Thursday, January 15, 2009

Writers' Writer

Those days of Nirmal Verma

Nirupama Dutt
Nirmal Verma is another Punjabi writer who has made significant contribution to Hindi fiction. Punjab has given many writers to the world of Hindi letters – Upendra Nath Ashk, Bhisham Sahni, Mohan Rakesh and Krishan Baldev Ved are a few names who have towered over. The Hindi literary scene.
The contribution of Nirmal Verma to contemporary Hindi fiction has been remarkable. He brought a breath of fresh air to Hindi literature and his stories and novels have shown him as a sensitive writer probing the human psyche and viewing human relationships from a new angle.
In the city recently on his way back to Delhi from Manikaran, Nirmal Verma said in an interview that his writings were an attempt to explore the truthfulness and authenticity in personal relationships of the Indian middle class, which he found half emancipated by the influence of the West and half buried in our own ancient traditions.
Though Nirmal's father belonged to Patiala, most of Nirmal's childhood was spent in the Simla Hills. He was never able to give up the fascionation for the hills and he later relived his childhood experiences in his second novel ``Laal Tin Ki hhat''. After having done his M.T.A. in history from St. Stephen's College, he taught for a while. Having an interest for literature, Nirmal started reviewing Hindi novels for an English daily, Reading and reviewing Hindi fiction, he chose it as his medium for creative expression.

Looking back at his youth spent in Karol Bagh, he said, ``We had a group called `Cultural Forum' and we would meet once a week and read out our stories to each other. Some of the writers of our group are now very wellknown. Our forum had among others Bhisham Sahni, Krishan Baldev Ved, Ram Kumar and Manohar Sham. We were sensitive and naïve but we would put attack each others stories with a ruthless and almost cruel criticism.''
The first stories of Nirmal Verma were published in literary magazine like `Kalpana' and `Kahani' his first collection of short stories `Parinde' was published in 1959. In the same year Nirmal went for an advanced course in contemporary Czech literature at Oriental institute in Prague. He stayed there for seven years and later lived in London and Europe for a long period.
It is said of Nirmal Verma that he brought a new phenomenon to Hindi letters – studying the tensions of the relationships in the West, a world very different from ours. His Prague experience led to the very sensitive novel `Weh Din' which has been translated into English byt Ved with the little of `Days of Longing'. When asked how he was inspired to weave the ways of the west in his stories, Nirmal replied, ``In my collection of stories `Pichhli Garmion Mein' I chose many themes from the west and depicted life in a milieu alien to me. It was essentially the concern of an Indian writer trying to grapple with a culture which offered more exposure in individual terms. In our culture many relationships are thwarted by external factors like customs, traditions and family. In the west there is more freedom to work our emotional relationships on an individual level and yet see them coming to their own logical and bitter end''.

In 1980, Nirmal Verma went back to the Delhi of the sixties where he had spent his youth and blossomed as a writer and wrote his novel `Ek chithhra Sukh'. It is the story of the young people the artists, writers and ideologists who are hungry to seek out experiences and look for just a tatter of authenticity. It tells of a generation idealistic about their role in a free India and the shattering of their dreams
Three of Nirmal Verma's stories `Weekend'. `Dedh Inch Oopar' were dramatized by the national school of drama under the title of teen ekant'. These plays were staged in the city by a local group. These three stories are written in monologue. Kumar Shahani has filmedhis story `Maya Darpan'. When asked how did he find writing novels for he is essentially a master of the short story, he said ``A novel requires more work and I find it a taxing job. In a short story I work out the frame in my mind and I knjow how I am going to put it down on paper. But in a novel, which has a much wider canvas. I start writing and sometimes the situations turn out very different from what I intended them to be''.
Recently he had done more non-fiction work – travelogues and essays. But he is working on a novel of which he says it is too early to talk yet.