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To Live to Tell it

Prabhat Ranjan

By Manohar Shyam Joshi
Vani Prakashan, Delhi, 2002 & 2003, Rs. 200.00; Rs. 150.00


The noted Hindi writer Manohar Shyam Joshi has dabbled with many genres and has left his mark on each of them. Discussions on postmodernism in Hindi (adhunikottar) began with his novels Kuru Kuru Swaha, Kasap, Haria Herculiz ki Hairani and Kyap, while his tele-serials “Humlog” and “Buniyad” began the trend of soap opera on Indian television. He was on the editorial board of Dinman (the first weekly news magazine in Hindi) from its very inception; later, he edited Saptahik Hindustan in which his column “Netaji Kahin” became extremely popular.   Lucknow Mera Lucknow, according to the writer, is “a book of memoir”, first serialized in Tadbhav (a literary journal) and later published a a book. Manohar Shyam Joshi was born in Ajmer, his ancestral place is in Almora, he lived in Mumbai while working with the Films Division, and for most of his life lived in Delhi. How does he then call Lucknow ‘My Lucknow’? The answer: he stayed in Lucknow in the early 1950s as a youth while doing his BSC from the university. It was in Lucknow that he was bitten by the literary bug; one of his friends, Sardar Trilok Singh, advised him “to write it down the way you speak and it will become a story”. Sardar brought him a collection of short stories by William Saroyan, under whose influence he penned his first story ‘Neeli Austin’.   Lucknow University in those days was a major centre of intellectuals. Acharya Narendra Dev was its Vice-Chancellor, a number of internationally acclaimed teachers were there, and the students of Lucknow University were known for their ‘intellectuality’ and ‘modernity’. Lucknow, the capital of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh was culturally vibrant at that time, was a centre of ‘active’ writers and writers’ organizations, such as the Progressive Writers’ Association that included Urdu writers like Aaale Ahmed Surur, Razia Sazzad Zaheer and Mazaz. Three great Hindi novelists, Bhagwati Charan Verma, Yashpal and Amrit Lal Nagar resided there and attended the meetings of the Lucknow Lekhak Sangh.   In the dedication of his first novel Kuru Kuru Swaha, Joshi remembers Amrit Lal Nagar as his first guru (the second was Agyeya). Nagar intro-duced him formally to the ‘richness’ of the Hindi language and its vibrant literature. Joshi has writ-ten in detail about Nagar in this book with warmth.   Lucknow left a lasting impression on Joshi’s works; while his novel Kuru Kuru Swaha ...

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