‘Hindi storytelling is in a happy place’

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Express News Service

It was Pandit Madhavrao Sapre who paved the way for modern Hindi story writing with Ek Tokri Bhar Mitti, written in Khari Boli (dialect spoken in and around Delhi) in 1900. In 1903, came Ramchandra Shukla’s Gyarah Varsh ka Samay, followed by Rajendra Bala Ghosh’s Bang Mahila in 1907. “These stories were quite different from earlier writings, and had a distinct effect of Pushkin, Chekov and Gogol in them,” said noted author Yogendra Ahuja. “Today, Hindi storytelling is in a happy space with three generations of writers that include scores of women and newer ways of writing. Stories are no longer limited to cities and towns, but also talk about far flung villages,” he added.

Ahuja shared these views at a recently held panel discussion titled Gatha, Katha, Kahani with Hindi scholar Asghar Wajahat, on the evolution of Hindi literature, its euphoria, early development and present state. Moderated by Syed Md Irfan, the discussion was organised by Rekhta Foundation to commemorate the first anniversary celebrations of hindwi.org — the foundation’s initiative to preserve and promote Hindi language, literature and culture.

Putting forth his views, Wajahat noted that Hindi writing has evolved, but lost its sheen. “Traditional Hindi story was multidimensional — many stories in one story — as seen in the epics. The modern writing is one-dimensional, inspired by the West, though many a times writers do take inspiration from the traditional style of story writing to highlight serious issues in a fictional form,” he said, urging writers to amalgamate traditional and modern ways to retain the identity of Indian literary writings. But Ahuja felt that things change with time. “Traditional stories were about teaching morality, while modern storytelling addresses societal questions and current issues,” he said. 

The discussion then veered towards the invention of the printing press. One major drawback of the printing press, opined Wajahat, was that it hit storytelling practices like Dastangoi. “Oral storytelling was a creative process as new thoughts and ideas entered with each new telling. It changed the original version, but also enriched the story. Press made storytelling a mechanical process,” he said. Ahuja agreed, but added that the printing press allowed new authors reach a global audience and brought us closer to Tolstoy, O’Henry, Oscar Wilde and Dostoevsky. “Would it have been possible without the press?” he asked.

The event also marked the launch of the Prose Section and the YouTube channel of hindwi.org. It concluded with Rahgir strumming his guitar and singing poems such as Samay ka Pahiya,  Unka Darr, Nayi Duniya, and his compositions Kya Jaipur, Kya Dilli and Alsi Doopahar. 

Additionally, Satish Gupta, Head of Programs and Outreach at Rekhta Foundation, told The Morning Standard, “We have over 1,000 books on Hindwi.org, and wish to digitise all the available content of Hindi literature. In fact, we want to do this for all the 22 regional languages, and want people to join our initiative. Otherwise, we may lose it all.”  Currently, the most visited pages of Hindwi.org are Kavita and Dohe, and it gets the most international traffic from the US.

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