Rajendra Yadav

My first meeting with Shri Rajendra Yadav was not just one of the most memorable moments of my life, but also the one which kind of summed up his entire character in that short interaction. The context for this meeting was to discuss my intentions of marrying Rachana – his daughter. While sitting nervously in front of him, I got a sense that he was more uncomfortable than I was. Our conversation went something like this:

Rajendraji – “So, what do you do ?”

Me – “Nothing.” (I had quit my job in advertising at that time.)

Rajendra ji – “And what are your plans in the future?”

Me – ” I don’t really know. Maybe I will try my hand at photography.”

He asked a further couple of questions and my answers were again inappropriate. The meeting came to an end to both our relief. Later, Rachana told me that he advised her against marrying me.

I was expecting it for I had done nothing to indicate my suitability as a husband. But to my utter surprise, Rachana continued that the reason he was dissuading her was not that I had no job or money or even ambition, but that I seemed to be exactly like him. And he was sure that people like him do not make good husbands! That was my father-in-law – a man who was scrupulously honest, who was spontaneous and erratic, often irrational. A man who lived for the moment and neither feared nor planned for tomorrow. I began to look forward to our conversations where we argued constantly. In the beginning I would be frustrated as he was totally unflappable. Later, I realized that what he was really doing is putting up a mirror for one to look at his own thoughts and ideas, and explore them. My father-in-law was a man who has lived his life true to his beliefs and principles. A life without compromise. A life that many could only envy.

Dinesh Khanna

“A writer cannot be an activist. An activist fights the immediate power structure of oppressive mea­sures and inhuman divisions. An activist proposes to replace those who are holding power but even­tually their replacement, transform the new power-holders into the same form like previous powerful men. Whereas, a writer attacks the very theory that supports autocracy and an oppressive system. Every system needs an ideology to rationalize itself, hence a writer becomes an antagonist in a the­oretical war.

Modernity gave us democracy and all the democratic values. During the period of Second World War, the tactic of cold war worked to damage this egalitarian notion. They pitched individual against the society. In the name of dignity of the family, he was alienated from the rest of the society and his own family. He did not want to pollute the purity of individuality by the ‘others’. ‘Others are hell’ is the slogan of Existentialism. Consequently the individual liberated himself from his unending social responsibilities.

The end of the Soviet Union was the beginning of post-modernity. Philosophers like Fu­colt and Darrida declared the death of history, of literature, of everything that was once coveted. It was a time when morality disintegrated. Our literature was confined to middle class values, norms and revolved around the families of educated middle class. We wrote sympathetically and empathet­ically about the oppressed people, especially dalits and women. From Premchand to Fanishwar Nath Renu, from Jainendra to Yaspal, they all wrote about women and about dalits with great sincerity. But the tragedy was that the oppressed were not speaking for themselves; they were presented by our middleclass writers.

The whole scenario change when this voiceless and modernized people started writing about their own polite. Shudra, Atishudra, meaning the lowest of low, started autobiographical de­tails of their suffering: how they are denied education human dignity and their own tragic stories. Similarly, the women who are slaves in the name of sanctity, chastity and dignity, slaves to the man of the house, wrote about how she was not allowed to go outside of her given world but destined to deny, kill and annihilate her self. The dalit and women both became the new protagonist of fiction of poetry.

The middle class writers don’t approve of this new development, of their ‘shameless’, ‘dirty’ and ‘aggressive uncouth’ writing. They are still nostalgic for their neat, sophisticated and artistic liter­ature. At present, the middle class writers are toiling and trying to get into good jobs in multinational corporate houses. Their destination is Europe, America and with those corporations that can hire them for the highest financial benefits.

At present Hindi literature is bubbling with young writers who are coming from small towns and villages to the metropoliton cities, seeking opportunities. They return to their villages with all the trappings of modernity – This is transformation and a writer cannot ignore it. He has to find his balance within this process.

Rajendra Yadav

Photographs © Dinesh Khanna