जनकवि नागार्जुन की जन्मशती के अवसर पर आकाशवाणी के विदेश संचार प्रसारण प्रभाग ने मुझ से अनुरोध कि बाबा नागार्जुन पर दस बारह मिनट की एक वार्ता अंग्रेजी़ में दे दो, सो यह वार्ता रिकार्ड करवा दी, यह विदेश के ही श्रोताओं को 24 जून को सुनायी पड़ेगी, इसलिए इसे मैं अपने पाठकों के लिए अपने ब्लाग पर भी दे रहा हूं, बताइए कैसी लगी यह वार्ता:
Nagarjun, the People’s Poet
The birth centenary of Nagarjun who is well known Hindi and Maithili writer is being celebrated all over India this year. Nagarjun whose real name was Vaidya Nath Mishra was born on Jyestha Poornima in June, 1911, in a small village of Bihar, he belonged to Tarauni village in Darbhanga district of Bihar. He was a brilliant student. He learnt Sanskrit, Pali and Praakrit languages, for higher learning he was sent to Varanasi where he came in touch with Hindi writers and thus was attracted to Hindi poetry. He was well-versed in Bangla too.
He began writing poems in Maithili, his mother tongue, at an early age. Later he adopted a pen name, Yatri (Traveller) for his writings in Maithili language. By mid 1930s, he started writing poems in Hindi. He took the job of a teacher in Saharanpur (U.P.) for sime time but he did not continue to be there and wandered from one place to another. He was attracted to Buddhism under the influence of Rahul Sankrityayan, a progressive Hindi writer and went to a monastery in Sri Lanka in 1935, there he became a Buddhist monk so that he might enter the monastery and study the scriptures. At that time he took upon the name ‘Nagarjun’. While at the monastery, he also studied Marxism-Leninism, On his return he got influenced by Swami Sahajanand Saraswati, founder of Kisan Sabha and took part in peasant movement and during the period between 1939 and 1942 went to jail for leading a farmer's agitation in Bihar. He played an active role in Jaya Prakash Narayan's movement prior to the Emergency period (1975–1977), and therefore was jailed for eleven months. He was strongly influenced by Marxist-Leninist philosophy. This was one of the reasons that he never found patronage from the mainstream political establishments.
A wanderer by nature, Nagarjun spent a considerable amount of his time in the 30s and 40s travelling across India. He built a small house in a Delhi village, Sadatpur where he spent some time in the 80’s. I used to visit Nagarjun often in 1973 when he stayed as guest for longer periods with young Hindi writers at Tagore Park, near Model Town in Delhi where I lived. He died in 1998 at the age of 87.
As regards his poetry he wrote first in Maithili, then in Hindi, Sanskrit and Bangla also. In the words of Vishnu Khare, an eminent poet and critic Nagarjun “continued to write both in Maithili and Hindi and while only two Hindi pamphlet-poems, Shapath (Vow) and Chana Jor Garam ('Mighty' Hot Grams) were circulated in 1948 and 1952 respectively, his first, compact yet comprehensive (28 poems) Maithili collection Chitra appeared in 1949 and became perhaps the first modern classic and a standard university textbook in the language. It is a microcosm with poems on the Mithila region and Gandhi and the state-of-the-nation jostling with nature-poems, nostalgia, love and social reform and commitment. Romantic lyricism gradually surrenders to a resolute realism. The longest (169 lines) poem of the collection, Dwandwa (The Duel Within), is uniquely central to the understanding of the poet's painfully chosen way of life and his awareness of the irrevocable, dynamic dialectics of human history…”
If his first collection, in Maithili, was appreciataed for its pictorial quality, Yugdhara, the first one in Hindi, was considered as ‘the Stream of the Age.’ By 1953, the year of its publication, Nagarjun had left behind the nostalgic association with his Meghaduta-Kalidasa Sanskritic lyrical romanticism. He became the forerunner of a new wave of writing in Hindi of progressive content and satirical form. To quote Vishnu Khare again, “he is perhaps the only Hindi poet who saw and wrote about the mighty Indus during one of his wanderings in pre-Partition India. His 10-line, 1950 poem about ‘the five worthy sons of Mother India’ is a piece of classic satire, which he used to recite like a dancing Baul, a folk-form of Bengal. The still shorter, 8-line poem on ‘The Famine and After’ remains a masterpiece of tragedy and resurgence, hunger and satiety, gloom and cheer, establishing him as a major talent in Hindi poetry.”.
