Satyanand Nirupam is keenly reading new posts on his Faceboook timeline at his first-floor office in Daryaganj. The posts he is reading are random jottings — candid everyday moments captured by youngsters in simple, conversational Hindi. For Nirupam, editorial director with Rajkamal Prakashan, one of the country’s oldest and biggest publishing houses, Facebook is where he scouts for new writers and writings these days.
“I believe it is an effective platform to find new literary voices in Hindi,” says Nirupam as he takes a few notes from his timeline. “A lot of aspiring writers are publishing themselves on Facebook, and as a commissioning editor, I get to read a lot of raw, unfiltered writings that give me a fairly good idea about the writer’s talent.”
Like Nirupam, many publishers and editors are looking for fresh writing talent on Facebook — and finding it too.
Last year Nirupam launched ‘LaPreK’ — an acronym for Laghu Prem Katha (short love story), a new series of books based on Facebook posts — brief, abstract stories set in Delhi. Ishq Mein Shahar Hona by television journalist Ravish Kumar was the first book in the series.
“I was following him on Facebook and found that his random jottings invoking nostalgia and love had the potential to be converted into a book. I suggested it to him and he agreed,” says Nirupam. The book has sold over 15,000 copies in a year — quite a big number for Hindi publishing industry. The second book in the series, Ishq Mein Maati Sona, was by Girindra Nath Jha launched in October last year. In January this year, Rajkamal brought out Ishq Koi News Nahin, the third book in the LaPreK series.
Not just Rajkamal, many other publishers such as Hind Yugm, a new-age Hindi publisher, has discovered 90% of its young writers on Facebook. One of its recent books, Bakar Puran, is an edited collection of posts on Bakar Adda, a popular Facebook satire page on everyday life of youngsters in the Capital. The page created by Delhi-based Ajeet Bharti, 27, in 2012 has over 21,000 likes and the book too has turned out to be a bestseller.
“The popularity of the page convinced me that its posts will work well as a book,” says Bharatwasi, founder, Hind Yugm. “Earlier people would write their thoughts and observations in a diary, now they do so on Facebook. The quality and variety of content we are discovering on Facebook is very interesting,” says Bharatwasi.
Ajeet Bharti, who set up the Bakar Adda page with his friend, says he would not have been able to publish his first book if there was no Facebook. Smartphones with Hindi keyboards, he says, have helped Hindi writing. “Now, one can write a small poem and instantly get reactions and invite discussions on blogs and Facebook. This has encouraged youngsters to take a leap and consider writing seriously,” he says.
Bharti says that because of Facebook a new style of writing in Hindi has emerged. “The elitism of the language with words that were hard to comprehend has given way to simpler words. Many writers, who started out on Facebook, have become published authors. This was made possible due to technology. Earlier this would be discarded as trivial or demeaning to Hindi’s dignity,” says Bharti. “A language flourishes when it is flexible. Facebook brought a certain flexibility in Hindi where words that belonged to Persian, English, Awadhi, and Bhojpuri are being used with ease,” he says.
There any many writers such as Bharti who are reinventing the Hindi language and writing stories that are attracting a whole new generation of Hindi readers. Atul Kumar Rai, 23, a student of music, is all set to release his book based on his Facebook posts that comprise his reflections on various socio-political issues.
His Facebook profile has over 7,000 followers and he adds about 2,000 followers every month. “I have always been interested in literature but I never thought my Facebook profile would be so popular and I would be considered a writer,” says Rai who started writing in Hindi on his smartphone in 2014. Many of his posts have thousands of likes and shares — something that attracted Hind Yugm to convert his Facebook posts into a book. “Technology can really promote the cause of art and literature in a big way,” says Rai.
Vineet Kumar, the author of Ishq Koi News Nahin, again a collection of Facebook posts converted into a book, too says that his writings are literature on the go. “I typed everything on my smartphone while travelling in Metro or auto and immediately posted it on my Facebook page. Frankly, nothing was deeply thought out. It may not be serious literature but youngsters can relate to it,” says Kumar, who teaches journalism at a Delhi University college.
Interestingly, most of these gender-bending Facebook posts converted into books are set in Delhi. “Delhi is the real protagonist in my nano stories, the real object of my love. Most stories in the book are about a small town boy’s tryst with Delhi. Maybe it is because Delhi is a city of migrants that attracts thousands of youngsters from UP and Bihar. It is a city that makes you mature and practical,” says Kumar.
The young writer says social media ensures young Hindi writers no longer need approval of established writers caught in a time warp. “Earlier, you needed NOC from top names in Hindi literature to be taken seriously as a writer in the feudalistic literary establishment but now the number of likes on your Facebook page are enough to attract publishers. “They are willing to take risk with young writers because they come with a readership on their pages,” says Kumar.
For Nirupam, what the LaPreK series has done is attract readers who had drifted away from Hindi. “They felt nothing new is being presented in the language. Now they are getting books they can connect with,” says Nirupam.
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