are still there and I continue to make those home trips, I intend to make good use of the easy availability of Hindi books there.
Recently I picked up quite a few books from the Book festival there. I have almost exclusively been reading Hindi in the last fortnight, and it has been interesting. Most of this reading has been short stories or novellas - it seems like Hindi writers are much more comfortable with shorter prose.
To begin, there are some very good stories on the website I pointed at earlier. Manu Bhandari's Yehi Sach Hai, on which Basu Chatterjee's movie Rajnigandha was based, is a beautiful story expressing the dilemma of a woman caught in the romantic notion of first love. Her confusion and dreaminess is remarkably handled by the writer.
In another story from Shivani - Lal Haveli, the National tragedy of Indo-Pak partition is explored with a personal perspective. The sense of loss and discontent is well expressed without any melodrama.
A very good short story writer that I have been reading is Nirmal Verma. His stories are mostly about loss and nostalgia, and continue to haunt long after you have read them. I have bought a collection of his stories called Gyarah Lambi Kahaniyaan (11 long stories), which is published by the Bharatiya Jnanapeeth (the most prominent publishers for Hindi literature). Out of these, I simply loved the stories Parinde and Andhere Mein, both of them set in small Himalyan towns, bringing the pretty isolation of winters to mind even in Bombay. I also enjoyed reading Dhaage, which is available on another Hindi website.
In the longer prose, Dharamveer Bharati's Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda is brilliant. It uses experimental narration technique, a little like My Name is Red and keeps the stories interesting. I had loved Shyam Benegal's movie adaptation of this book, and will try and watch it again now that I have read the book.

Another good book was Krishna Sobti's Mitro Marjani. Though there is not much to the story, the characterization of Mitro is remarkable. In the India of 1966, to conceptualize a woman who is outspoken and explicit about her physical desires even in a stiffling joint family, must have been challenging. Even Indian cinema waited as long as 2000's to have such an expressive female character (Bipasha's character in Jism)

Rahi Masoom Raza's Neem Ka Ped is very familiar to most of us who have spent enough time in front of Doordarshan. However, I remember very little of the serial. Besides, to read it as a story is altogether a different experience. It is a story of post-colonial India, about the shattering of the dream of Indian independence. The language is simple - I hate to read authors who introduce difficult words to appear more erudite. That seems to be a somewhat common trend in some Hindi books, particularly the translations from other languages like Bengali.

I wish Hindi literature, or all vernacular literature does not remain a rarity and could find more readers/publishers and sellers.


sandeephalder said...

hello sir
Coming across your blog was like coming across an oasis in a desert.currently i am waiting for asghar wajahat's chalte to achcha tha.besides have read kreutzer sonata in hindi by bhisham sahni. If u have read it i would like to know your opinion.

Madhuri said...

Hello Sandeep,
Thanks for your comments. I have not read Wajahat at all, though I would like to, particularly Saat Asmaan. I think Chalte to achcha thha is a travelogue, isn't it?
I don't like to read Hindi translations, I have read some translations from Bengali to Hindi and they tend to be unusually decorative. I have read Kreutzer Sonata, but the English translation.
Just a little bit of errata - I am not of the masculine gender, so I don't think calling me 'Sir' is appropriate :)

sandeephalder said...

Here is a link where you can read some good Hindi writers

sandeephalder said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Madhuri said...

Thank you for the link. It is good. Another good site which I have mentioned already in the post is Abhivyakti.You will find a lot of good works there.
The photograph above is that of Nirmal Verma. I really like some of his short stories.
The Historian was an interesting read.
Seems like you have a good access to some Hindi works - where do you buy them?

sandeep said...

Hello mam

thanks for your reply.I visited your profile in orkut by the way:)

It's very difficult to buy good hindi books in kolkata(even in college street). I manage it buy purchasing online. Actually i miss reading hindi,i am a bong though born and brought in gujarat and hindi is the language in which i think.however i have to admit that unlike bengali literature i was not impressed with the hindi writers, untill i stumbled upon janendra kumar jain,bhisham sahni,dhramvir bharti and asghar wajahat.
travelogue is something i love too read.something like heaven's lake type

Did u read the Janissary's an interesting read fact after getting to know about the ottomons in the historian i had to read it.

thanks and regards
sandeep halder

RUPESH said...

very nice of urs..!!

grreatpair said...

Snehil Madhuri,
Abhi achnak se aapka blog padha, ye jankar achha laga ki aap hindi Sahitya main ruchi rakhti hain. Main khud bhi bahot shaukin huin aur kafi lambe samay e padh rahi huin, abhi Nirmal Verma ka upnyaas 'Raat ka reporter ' padh rahi huin.Aap ke aur Sandeep ki batcheet maine padhi isliye aapko bata rahi huin ki aap Mahua Mazi [Bangla writer]ka upnyaas "Main Borishaillah" zarur padhiye Hindi main anuwadit [translated] hai.Sath hi samkalin [contemporary] yani abhi likh rahi Alka Sarawagi, Maitrayee Pushpa,Vinod kumar Shukla, Jayanandan ko bhi padhiye.
Padhiye aur guniye
shubhkamnao ke sath

Madhuri said...

Dear Arpita,

Thanks for your comment and the recommendations. I have not read much of contemporary Hindi literature. In fact, just before reading your comment, I was in a bookstall which had a work from Maitrayee Pushpa, but since I knew nothing about her writing style, I did not purchase it. I wish I had read this comment earlier. But I will keep these suggestions for the next time I visit a Hindi book store.