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Forays into Profanity and Profundity

Sushma Bhatnagar and Manu Vikraman

By Shrilal Shukla
Kitabghar, 2002, pp. 112, Rs. 100.00

By Jitendra Bhatia
Rajkamal Prakashan, New Delhi, 2002, pp. 151, Rs. 151.00


Shrilal Shukla’s novelette, Raag Viraag, on class/caste struggle, is fast and crisp with a dash of romance. However, the author seems to have a fascination for indulging his characters in self pity—right from his first novel Sooni Ghaati Kaa Sooraj. His Raag Darbaari that brought him the Sahitya Academy Award was also about an underdeveloped village in Uttaranchal in which his X-ray vision and ruthless imagery gained him fame.   On its flap, Akhilesh says: Raag Viraag is probably the first Hindi novel to use a love story to present the potholed realities of our country, which is why this is a precedent to fresh possibilities and capabilities of love story purged of its traditions. Here, Shrilal Shukla has abandoned his much acclaimed stylistic techniques and has adopted the drama style, seemingly dispensing with description and details.   Wide off the mark! Many Hindi novels have used, and continue to use, the love story as a medium of expression. One fails to understand the ‘fresh possibilities and capabilities’ this book has explored. Shukla seems to have avoided the tedium of describing situations by paraphrasing them in wearisomely long dialogues to relate the factual outer world and the conceptual in-ner world. Contemplation and in-depth narrative seem to have succumbed to hasty des-criptions that read more like stage-directions. Loss of patience? Probable languor?   Of Viraag (aversion), there is neither hide nor hair. Wobbly sentences add to its patchiness. Consistency too appears to have given out, for instance, at one place Shukla translates a character’s words into Hindi and parenthesises that he speaks in English, while a mere two pages down, he transliterates.   Metaphorical confusions and a propensity to employ unusual phrases show up. Note khushiyon ka vishaal saudh—a huge palace of happiness—the melancholy of which construction does not escape one. The very next sentence has kasare masarrat—sweat an extra pail, dear reader, figuring this one out!   Unfortunately, romance, too, is downgraded to the level of ‘mud-baths’ (one of the ‘fresh possibilities and capabilities’?) Perhaps, this caste/class struggle fits into the slot of ‘down in the muck’. The reader is flabbergasted by the raison d’être of the characterization. Why is Mausi handicapped except, perhaps, to promote the infantile nomenclature Langari Mausi? This seems to be more a collection of draft notes than a complete work. The thoughts of the author and the characters are not distinct. ...

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