Thursday, June 7, 2018



  ( Mohan Rakesh and a page from his personal diary)


MOHAN RAKESH  ( 1925-1972 )

" Jo rukay to koh-e-garaan thay hum,

jo chalay to jaan se guzar gaye

Rah-e-yaar hum ne qadam qadam,

tujhay yaadgaar banaa diya........"

( Faiz Ahmed Faiz )

(For when we stayed, we rose like massifs,

and when we strayed, we left life far behind;

fellow-traveller, every step that we ever took became a memorial to your life.)

In  uptown Manhattan market ,New York  , I  keep searching for old books sold on footpath . Hardly anything worthwhile  has ever 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 , Bangladesh ,    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 had been  moving in isolation since many centuries ) towards the mainstream of world art .  Eminent 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 into 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 an  admirer cum reader of his work . I believe  his fascinating journey began  sometime around 1944   as  a  short story 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 its 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 'Andhere Bandh Kamre' is again a master piece of  modern Hindi literature.

Although writers cannot be compared and every 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 post colonial times in India, he found a usable principle of aesthetic order in Kalidas. In re-imagining 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 post colonial 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   edited Sarika magazine for some time. He also 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 wih Anita ji when he was already married . Anita Ji lives in  Delhi. He loved good food.

Mohan Rakesh was a lover of Kashmir. As and when he was free,he would visit Kashmir . Pahalghaam was his favourite destination. In fact he survived the 1963  Pahalghaam cloudburst. He was sleeping in a tent a little away from the area that was swept by the water.

So Long so much on Mohan Rakesh ..

( Avtar Mota )


Aparna Dharwadker is professor of English and interdisciplinary theatre studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and author of the prize-winning book Theatres of Independence: Drama, Theory, and Urban Performance in India since 1947 (2005). Vinay Dharwadker  is professor of comparative literature at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, author of Kabir: The Weaver’s Songs (2003) and an editor of The Oxford Anthology of Modern Indian Poetry (1994) and The Norton Anthology of World Literature (2012). They have jointly translated Mohan Rakesh's Play "Aashad ka Ek Din" to wonderful English . The play has been published as Book by Penguin India and titled  "One day in the Season of Rains".

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CHINAR SHADE by Autarmota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.
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