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Basking in a patch of sunshine

She was 19 and a student in the Delhi University in 1979 when the acclaimed Hindi writer Nirmal Verma (1929-2005), a pioneer of modern fiction came to deliver a lecture. "Although a student of English literature, I had read the short stories of Nirmal and he was a hero for students like me," says Gagan who comes to the city to watch the enactment on stage of Nirmal's famous story 'Dhoop ka ek tukda' on Sunday.

chandigarh Updated: Aug 29, 2015 23:42 IST
Nirupama Dutt
Nirupama Dutt
Hindustan Times
Basking,sunshine,Nirmal Verma
Gagan Gill, wife of iconic writer Nirmal Verma

She was 19 and a student in Delhi University in 1979 when the acclaimed Hindi writer Nirmal Verma (1929-2005), a pioneer of modern fiction came to deliver a lecture.

“Although a student of English literature, I had read Nirmal’s short stories and he was a hero for students like me,” says Gagan who comes to the city to watch the enactment on stage of Nirmal’s famous story ‘Dhoop ka ek tukda’ on Sunday.

Even though Gagan was unaware that she would become a writer herself, a chord struck between the two although both took their time and finally married each other in 1989 even though she was some 30 years younger to him.

“Age difference never came in the way of our relationship,” she laughs, “but his large fan following certainly did. This was a time when I came to know two well-established writers, Nirmal and Amrita Pritam. Amrita had a great image and people were enamoured by her. Nirmal was a silent and down- to- earth person, yet he had hordes of admirers. It was one thing to deal with women entranced by him but quite irritating to see young men looking at him star-struck.”

Even though the Sahitya Akademi award came to Nirmal in 1985, he was a cult figure with the power of his restrained fiction and amazing play of language. A part of the ‘Nayi Kahani’ group along with Mohan Rakesh, Kamleshwar, Rajendra Yadav and others, Nirmal’s talent got noticed in the 50s. Interestingly, after doing his Masters from St Stephen’s College he chose to write in Hindi and was a card holder of the Communist Party but resigned after the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956. Later, he was awarded the Jnanpith Award (1991) and many prestigious fellowships from home and abroad.

Considered a writers’ writer today, his famed novels include ‘Ve Din’ (Those Days) 1964, ‘Laal Teen ki Chhat’ (The Red Tin Roof) 1974, ‘Ek Chitrha Sukh’ (A Rag of Happiness) 1979, ‘Raat ka Reporter’ (1989) and ‘Antim Aranya’ (The Last Wilderness) 2003, besides several collections of short stories, criticism and travelogues.

Speaking of her own poetry, for her’s is a path-breaking voice in Hindi poetry, Gagan says: “My life with Nirmal and my writing are intertwined because I started writing seriously in the 90s and I am a poet who draws from personal resources.”

The past decade, she has spent more time in translations of Nirmal’s work and publishing of his scattered writings including the famous book of letters to his older brother, artist Ram Kumar, titled ‘Priya Ram’. She has also been organising the Nirmal Verma Memorial Lecture in Delhi the past 10 years.

Sharing many tender memories, she recalls how he would give her the morning cup of lemon tea but lemon juice would be still on his fingers and he would leave it on my cheek as he caressed me awake. “He was very clumsy but very caring!” What was the role of words in the relationship of these two writers? To this question, Gagan’s reply is, “Words yes, but the deeper communication was at the wordless level.”

CATCH IT LIVE

WHAT: ‘Dhoop ka Ek Tukra’ by Nirmal Verma in Abhinet’s Festival of Monologues along with ‘Chhua tau Hota’ by Vijay Kapoor and ‘Sankarman’, by Kamtanath. Direction: Vijay Kapoor.
WHERE: Tagore Theatre,
WHEN: Sunday, August 30
TIMINGS: 6.30pm

First Published: Aug 29, 2015 17:48 IST