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Nirala's Experiments with Truth

Sudhir Kumar

By Suryakant Tripathi Nirala
Rajkamal Prakashan, New Delhi, 2007, pp. 144, Rs. 175.00

VOLUME XXXII NUMBER 9 September 2008

To many belonging to the ever increasing tribe of the privileged globalized Indians, who are already addicted to reading only the latest multinationally mediated, media-hyped, narratives of India in English such as, Amitav Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies and Salman Rushdie’s The Enchantress of Florence , reading Suryakant Tripathi Nirala’s so-called progressive and provocative (as if literature were not progressive in itself!) Hindi novel Billesur Bakariha and other stories in the present context may appear to an anachronistic and futile activity. The present volume enables a reader to understand how and how far Nirala’s protean creative imagination or ‘pratibha’ and his prominent nonconformist cultural politics inform not only his poetry but also his prose fiction. Nirala’s works—both poetry and prose fiction, are progressive—not because they are tethered to a progressive political ideology; but precisely because they ruthlessly foreground untruth and violence often hidden under the seemingly emancipatory claims of most of the ‘progress-oriented or progressive’ ideologies used by the power structures to manufacture the popular consent. Moreover, Nirala unfailingly turns the oppressive, dominant discourses of caste, class and gender upside down in his poetry and prose-without resorting to patent propaganda and polemics. He may, therefore, justifiably be called a dissenting ‘chhayavadi’ (romantic) poet whose writings mark the shift from the romantic to the modernist period in the history of Hindi literature. Nirala occupies an unusual place in the chhayavadi axis (the literary movement in Hindi- 1918-1935- comprising Prasad-Pant-Nirala-Mahadevi) for aesthetically creating the disturbing ‘chhayas’ (images) of socio-political realities in such texts as ‘Vah Todati Patthar (She Breaks Stones)’, ‘Kukurmutta’, ‘Kullibhat’ ‘Tulasidas’ and ‘Ram Ki Shakti Puja’.   The comic-ironic novel, Billesur Bakariha, and the short stories (included in this volume) such as ‘Jyotirmayi’, ‘Kamala’, ‘Shrimati Gajanand Shastrini’, ‘Sakhi’, ‘Prempurna Tarang’, and ‘Artha’ offer a scathing criticism of injustice, exploitation and exclusion to which the most deprived people of Bharat are daily subjected—thanks to the dominant doxas of caste, class and gender prevailing in the colonial and postcolonial social fabric.   The very subversive semantic transmutation—(Billeshwar—the local name of Lord Shiva becomes Billesur—the name or sign of a poor brahmin shepherd who earns his livelihood not by performing rituals as a priest but by minding the goats—the bakaras) implied in the Billeshwar-Billesur episode is quite symptomatic of a silent but sure social transformation taking place in Bharat. Billesur Bakariha exposes the many ...

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