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Is the Author Another Being?

Dev Dutt

By Upendranath Ashk
Neelabh Prakashan, Allahabad, 1977 & 1978, pp. 187 and 223, Rs. 17.50 each

VOLUME IV NUMBER 3 November/December 1979

The popular adage ‘appearances are deceptive’ applies aptly to these first two volumes of the proposed ten volumes of the off-beat autobiographical writings of Ashk, the Hindi novelist, playwright, cri­tic, poet and publisher. In the first volume Ashk reminiscences about various instances of expressions of his almost irrepressible urge to be jovial, to play practical jokes, to mimic and to ape and to take delight in narrat­ing tit-bits, with references to the follies and foibles, peculiarities and contradic­tions, hypocrisies as idiosyncrasies, pee­vishness and pettiness of his contempor­aries, juniors and seniors. Ashk also describes how he avenged the willful wrongs, injustice and humilia­tion inflicted upon him by his friends and acquaintances. In doing so, in the second volume, which has a sharper and clearer focus, Ashk uncovers a fearsome streak of his nature which he calls the ruthless­ness of Chanakya, diabolical anger of Durvasa and the revengefulness of a camel. Several known and unknown names of Hindi and Urdu writers figure in the books—Agyey as the sophisticated high-brow, Jainendra as the philosopher and spinner of fine phrases, Krishna Chander  as the timid and the practical, Rashid the arrogant and feudal, Vishamb­har the psuedocritic and schemer, Diwana a college lecturer, Kailash Babu the owner of a cinema and many others. Both the volumes taken together also bring to light some of the unedifying as­pects of the collective life of many Hindi and Urdu writers in Delhi, Allahabad and Lucknow viz., their oppor­tunism, jealousies, rivalries and clanish­ness. In the process, Ashk does not spare himself. He has unhesitatingly admitted his own shortcomings and does not mince his words in describing them. He has also tried (of course in passing) to uncover the roots of the joker, the Chanakya, the Durvasa within him. And like many others he too traces these tendencies to his upbringing, parental influences, family background and his environment, his experiences, his training, and to human nature as such. The style is unsentimental and forth­right. Though at places the egotist in him gets unduly articulated, he sustains his objectivity and detachment throughout. If accepted only as an ordinary autobiography of an individual who happens to be an author, one will not help suc­cumbing many times to the urge to throw away the book in disgust because of the repulsive and nauseating details of the pettiness and meanness ...

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