Hindi literature: moving ahead with time!

Hindi print readership is growing. Indian youths are attracted towards Hindi literature. It is no more a language of shame or backwardness.New genres are coming up, translated books in Hindi are in vogue. Here’s more on the trends in Hindi literature.

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Prabhat Ranjan is Moderator at Jankipul and is also a well-known translator and writer in Hindi. Here, he shares more about Hindi literature and his blog Jankipul. Excerpts.

AABP: Brief us about your journey so far?

Prabhat Ranjan
Prabhat Ranjan

Prabhat: I did my schooling from Muzaffarpur and Sitamarhi, North Bihar. After completing senior secondary from Radhakrishna Goenka College, Sitamarhi, I got admission in Hindi Department of Hindu college, Delhi University. Though I was offered Political Science honors, I chose Hindi as my major subject because it was my dream to become a writer. I was a big fan of Janki Ballabh Shastri who was very popular in my hometown Muzaffarpur. During my college days, I realized the harsh fact that a Hindi writer cannot survive on his writing alone. So after completing my masters, I started writing for TV shows. Those were the times when Delhi was centre of television industry. Manohar Shyam Joshi, the famous soap opera writer of the time supported me. But somehow I could take that as my career andI started working on my PhD, which was based on Manohar Shyam Joshi’s works. I also joined Mahatma Gandhi Antarrashtriya Hindi Vishwavidyalaya as an editor of Bahuvachan, a reputed Hindi journal. I became an editor at an early age, but sadly not a writer. I started writing much later in life.

AABP: When did you know you wanted to write & translate professionally?

Prabhat: I used to write some book reviews and some journalistic pieces, but not fiction. When I got a chance to be close to Manohar Shyam Joshi, he asked me to take my writings and translation very seriously. He suggested that translation will support me financially. He in fact trained me in this field and said that always try to translate in easy readable Hindi, whether the book is fiction or non fiction or economic survey or any other genre. He explained that the reason behind this logic is that Hindi readers are commoners. Ashok Vajpeyi also supported me in my endeavours. He gave me my first job in an English journal ‘Hindi: Language Discourse Writing’ as an assistant editor and then editor of Hindi journal ‘Bahuvachan’. I also started doing translation to earn extra money. Translation helped me in immense way. My Hindi became diverse and rich by translating books from various genres and also enhanced my English ability.

AABP: Your journey and Inspiration as a writer?

Prabhat: I became an editor by chance but it was my dream to become a renowned writer. I came in touch with two famous and versatile writers almost at the same time – Uday Prakash and Manohar Shyam Joshi. Uday Prakash was a great source of inspiration for me but Manohar Shyam Joshi taught me the craft and art of writings, both for visual media and literary writings. He advised me that I have the flair of becoming a popular literary writer. I took his advise rather too seriously and stopped thinking about filmi duniya and started taking my writing seriously. One of my initial short story ‘Jankipul’ received award in a prestigious short story competition, organized by Sahara Group. This short story is also being included in almost all the contemporary anthologies.

AABP: Tell us something about your book Kothagoi about the lost culture of north India’s tawaifs (courtesans)?

Prabhat: I wrote Kothagoi because I always wanted to write about these people to whom we call tawaifs. In Muzaffarpur, Chaturbhuj Sthan (where these tawaifs live) is in the heart of the city, close to all posh localities and all famous religious spots. I belong to a small zamindar family where these women used to come to perform and sing. Undoubtedly, I was very impressed by them since childhood. When I was in my young age, I found the fact that in common man’s world, tawaif culture means the tawaif culture of Lucknow. But the tawaif culture of Muzaffarpur had very rich tradition and it is very different from the culture of Lucknow. This fact always disturbed me and finally I thought about writing a book on them who were never recognized. It took almost ten years to complete my research which included collecting stories about them and meeting them in person. It was indeed a long journey for me. I wanted to extend my honour to those unsung ladies who represented my local culture.

AABP: While translating, which was most challenging?

Prabhat: There were two books which I took as a challenge as a translator. One was a delicacy by David Foenkinos, a French writer. Though I translated it from English but this novel is so powerful and so crisp, that it is very difficult to bring that out in Hindi and make it readable too. The second book is ‘Hit Refresh’ by Satya Nadella. It is book about pure technological advancement. It was a complete challenge to deliver this book in Hindi with all its technological aspects.

AABP: Any experience/ incident you will like to share about a particular book you were translating.

Prabhat: It is about Jo Nesbo’s novel ‘The Bat’. Jo Nesbo is a powerful thriller writer. While translating his novel, I became a great fan of thrillers and started reading all the contemporary thrillers. I think his thrillers are more truthful than so called realistic fiction. If you translate with pleasure, you definitely learn something from each and every other book you translate.

AABP: Your advice to people who want to take translation as a profession.

Prabhat: My only advice to them is, while translating, always keep this fact in mind that it should be readable and the language should be very simple. Hindi is all about simplicity. There is no reader of academic Hindi.

AABP: Brief us about the awards you have received?

