Bhopal-based Hindi writer Ramesh Chandra Shah has been conferred with the Sahitya Akademi award in Hindi for the year 2014 for his latest novel Vinayak. Shah, who has over 35 books to his credit, has written in all forms of literature with more or less equal ease.
Shah lost his writer wife Jyotsna Milan earlier in the year 2014, but this emotional loss has not hindered the veteran from continuing his journey of words. HT talked to him on varied topics, which have had profound influence on his writing, and his novel Vinayak, which brought him the Sahitya Akademi award.
You are one of the most eminent writers of Hindi. You have written in almost all forms of literature including poetry, stories, novels, criticism, essays, diary, travelogue etc. How do you manage to do that?
Somehow, it comes naturally to me. You can say it's my inherent talent. May be my experience of life is very vast. Take it like this - when I'm in a poetic mood, when a particular experience wants an intense expression, it comes out as poetry and thus, it becomes a poem.
You are a scholar of English literature. You were professor of English. You are supposed to be an authority on TS Eliot and Yeats. Then, what was the reason that you chose to write in Hindi?
Creative writing is possible only in one's mother tongue. My mother tongue is Hindi. So, it is quite natural for me to write in Hindi. I have written some criticism and essays in English. But when you have got such a powerful language, Hindi, as your mother tongue, then why should you depend on English.
You come from Uttarakhand. What were the influences of your childhood on your writing?
Well, it's a beautiful town Almora in Uttarakhand where I was born. It is surrounded by beautiful hills. The Himalayan range is visible from the window of my room. So, the first great vision that appears before my eyes in the morning was the sublime Himalayas.
That inspired me as a poet. The natural landscape in Uttarkhand is so beautiful, so sublime that you develop a permanent taste for beauty of nature. Forests, all kinds of trees, hills and beautiful rivers all these things contributed to make me a writer. The society is also very cheerful and lively there. There are folk festivals and on every hill top, there is a temple of a Devi.
In an interview, you have talked about struggles during your childhood. Please tell us something about it and your father's love for literature?
My father was not a very educated person. He had only studied till Class 5. Due to poverty, he could not pursue his studies but he had passion for books. Sometimes, books came as raddi (scrap) and he used to keep them aside for me.
One day, he came running to me with a book in his hand. He was so shaken, he was unable to speak properly. That book had made such an impact on him. He handed me the book and when I opened that book it was Rangbhoomi, the great novel of Premchand.
I realised this is what literature could do; it can shake a man emotionally, it was a great lesson. Later many more books came to me in the scrap like Tolstoy's Resurrection (translated into Hindi with the title Punarjanam).
We belonged to a very poor family, we could hardly make both ends meet. We could not afford to buy books, there was no library also. But I had read all the Upanisads, whole of Valmiki Ramayan, Mahabharata, Tulsi Ramayan during my childhood itself.
Your recent novel Vinayak has won the Sahitya Akademi award. Please tell us something about Vinayak?
Vinayak is the hero of the novel. When the novel starts, he is about 55. He is going to retire in a few years. The novel is about with the grown up Vinayak, but Vinayak is the name of the protagonist of my first novel Gobar Ganesh also, which has run in six editions.
Although, Vinayak is complete in itself yet there is a link between Vinayak and Gobar Ganesh. Gobar ganesh dealt with the childhood, youth and boyhood of Vinayak, but this novel deals with the middle age of Vinayak.
(As told to Abhinay Shukla)