You can’t help but treat him with utter respect, and slight anxiety, when your research tells you he is an award winning Indian novelist and short-story teller who has written 53 books over a span of 50 years. He has also received the prestigious Vyas Sammanawards, besides the Sahitya Akademi award, Subramanyam Bharti and Bharat Bharti Samman . Govind Mishra, retired chairman, Central Board of Direct Taxes, has more than 150 PhDs on his work.
In person, however, he opens doors to absolute kindness and intelligence.
He leaves you with food for thought, provoking you, by the end of his dialogue, to read, read and read. “If you want to get rid of pain, drown yourself in anything literary. Books can be your most faithful best friends. When you have a book under your pillow, you can never feel lonely,” says Mishra, at Chandigarh lit fest, Literati 2013, on Friday.
Referring to a group of female journalists as ‘bachiyon’, he lends a grandfatherly air to the conversation. “What’s the point of education if books’ wisdom is not absorbed by you? If you don’t read literature, you are as good as an illiterate. My real education started during my Masters degree, when I started reading books. And by reading, I mean literature.”
While reading, he says, is a habit easily adopted, writing is not for everyone. “If nature wants you to become a poet or writer, it will present you with immense pain. And the question that every poet has quarreled with, is that of existence. Didn’t Shakespeare say ‘To be or not to be, is the question’? A writer doesn’t write under the influence of an influential writer. Instead, a writer always tries to incorporate his/her original self in his writings.”
Elaborating on his theory of pain, Mishra adds, “If I see pain somewhere, I will eventually start feeling that pain, which is described in my books later.”
His share of pain is very well described in his recent biography — Bayban Mein Baharon, (Spring in Desolation). “I started writing at the age of 14. Though I did my PG in English, Hindi has always been my preferred language. Creative writing can only be in your mother tongue. I might have been a successful person from outside, but my inner self has gone through a lot of suffering.”
He touches your heart when he shares, “I used to love a girl who was my childhood friend. Those days, inter-caste love marriages were a big ‘no’. And she got married elsewhere. Then, I lost my few-months-old daughter to jaundice in Bhubaneswar. After a few years, in 1983, my eight-year-old younger son drowned in a swimming pool. At the time, I wrote Varanjali. But, even Rabindra Nath Tagore lost his son. What I’m trying to say is that nature decides what you have to do. Misery and pain are a result of that.”
But, the writer in him has developed from two aspects — inner pain and keen observation. “As a young boy, when we used to stay in Charkhari (UP), I saw violence very closely. A neighbour used to not let the other neighbour live in peace. If a woman stepped out of the house for work, she used to be termed ‘randi’. My first book that established me as a writer — Lal Peeli Zameen — was a picture of the society. It received an award by the Author’s Guild of India in 1976.”