Tales of two cities and more
Harbans Singh

Dilli: Shahar Dar ShaharMany followers of Indian literature, especially Hindi, find it frustrating that while Indians routinely write good literature that is also recognised as such by the international market, Hindi has been steadily lagging behind. After the seventies of the last century, there have been fewer and fewer books in Hindi that have generated debate and compelled people to think. Year 2009 has not been any different from the preceding years and yet there have been authors and publishers who have toiled to bring good literature to the readers.

One such book has been Dilli: Shahar Dar Shahar by Dr Nirmala Jain (Rajkamal Prakashan). The book contains articles written over a period of time about ‘Dilli’, as opposed to the soulless and characterless Delhi that spreads far and wide away from the Old Delhi. Dr Jain brings to the readers the life and times of Dilli around Chandani Chowk and the effect Lutyen and later post-Independent India has had on it. The Supreme Court might have come down heavily on the transformation of the residential areas into commercial areas only recently but the celebrated Hindi author Jainendra and resident of Darya Ganj fought a losing battle long ago, only to be placated by the Government with a house out of Old Delhi!

The remarkable feature of Dr Jain’s book is that one can see the perceptible change in the idioms and syntaxes as she moves towards the inevitable yielding of the old culture to the new pushy and commercial domination of the old city.

For the lovers of satire, Rajkamal Prakashan has brought a special gift with the collection of late Sharad Joshi’s writings on Bhopal. Rag Bhopali brings out the best of Joshi, whose burlesque and exaggerated juxtaposition of what he disapproved would generally hit where it hurts the most. It is also true that his barbs were often so derisive of the system that one could almost lose faith in it. This book, in fact, reminds one of the poor quality of this genre and, therefore, one need not be surprised by the book’s success.

Pratinidhi Himachali Kavya SankalanSahitya Akademi’s Pratinidhi Aapravasi Hindi Kahaniyan, edited by Himanshu Joshi, is an acknowledgement of the global presence of Hindi. From being the language of yearning for a lost past, Hindi has now become the language of creativity. The collection contains stories not only from Fiji and Surinam but also the countries where Indians have made their mark in large numbers only recently. It comes as pleasant surprise that even Argentine, Denmark, Norway and Japan have Hindi writers.

Nearer home, the Sahitya Akademi has done well in bringing out Pratinidhi Himachali Kavya Sankalan. The poems in the anthology have been chosen, translated in Hindi and edited by Pratyush Guleri. Since Himachali is written in the Devanagri script, it is easy for all to read. For some readers, the anthology might bring back the memory of the sixties, when politicians in Himachal Pradesh pulled all stops to establish their linguistic identity that was distinct from Dogri. The poems have been wisely chosen with the old and young adequately represented and they do reflect the four decades of hill State’s existence.

Among the female writers, Rashmi Bajaj has once again emerged as the symbol of empowered woman. With Surbala Ki Madhushala, published by Global Exchange Publishers, Rashmi Bajaj has made a bold statement of woman who has created her own tavern and where she looks for the same ecstasy and completeness that Omar Khayyam and Harivansh Rai Bachachan had experienced. The book continues the female-centric theme that she had begun exploring with her earlier works.

Finally, it is pertinent to debate as to why Indians are making an impact in the English language at the global level, while the literature in regional languages, especially Hindi, continues to languish. Could it be, as Dr. Jain says in an article, that literature has been appropriated by the government-constituted Akademis?