In uptown Manhattan Market , I keep searching for old books sold on footpath . Hardly ever anything worthwhile has attracted my attention. I find the Book titles and Authors totally unfamiliar. Today was a surprise day. Apart from a book on Modern art , I found a book on Contemporary Asian short stories in English Translation . Short stories from India, China , Bangla Desh , Burma , Nepal , Indonesia, Pakistan and many more countries . And to my surprise , I found a short story of Mohan Rakesh ( 1925-1972) in wonderful English translation included in this compilation.
We In India , Know Mohan Rakesh more as a playwright who wrote some highly insightful plays like Ashaad ka ek Din, Lehron ke Rajhans,Aadhe Adhure , Ande ke chhilke and Sipaahi ki Maa. With these milestone plays , he established himself as the finest Modern Playwright of Hindi. I shall go a little further to say that he brought out Hindi plays from old dark room and nourished them in the sunlight and shade of modern life. With these plays , he diverted the flow of Indian drama and theatre ( That was otherwise moving in isolation since many centuries ) towards the mainstream of world Art . Emi- nent Theatre personalities like Ebrahim Alkazi , Om shivpuri , Lilette Dubey M K Raina , Amal Allana, Dinesh Thakur and many more selected his plays for production.
I am told that Aashad ka Ek Din was translated to English as ” One day in the Season of Rain “ and in 2010, it was performed at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin, United States . In 2011, It was also performed at Kennedy Centre during American College Theatre Festival . His Plays continue to be performed worldwide.
I need to come back to Mohan Rakesh the story teller . I have been a admir- er cum reader of his work. I believe his fascinating journey began sometime around 1944 as a short stor y writer . From a short story writer, he moved to Novels and finally to plays . His focus has been urban Middle class. He also wrote some stories on partition of the country wherein the pain and sorrows of 1947 events in the Indian subcontinent have been movingly dealt with . I shall make a specific mention of the story “ Malbe ka Maalik ” for those who have not known him as a story writer. The pain of separation from roots has been emotively dealt with in this story . The Glass Tank is another story that is unique in structure and subject. Uski Roti is another story that I liked . Balo comes up as a lively character in this story. This story was converted to a film by Mani kaul. Miss Pal, Phataa Huva Joota and Naye Badal are some more stories that come to my mind at the moment.
His Novel Andhre Bandh kamre is again a master piece of Modern Hindi Literature.
Although writers cannot be compared and ever y writer is great in his own way , Yet at some places, In Modern Hindi Literature , I find him more brilliant than some of his well known contemporaries .However, It remains my personal opinion.
This is what well known scholars Prof.Aparna Dharwadker and Prof. Vinay Dharwadker spoke ( Interviewed by Swati Daftur for The Hindu Newspaper and published on 29th May 2015 ) about Mohan Rakesh in their joint interview :
“ Mohan Rakesh remains a foundational figure in modern Hindi and Indian writing, and readers turn to him constantly for the complex forms of pleasure he offers in many genres—novels, short stories, short and full-length plays for stage and radio, diaries, travel writing, theatre theory, cultural criticism, personal essays, and major literary translations in Hindi from Sanskrit. For most of us, the real question is: when will we catch up with this writer who continues to produce so much so long after his death?
As a writer submerged in the disorder of postcolonial times in India, he found a usable principle of aesthetic order in Kalidas. In reimagining Kalidas’s life and poetry in ‘Ashadh…’, Rakesh found a way to reinvigorate that classical world, even as he modernized it and brought it alive on the contemporary stage. In his other major play, ‘Adhe Adhure’ (1969), Rakesh then confronted contemporary urban reality on its own terms, giving modernism a new existential and dramatic home in the postcolonial world. He did this very differently from his older contemporaries in, say, the Irish tradition, such as W. B. Yeats and James Joyce (in poetry and fiction), and Eugene O’Neill and Samuel Becket (in drama).”
Mohan Rakesh ( Madan Mohan Guglani in real life ) was born at Amritsar. He was a post graduate in English and Hindi . His father was a successful Lawyer apart from being a lover of Music and literature . Mohan Rakesh loved good food , edited Sarika Magazine for some time. Taught at Mumbai , Jalandhar and Shimla and married three times. He married Anita Aulakh ( 17 Years younger to him) in 1963 . He fell in love with Anita ji when he was already married . Anita Ji lives in Delhi. So Long so much on Mohan Rakesh ..
Autar Mota is a Blogger , Translator and writes in English , Urdu , Kashmiri and Hindi. His write-ups have appeared in many national magazines and journals.