The subjects of his poetry are varied. Effects of both his wandering tendencies and activism, is evident in his middle and later works. His famous poem on cloud, Badal ko Ghirate Dekha hai (बादल को घिरते देखा है), is a meaningful poem in the rich tradition of Nirala’s poems on the cloud. He often wrote on contemporary social and political issues. His famous poem Mantra Kavita (मंत्र कविता), is widely considered the most accurate reflection of a whole generation's mindset in India. Another such poem on the visit of Queen Elizabeth, Aao Rani Ham Dhoenge Palaki (आओ रानी, हम ढोंयेंगे पालकी), sarcastically humiliates the Indian ruling elite for showing attitude of servility to British imperialism.
To him, freedom as a democratic value was very dear. He stood for freedom and revolution to free the exploited masses from the system of exploitation of man by man. That is why he is known as Jankavi, the people’s poet. In his creative literature, poetry and fiction he upheld this democratic value till the end of his life. One finds those images and symbols in his poetry that stand for liberty, such as cloud, birds, mountains as were used by all romantic poets in Europe after the French Revolution that unleashed the modern democratic values of liberty, equality and fraternity and influenced creative brains all over the world. Almost all romantic poets such as Blake, Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley used these images in their poetry to express their love for liberty, equality and fraternity. All those poets wrote poems on birds such as cuckoo (Wordsworth), nightingale(Keats), and skylark (Shelley). Nagarjun wrote a meaningful couplet on Cuckoo bird in his poem on ‘Ruler’s Gun’. In the couplet cuckoo is the symbol of freedom of expression conveying a challenge to authority :
जले ठूंठ पर बैठ कर गयी कोकिला कूक
बाल न बांका कर सकी शासन की बंदूक
(Sitting on a burnt tree did cuckoo sing and enjoy/ The rulers’ gun failed to suppress it and destroy).
He used language as gesture to criticise those who became instrumental to suppress the voice of the downtrodden. He reacted sharply to all such happenings in society that touched his sense and sensibility. One can read history of political events in India of his life time in his poetry. His sharp critical sense emerged in creative gesture whenever any event of repression, tyranny on the poor or any undemocratic step by ruling classes was witnessed by his eyes. He used animal imagery such as pig, goat to depict the character of some political leaders of the ruling elite, but he also used meaningful animal imagery to convey the sense of deprivation. For example, in his most famous and widely quoted poem on ‘Famine and After’(अकाल और उसके बाद he uses animal imagery to depict the gravity of the situation during the famine and then also through the same animal imagery he gives expression to the joyful condition of the hungry when they get grain:
कई दिनों तक चूल्हा रोया चक्की रही उदास
(For many days cried the hearth and grinder stone remained sad)
कई दिनों तक कानी कुतिया सोयी उनके पास
(For many days the one-eyed bitch slept near them
कई दिनों तक लगी भीत पर छिपकलियों की गश्त
(For many days the lizards on the wall were restless
कई दिनों तक चूहों की भी हालत रही शिकस्त
(For many days the condition of the rats too was miserable)
दाने आये घर के अंदर कई दिनों के बाद
(Then grains reached home after many days)
धुआं उठा आंगन से पर कई दिनों के बाद
(Then smoke arose above courtyard after many days)
चमक उठीं घर भर की आंखें कई दिनों के बाद
( The eyes of the household sparkled after many days)
कौए ने खुजलायीं पांखें कई दिनों के बाद
(The crow rubbed its beak with wings after many days)
This 8-line poem with its symbolic structure only superficially appears to be about famine, but it also grapples with the philosophical debate about idealism and materialism. In a Vedic hymn the Guru tells his disciple that अन्न हि मन: (Grain is mind) and Nagarjun, who was a scholar of Sanskrit dramatised in his poem the message of materialist philosophy and used dialectical method to show how mind and matter coexist in unity and are interdependent. Mind that thinks is made of matter, so grain is mind. The poem also expresses how paradise is regained after the famine is over, when grain reaches the household. He uses the image of rising smoke from the courtyard in the same way as Wordsworth used the image of smoke in the first section of his immortal poem, ‘Tintern Abbey’ in which smoke indicates the presence of human world without which the world of nature is incomplete.
Nagarjun did not confine himself to the genre of poetry to depict the reality of his land. He took to novel writing and wrote novels in Hindi in the rich tradition of Premchand. Nagarjun wrote 13 novels, 11 in Hindi and two in Maithili, and each of them centres on a socio-economic-political theme, making him one of the most 'programmatic' novelists in Indian literature. Ratinath Ki Chachi (Ratinath's Aunt), Balchanma , Varun ke Bete (The Sons of the Water-God Varuna), are some of his novels well appreciated by Hindi readership. His stories are invariably set in rural or semi-urban Bihar and tell the story of the downtrodden and the exploited, amongst them women and children.
Nagarjun was given the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1969 for his historic book पत्रहीन नग्न गुच्छ(Patraheen Nagna Gachh), and the 'Bharat Bharati Award' by the U.P. government for his literary contributions in 1983. He was also honoured by the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship, India's highest literary award for lifetime achievement, in 1994.