Prof. Puran Chandra Joshi the well known social scientist who passed away recently was also a noted poet.
As a schoolboy sitting at the window of his house in the hills, he would watch the splendour of the majestic Himalayas. Enraptured, he would perceive the myriad colours of the Himalayas that kept changing from dawn to the dusk. This had profound impact on the sensibility and psyche of the boy who wrote his first poem at the age of 15 which was published on the front page of celebrated Hindi literary magazine “Vishal Bharat” in 1943. As he grew into a social scientist endowed with intellectual sweep, his concerns became international and national but somewhere deep down in his heart the image of the Himalayas remained. His last offering for his admirers was a poem on the Himalayas but the perspective stood radically changed.
Born in village Digoli, Almora in 1928, Prof. Puran Chandra Joshi died on March 2, 2014 in Delhi at the age of 86. After completing his intermediate from Almora, he came to Lucknow for higher education, joined Lucknow School of Economics and Sociology where he had his education including Ph.D. His dissertation was on “Agrarian Social structures and Socio-Economic Development in Post-Colonial India: A case study of Uttar Pradesh” under the guidance of Prof. Radhakamal Mukherjee. This research catapulted him to the limelight in the field of agricultural studies. In the course of his illustrious working life, he devoted 30 years to the Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi and the last four years of his tenure he served as its director.
A versatile creative person, Joshi excelled in a variety of fields such as sociological analysis of literature, poetry and culture. As a research scholar of eminence he had authored a number of books about not only in his specialized field but also about political philosophy, culture, literature and art. He displayed keen interests to know about the folk culture of Uttarakhand and never forgot his roots and had written several books on Uttarakhand which deserved special mention -- “Uttarakhand : Issues and Challenges”, “Uttarakhand Ke Aiyena Men Hamara Samay” and “Himalay Ki God Men Gandhi Aur Nehru”.
When an adolescent from the lap of nature with a romantic world view came to Lucknow, he confronted a stark reality with many fold contradictions and conflicts. Having equipped himself with the ideology of Marxism-Leninism, he got himself engaged in analyses of the feudal structure of Indian agriculture and the impoverished peasantry. The poet in Joshi became dormant. It was after he became internationally renowned as a social scientist, that the nostalgia about the hills, his village and his town, Almora started haunting him. He commented “I realized the significance of the relationship between poetry and social science. Without poetry social science becomes inhuman and without social science poetry becomes shallow, sentimental and insensitive to the masses.” (This sentence was originally written by Prof. Joshi in Hindi, the English rendering is done of this writer.)
A voracious reader and prolific writer, Joshi was nominated by the Government of India as chairman of about a dozen premier national institutions of social sciences, education and culture including National School of Drama. He also headed various high level committees to recommend the much needed changes in terms of their structure and provide a new direction. Among these was one on Software for Doordarshan, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting which presented its report in 1984. Though the recommendations were not accepted, these were discussed passionately on different platforms. This writer had the opportunity to have a long interview with Prof. Joshi about these recommendations which were aimed at transforming television into a vehicle of social and economic development. Joshi talked in detail about the urgent need to project positive image of women and outright rejection of commercials that are source of commodification of the image of women and culture. He wanted television to fight against religious bigotry and inculcate a scientific temper. Opposing the telecast of Bollywood trash, he was for adapting Indian classics and contemporary literary masterpieces in Indian languages. He was for a kind of software that entertained, enlightened and elevated and enriched social life. (This interview appeared in Patriot newspaper,(now closed, in two parts.)
Now that Joshi is no more his last creation entitled “Himadri Ko Dekha” provides insights into his poetic sensibility and his assertion of the right of man to be free and happy. This is Joshi's second anthology of poems. “Himadri Ko Dekha” has two parts – “Vijan Path” which includes poems written between the age of 15 to 17. The second part is entitled “Narai” which includes poems composed by a social scientist who continued to be haunted by nostalgia. The poems in the first part are romantic, beautiful and elegant. In contrast, poems in the second part reflect poet's disillusionment with the so-called development of the hills which he calls Apvikas, a disgrace, that has destroyed the harmonious relationships between man and nature and given birth to a new class of exploiters called thekedar (contractors) who are, in fact, mafias controlling all aspects of hill life with their muscles and money power. The title of the anthology is drawn from a longish poem of the same title.. Expressing his anguish at the plight of common man in the hills and his bitter criticism of poet Sumitranandan Pant, the tallest Hindi poet who perceived in the Himalayas only sublime beauty and was unable to observe and react to the miseries of the dalits and labourers. In this poem Prof. Joshi uses the contrast of the Himalayas to heighten agony of the oppressed. According to novelist-turned-editor Pankaj Bisht Joshi has revealed the same critical sentiments for Sumitranand Pant in his book “Uttarakhand Ke Ayene Men Hamara Samay” in which he placed Gumani Pant (1790-1846) on a higher pedestal for being close to people and for his consistently anti-imperialist stance. Gumani wrote in Kumaoni, Nepali and Hindi.
Joshi had written dozens of research papers which were published in internationally reputed publications. But his article titled “Uttarakhand People's Artist Mohan Upreti and his discovery of the Guru” was widely read. It was first published in Mainstream in 2000 and later reproduced by Sangeet Natak Akademi in its journal. Now it finds a place in the appendix to the book “Mohan Upreti: The Man and His Art”. This article recounts the encounter between comrade P.C. Joshi, veteran leader of the Communist Party of India, Joshi, Mohan Upreti and popular folk singer and poet Mohan Singh Bisht and the villagers of the hills. For couple of days these great intellectuals were mesmerized by Mohan Singh who sang in his sweet and sonorous voice the glory of folk heroes and their struggle against the feudal oppressors. This encounter turned out to be the turning point in the life of Mohan Upreti who accepted with all humility Mohan Singh as his guru and devoted his entire life to enrich folk culture of Uttarakhand.
Poet at heart, Joshi's last offering “Himadri Ko Dekha” is a disturbing expression of deeply felt anguish of a sensitive intellectual-poet on the prevailing social, economic and cultural mess prevailing in Uttarakhand.