The Pioneer




Shekhar Joshi: The Hemingway of Hindi literature

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Hindi has its own treasure-chest of classic writers who are read, re-read, researched and reviewed, but never forgotten.

Uttarakhand has had the good fortune of having many such writers belong to this region. Names like Shivani, Shailesh Matiyani, Manu Bhandari and Shekhar Joshi bear testimony to this.

Along with Shailesh Matiyani, known as the Premchand of Uttarakhand, there is another Hindi writer who, in his unassuming way, gained great popularity to be counted among the major writers of the "Nai Kahani"  — Shekhar Joshi.

Joshi has a rare insight into the culture, traditions and lifestyles of people of Uttarakhand. Matiyani and Joshi together created a composite image of the Kumaoni ethos for the rest of  the country. Shekhar Joshi, a powerful yet soft literary voice from the Uttarakhand Himalayas, is known to most readers through his crisp and realistic short stories including the famous "Dajyu" and "Kosi Ka Ghatwar".

He uses not a single extra word in his writings, just like Ernest Hemingway, the great American author.

Shekhar Joshi, who has now settled in Allahabad, was born in September 1932 in Olya village of Almora. His writings are rooted in Kumaon and can be described as "modern" in many ways   in their themes, treatment of the subject and the use of language.

Lovers of Hindi literature are well aware that Shailesh Matiyani, also from Almora, and Shekhar Joshi are names usually mentioned in the same breath, quite like those of Keats and Shelley. Both names are associated with the growth and evolution of the "Nai Kahani" in Hindi.

While Matiyani included the folk tradition in his writing with Kumaoni words used often, Joshi chose themes like industrial and urban labour. His widely acclaimed story, Dajyu (Big Brother) was made into a Children's film by Children Film Society of India. "Kosi Ka Ghatwar" (The Miller of Kosi) and many other stories have been translated into English, Russian, Czech, Polish and Japanese.

Dajyu, the most talked about of Joshi's works, is an extremely simple sounding tale but touches serious social and emotional issues. Madan is a young boy working at a tea shop in a town. A person who has come from the hills of Almora to town to work there comes to the café to have tea and meets the boy. Soon, an affinity develops between Jagdish Babu and Madan after they discover that they belong to neighbouring villages in Almora. The boy, alone in the town, gets emotionally attached to the man and addresses him as "Dajyu" (elder brother).

An excerpt from the English translation:

"Within a few days, the gap of unfamiliarity between Madan and Jagdish Babu had disappeared. As soon as the gentleman sat down, Madan would call out-'Greetings, Dajyu!' 'Dajyu, it's very cold today.' 'Dajyu, will it snow here too?' 'Dajyu, you didn't eat much yesterday.'

Then from some direction would come a cry of 'Boy!' Madan would be there even before the echo of the call could be heard. 'Anything for you, Dajyu?' he would call out repeating the word 'Dajyu' with eagerness and affection of a mother embracing her son after a long separation.

After some time, Jagdish Babu's loneliness disappeared. Now, not only the market-place and the café, but the city itself seemed like home to him."

However, the ego of Jagdish Babu cannot accept this manner of addressing for very long. "This repetition of the word 'Dajyu' aroused the bourgeois temperament in Jagdish Babu. The thin thread of intimacy could not stand the strong pull of ego. 'Shall I bring tea, Dajyu?'

'No tea. But what's this "Dajyu, Dajyu" you keep shouting all the time? Have you no respect for a person's prestige?"

The boy's feelings are badly hurt and he begins to maintain a distance from the man .It is actually that simple a story. But the use of words and symbols together evokes emotions among the readers .The element of pathos is very strong in "Dajyu". The innocence of the boy, and how the word of the adult kills it, is the thrust of the story.

Novelist Ford Maddox Fords said, "Hemingway's words strike you, each one, as if they were pebbles fetched fresh from a brook. They live and shine, each in its place." This applies to Joshi's style perfectly.

His sparing use of words is what makes his work stand out among the several authors who belong to Uttarakhand. He never underestimates the understanding of the reader.

In his story "Scenario", the beauty of the Himalayas is brought out by word-pictures and seen from the eyes of Ravi, a young documentary film maker who is visiting the mountains to make a film on the Himalayas.

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