On his way to Nai Kahani

30dmcmohanrakesh   | Photo Credit: 30dmcmohanrakesh

A closer study of Rakesh’s plays offers an insight into his need for this tinkering. What Rakesh had wanted, and what the Nai Kahani movement, which he pioneered, created, was a language that could remain distant, one that wasn’t too stylised or entirely sentimental. Khanna explains Rakesh’s own view of this language, when he quotes from an interview Rakesh gave to Carlo Coppola in 1968. Nai Kahani, he says, had created an “intimate, objective language”. A language which could bring together Premchand’s sensitive, intimate style and Jayashankar Prasad and Agyeya’s sophisticated one.

In this book, Khanna has managed to translate not just Rakesh’s words, but also the more important aspect of “Aakhri Chattan Tak”; the beginnings of Rakesh’s craft, and the hints of the clean, emotive yet distant language that would find their home in his plays.

To someone familiar with Rakesh’s work, “To the Farthest Rock” offers a beautiful, almost wistful insight into the journey that shaped him to great extent. It offers a deeper, more intimate perspective, and the young Rakesh you meet in the book helps you better understand the older one.

As a travelogue, the book is equally fascinating. The descriptions have a direct, crisp quality, and the writing is palpably visual. Consider these lines, with which he describes Malabar, “The pull of Malabar’s vistas matched the pull of the name Malabar. The soil is red. The vegetation is dark green. The houses are thatched with coconut fronds. My wandering in and around Kannur convinced me that the entire region is a coconut orchard, with cashew and betel nut trees grown for aesthetic variety.” Rakesh choose to write without trimmings, so that one can rarely find a superfluous word.

And yet, “To the Farthest Rock” is not just about the places. Rakesh fills its pages with portraits. Sometimes, he writes with a kind of distant, objective eye. In the chapter titled “Coffee, Humans and Dogs”, he writes of the people on the Calicut beach. “I found people sitting or lying down in a way that excluded the other people near them. Each person wanted to sort out alone the resentments he or she bore against life.” Even as an observer, Rakesh writes intimately, with an objectivity that is anything but dry. In a few other chapters, he jots down conversations with people, interacting with them directly in a style that is reminiscent of fiction.

When you read him in Hindi, the strength of Rakesh’s language, his skill as an observer of human life; its folly and desire, are on complete, unencumbered display. Translated, his words lose a little, and sometimes, a lot. But Khanna ensures that “To the Farthest Rock” distils the most meaning it can from its original, so that the book offers exactly what it is meant to –– a glimpse into young Rakesh’s raw talent, one that would soon make him a pioneer of modern Hindi literature.

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Printable version | Apr 13, 2021 9:53:11 AM |

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