Remembering the conscience keeper

It is time to recite poems of Raghuvir Sahay as they not only relate to woes of the common man but are also in sync with the socio-political reality of today

Published - February 09, 2018 01:10 am IST

Raghuvir Sahay

Raghuvir Sahay

Why are poets like Kabir, Tulsidas, Rahim, Ghalib or Faiz considered to be great? The answer to this question lies in our urge to repeatedly visit and revisit them on account of their relevance to our lives. In different everyday situations, lines from their poetry come to our mind without any effort on our part as they fit those situations so well, shed light on them and illuminate them to make us comprehend them better. At a time when the country is witnessing fundamental changes in its political, economic, social and cultural life and anti-democratic tendencies are bent upon creating a fear psychosis, Raghuvir Sahay (December 9, 1929-December 30, 1990) is one of the few modern Hindi poets whose poetry continues to resonate in one’s mind because of its ability to bring the irony of the situation and the helplessness of the ordinary citizen into sharp relief.

Besides being a front-ranking poet, Raghuvir Sahay was also the editor of news weekly Dinman which, for nearly two decades, remained the most prestigious and respected magazine in Hindi. Sachchidanand Hiranand Vatsyayan, known to the literary world as “Agyeya”, had conceptualised and launched the magazine in 1965, bringing together talents like Raghuvir Sahay, Manohar Shyam Joshi, Shrikant Verma and Sarveshwar Dayal Saxena on its staff.

Starting young

In 1969, he handed over the baton to Raghuvir Sahay who had already worked as a journalist in Hindi dailies Navjeevan and Navbharat Times, and the news division of the All India Radio. Sahay edited Dinman from 1969 to 1982 with such great distinction that it was compared with Time and Newsweek.

Born in Lucknow, Raghuvir Sahay started writing poetry at an early age and his first poem was published in 1946 when he was only 17. Besides poetry, he also wrote a large number of short stories for children and they were broadcast by the AIR’s Lucknow Station. Agyeya recognised his literary and journalistic talent very early and invited his poems for Doosra Saptak (Second Heptad) although he, all of 20, was the youngest of those included in this volume. The others six were Shamsher Bahadur Singh, Bhavani Prasad Mishra, Naresh Mehta, Dharmvir Bharati, Shakunt Mathur and Hari Narayan Vyas. Young as he was, he wrote about love and nature albeit from a refreshingly new viewpoint. By the time “Doosra Saptak” was published in 1951, Sahay had joined Agyeya as his assistant in literary journal Prateek that the former had launched.

09dfrcoverRachanavali (1)

09dfrcoverRachanavali (1)

Although edited by Agyeya, Sahay’s first independent collection “Seedhiyon Par Dhoop Mein” (On the Stairs in the Sun), containing his poems, short stories and articles, was published by Bharatiya Jnanpith in 1960. Influenced by the Lohia-brand of socialism, Raghuvir Sahay too was greatly concerned about the future of Hindi but he was far from being a Hindi-chauvinist. Uttar Pradesh government confiscated that issue of magazine Yugchetna that had carried his poem “Hamari Hindi” (Our Hindi) because Hindi-chauvinists had created a big hue and cry over his description of the language as “duhaaju ki biwi” (wife of a widower). His next poetry collection “Atmahatya ke Viruddh” (Against Suicide) was published in 1967 by Rajkamal Prakashan and placed him among the front-ranking Hindi poets. His most talked-about collection, published by National Publishing House in 1975 just before the Emergency was imposed, was “Hanso Hanso Jaldi Hanso” (Come on, laugh) and it contained his poems written between 1968 and 1974. These poems offered a prescient view of how authoritarian state power rendered the rights of common citizens meaningless. As long as state stands in opposition to citizens and acts primarily as a coercive mechanism to promote interests of the ruling elites, Raghuvir Sahay’s poems will be remembered and quoted in daily conversations. “Aane Wala Khatara” (The Impending Danger) reads like a poem written in 2018.

The poems, addressed to an imaginary Ramesh, ends prophetically: “Ek din isi tarah aayega—Ramesh / ki kisi kee koi raay na rah jaayegee — Ramesh / Krodh hoga par virodh na hoga / arziyon ke sivaay—Ramesh / Khatara hoga khatare kee ghanti hogee / aur use badshah bajaaegaa — Ramesh. (A day will arrive when nobody will have any opinion; there will be anger but no protest except applications. There will be danger and there will be alarm bell. And, the King will ring it)

Raghuvir Sahay was a writer who saw his role primarily as a conscience-keeper and played it extraordinarily well through his poems, short stories and articles. His other books poetry collections were “Log Bhool Gaye Hain” (People have forgotten), “Kuchh Pate Kuchh Chitthiyan” (A few addresses, a few letters) and “Ek Samay Tha” (There was a time). He also translated foreign short stories and plays and emerged as a translator of great distinction.

As Chairman of the Press Council of India’s committee to investigate the performance of the press during L. K. Advani’s Rath Yatra and the ensuing communal riots, he played an exemplary role. In 2000, Rajkamal Prakashan published Raghuvir Sahay Rachanavali in six volumes under the editorship of Suresh Sharma.

The writer is a seasoned literary critic

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