Prabhat: I received quite a few awards for my fictions, like Premchand Samman, Sahara Samay Katha Samman and Dwarka Prasad Agrawal Puraskar by Dainik Bhaskar group for Kothagoi. I received ABP channel award for my blog Janki Pul too.

AABP: Tell us about how Jankipul came into being? What was the purpose of this website?

Prabhat: I thought about Jankipul when blog revolution was happening in Hindi world. During that phase, almost all the blogs were based on negative thoughts about Hindi literature. After seeing this fact, I thought to start a blog to promote serious and popular literature together for new readers of social media. The very aim of this blog was to talk about new books, new writers and new writing trends. And fortunately this very idea of mine clicked. Jankipul is being appreciated by all kind of readers and writers since its birth.

AABP: How is Jankipul helping new writers and spreading Hindi literature?

Prabhat: Jankipul provides platform to new writing as well as essential writings. It has its own kind of readers base. Its readers are from small village of Bihar to US and other countries as well. I always tried to focus on the contemporary trending books and by this have developed a loyal readership. Without any kind of institutional help, Jankipul not only survived but also has its own credibility.

AABP: In your opinion, what is the status of Hindi literature in India? Is it growing?

Prabhat: It is very difficult to say. Some kind of Hindi writing is growing. Indian youths are attracted towards Hindi literature. Now Hindi is no more a language of shame or backwardness. So in a way, it is growing but so far Hindi writers are not getting anything more than publicity. Still very few writers are able to earn their livelihood from their writings. Earlier, popular Hindi writers like Gulshan Nanda, Ved Prakash Sharma, Surendra Mohan Pathak etc. had great readership along with good earning. But now situation has changed.

AABP: What are the major challenges in Hindi literature? How can publishers tackle them?

Prabhat: The biggest challenge is that how diversified Hindi literature world is. Everybody wants to be a bestseller writer. Though there is a huge market of these kind of books, still research and issue based books are not being written. Recently, a book by Ashok Kumar Pandey, Kashmirnama, was a bestseller though it is a research book and costly too. Hindi readers want to read such topics. One thing is very clear about Hindi readership is that its readers are primarily those who are comfortable in reading Hindi language only. I think, how to keep them intact is the biggest challenge today.

AABP: How has Hindi literature changed over the years?

Prabhat: When we were students, the demarcation in Hindi literature was very clear. Only social, political writings were considered as Hindi literature, anything other than that were called ‘lugadi’ (pulp fiction). Their publishers were different. Now these boundaries have fallen apart. Now even writers like Surendra Mohan Pathak are being accepted as a literary writer, his novels are being part of university syllabus. I think this change in mindset is a very important factor.

AABP: What are the current trends in reading habits?

Prabhat: Romance has emerged as one of bigger genres in Hindi, especially campus life romance based novels or youth-oriented novels. This trend is very new in Hindi and certainly these kind of books are creating new kind of readership too. But on other hand, non fiction is also in demand. Books like Lata Surgatha by Yatindra Mishra, Kashmirnama by Ashok Kumar Pandey are very popular and in great demand. Another thing is translation. People are reading all kind of translated books. From novels to technology and economics, everything is being translated and read in Hindi.

AABP: How has digitisation made a difference?

Prabhat: The biggest problem of Hindi was connectivity. Now everyone is connected to each other directly. Writers, readers, publishers — all are connected. People are getting books delivered at their doorstep. Because of digitalisation, Hindi public sphere has changed completely. Now, Hindi writers are becoming household names, their images are changing. It is very positive thing.

AABP: Could you advice us how many people are reading print / ebook in Hindi language? What is preferred more?

Prabhat: Hindi print readership is growing. It can be seen in book fairs and on online bookstores. Readers read mostly classics and free books in the ebook form. But it is also true that ebook content providers are not very professional. They are not innovating enough to cater more readers. They think that those books which are doing well in print media will also do well in the ebook format, which is far from the truth. Digital habit is very new to most Hindi readers, the providers must think about new ways to attract their new digital reader base. They cannot simply offer the same thing which is already available to readers in other format. Readers need variety.

AABP: In your view, is reading habit diminishing?

Prabhat: In fact everybody is reading more these days. People are reading on their phone and laptops. Providers are failing to provide quality content. We think that digital readers read only sensational content, which is not true. Truth is that, providers have adopted quick success method.

AABP: How to cultivate good reading habits with an emphasis of reading in Hindi?

Prabhat: In my opinion, Hindi booksellers are too much dependent on online sale and book fairs. These are good to cultivate good reading habits. But the need of hour is to start more and more digital platforms to produce opinion about books in unbiased way. Unfortunately, this area is not growing in Hindi. There are so many readers but very few people to tell them in unbiased way that what to read. It should be given more importance.

AABP: Anything else you would like to add?

Prabhat: Hindi publishing is growing but there are very few professionals in Hindi world. This area needs to be addressed seriously.

AABP: What keeps you going?

Prabhat: Love and passion for books keep me going. I use all the available platforms to write about books, to let more and more people know about good books, whether English or Hindi. That is why I translate, edit and also write.

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