ये रिश्ता क्या कहलाता है – Relationships in Contemporary Hindi Writing

The session ‘ये रिश्ता क्या कहलाता है – Relationships in Contemporary Hindi Writing’, explored the relationship between Hindi and other languages in India as well some undefined uncertain relations the characters form in the stories. The panel had Purushottam Agrawal, renowned Kabir and Bhakti scholar, Mridula Garg, veteran writer in both Hindi and English, and Anukrti Upadhyay, a lawyer turned writer. The panel was moderated by Sourav Roy, journalist, poet, and translator.


Sourav began with citing an anecdote from one of Purushottam’s Stories where he quotes a scene from the movie Guide. The villagers question Raju guide in Sanskrit while he answers in English. Both mock each other for not knowing the language each speaks. So Saurav asked, “…in the contemporary world, similar is the situation with Hindi versus English debate and why Hindi, when we have so many other languages too?”. Purushottam had an elaborate answer. Though a Hindi writer, he stressed upon the importance of learning English. “In the present world, one has to be bilingual, per say multilingual to be efficient and sustainable.” He frankly put that a lot of Hindi lovers would criticize him for supporting English but to uplift Hindi one should not disdain English. Usage of Hindi should not be the criterion of being patriotic. At the same time, he was very appreciative of some non Hindi speakers (not having Hindi as their first language) of past to promote Hindi like Raja Rammohan Roy, Ramanand Chatterjee, Subramanya Bharathi, Mahatma Gandhi. He also asserted that imposing a language will not promote it. It will be promoted when people readily use it like Bollywood and advertising industries, though of course for commercial purposes, it’s their voluntary decision. 


Mridula said that we should try to build a connection with all the languages we come across rather than belittling any. To the question that how does she choose the language to write in, she said that it’s the language the thought came in.


Sourav put in yet another concern that a lot of people in southern India know Hindi but it’s very difficult to find people of north knowing even one of the southern languages. Mridula agreed that it was utter ignorance and laziness that we are not learning them – “we go to French Alliance to learn French but never to Andhra Bhavan to learn Telugu.”


Anukrti from her experience of traveling in different countries said that people all around the globe know more than two languages. “A German is proud to say he knows Spanish, English, or any other language. We on the other hand do not even make an effort to learn various languages present in our own country.” Purushottam was quick to add that learning various other languages of our country could be a true sign of national integration.


Coming to the second segment of the session, the panel explored the undefined ephemeral relationship that their characters shared in the story. They talked of the relationships beyond the blood relations. For instance, Mridula talked of her story Hari Bindi where two strangers meet in a film theatre and later go for a coffee. Both of them love that experience without fostering any relationship. This is what she calls the beauty of the unknown. She did not forget to satirically put that now a days people have relationship with their phone and forget the people around them. Similarly, Anukrti remembered a story in her book Japani Sarai, where two people of different origins meet at a bar and affect each other so deeply with just a conversation.


The session could go on as the relationships around us are innumerous and can be explored endlessly but the clock was ticking and the panel and the audience both had to be content with whatever little they had of this wonderful session.



About the Author: Bhumika Soni is a literature enthusiast working in the field of data analytics, she has always found words more charming and powerful than numbers. Still searching for The Enchanted Tree created by Enid Blyton to travel to various magical worlds. She currently writes for TheSeer.

Nehru Lives On

Ramchandra Guha’s study of history is rooted in current politics. With political leanings on display and political opinions out in the open, the discussion began as a strong reminder of the importance of Jawaharlal Nehru as the first Prime Minister.


Purushottam Agarwal took us through this journey of rediscovery. He brought Nehru to the forefront and wished to give his presence and decisions due credit for building the nation in the initial years. His experience as Chairman, Centre of Indian Languages, JNU and a definitive career in Hindi literature has helped put the spotlight on various innately Indian issues – like the hurting of our newly developed religious sentiments.


With his latest, “Who is Bharat Mata?”, he has published a selection of Nehru’s writings and speeches about history, culture and the idea of India with an illuminating introduction. Nehru’s Discovery of India described an instance when the chant of Bharat Mata was broken down to understand what this ‘Bharat Mata’ referred to? What value did it hold? Did it refer to our stunning landscapes, our geographical beauty, or to the people that made Bharat into  one unique society?


Bharat Mata’s journey as envisioned in the past, was identified as very different from the current reality  in the session. We were envisioned to move away from oppression into building a society along the principles of inclusion. As the current political environment was once again scrutinised and critiqued, the need for such a book emerged. The session led us to the same crossroads at which Nehru stood so many years ago, and posed the same question to us. Who is Bharat mata?


The special emphasis on Nehru over any other historic figures comes from the author’s own past. The death of Nehru led to the unwinding of many orthodox Hindus who had openly criticised his policies and decisions before. This made him wonder what was it that Nehru represented? Where did this reverence come from?


Mr Purushottam identified two criticisms against Nehru and their dissolution over the past 50 years. Firstly, Nehru’s idea of religion was considered to be contemptuous to the Indian culture. He refused to prescribe to any particular sub sect. He didn’t proselytise any one form of prayer. But this didn’t mean he refused to acknowledge the importance of religion in the shaping of Indian culture. The book samples some of his profound thoughts on culture, its creation, and sustenance.  


Secondly, his idea of religion was more globally contextualised. His exposure to ancient Greek and Indian philosophies developed a Pagan worldview which was simultaneously adopted with certain strains of Advaita ideology. This sometimes meant that he practised a higher level of belief that put his practices on a higher pedestal. This global context made him welcoming of religious divergence in the country and that finally developed a political philosophy which was completely opposed to the usage of religious sentiments in politics.


Mr. Agarwal very aptly quoted Nehru in this context, “Where there are sentiments, there is no dialogue.” Gandhi reflected vernacular modernity, while Nehru reflected immigrant modernity. His national identity wasn’t limited to a particular regional identity. This fluidity in identity helped Nehru and Gandhi bridge the gap between the ideological nitty gritties that the two differed on.



About the Author: Deepika Aiyer is a 20 year old Literature Fest enthusiast who looks forward to being blown away by new ideas, opinions, and schools of thought. She currently writes for TheSeer.