High on the Hindi list

A handful of Hindi books made it to the top this year.

December 19, 2014 06:20 pm | Updated 06:20 pm IST

A reader at the Full Circle Book Shop in Khan market, New Delhi. Photo: Meeta Ahlawat

A reader at the Full Circle Book Shop in Khan market, New Delhi. Photo: Meeta Ahlawat

That the ratio is skewed is no secret. Hindi books today find few takers, and little space. In bookstores, home libraries, literary publications, they make do with fewer reviews and diminishing corners. The substantially poorer visibility ensures a strikingly low number of Hindi books on the bestseller’s list each year.

When I ask Midland Bookshop’s Asad Beg to give me a list of his store’s top sellers, he names them quite easily. Of course, they are all in English, and so, I ask him about Hindi, and after a long, doubtful pause, he confesses that this year’s not been too good for Hindi books.

While most big publishing houses do publish Hindi language books, the sales are poor, and inevitably, almost none of them make it to the top of the list. Some do, though, and this year, Harper Collins India’s list of bestsellers includes two books by Surender Mohan Pathak, “Colaba Conspiracy” and “Jo Lare Din ket Het”. Both books have sold incredibly well, at approximately 25,000 copies each. With over 300 books to his credit, Pathak is known for his fast paced, thrilling crime fiction novels, and this genre, in any language, seems to be a particular favourite.

Another big chunk of this bestselling list is reserved for the already big names, translated into Hindi. Natwar Singh’s autobiography “Ek Hi Zindagi Kaafi Nahin (“One Life is Not Enough”) and S. Hussain Zaidi’s “Byculla to Bangok” feature high on the list, as does Ravinder Singh’s new book, “Your Dreams are Mine Now”, though in Hindi, its name is “Tumhare Sapne ab Apne Hue”. Other authors who find favour in translation include Amish Tripathi and Ashok Banker.

It is impossible to ignore the fact that some of the greatest Indian writers and poets have written in Hindi, and even today, they manage to boost sales of Hindi books. Rajkamal Prakashan, a Hindi publishing house, lists “1084ven Ki Maan” by Mahasweta Devi as a bestseller this year. Rajpal and Sons published a series of books this year on famous poets like Iqbal, Sahir Ludhiyanvi and Firaq Gorakhpuri. Each book takes a look at their life and work, and this collection has done rather well too.

Of course, not unlike the English bestseller’s list, the Hindi one too has a few constants. Harivanshrai Bachhan’s “Madhushala” continues to make an appearance, as does Shrilal Shukla’s “Raag Darbari”, both having made their mark as favourites in their respective genre.

Whether they make it to the top or not, the fact is, each year, some high quality Hindi books are published, but somehow, whether because their low visibility ensure fewer readers or vice versa, they remain at the periphery, seldom coming up in conversations that round up the year’s bounty of books.

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