On the morning of 29 October, my friend Karmendu Shishir conveyed to me over the telephone the disturbing news of Rajendra Yadav ji’s demise. Rajendra ji had passed away the previous night and Shishir came to know of the death through some TV channel in the morning.
Rajendra ji had recently completed 84 years of his life. Thus, his demise cannot be described as untimely. But he has passed away when we are passing through tough times. We will miss him a lot. His frank views and editorial comments had become the part of our socio-cultural and even political life. Every month, thousands of readers awaited them. It was his courage and conviction that he turned a literary magazine into a weapon of ideological battle in the world of Hindi literature – which is often considered devoid of any ideology or thought. He was criticised for this and on occasions, litterateurs tried to push him out of their circle. But he continued to tread on his chosen path. Ramjanmabhoomi, Shahbano, Mandal movement, neo-economic liberalism, saffronization of culture and politics, the communal tilt of Indian politics, brahmanical character of literature, the identity of backward communities, Dalits and women – and dozens of similar socio-political and cultural issues were analysed and discussed threadbare in his magazine Hans many a time, triggering robust and on occasions, bitter debates.
That was the time when the Soviet Union had collapsed and a section of the society and litterateurs had written the obituary of Marxism. Globalisation was stalking the world and no one had time to spare a thought for the social groups relegated to the margins of the society. In this scenario, it was particularly important and necessary to bring them to the centre of debate and discourse.
He not only enriched our cultural life with his literary writings but his long editorial comments on different issues have become a prized heritage of our tradition of thought. They will continue to be long discussed. There was no tradition of editorials in Hindi literary magazines. Hans was the pioneer in this respect. When Premchand had launched it, besides literature, he also wrote on socio-political issues in it. When, in 1986, Rajendra ji took over, he revived that tradition. Besides editorial, ‘Beech Bahas Mein’ was a column through which he spread the tradition of debate and argument. Hundreds of writers-readers joined this debate. It was a challenging task to convert a society gripped by inertia into one engaged in discourse, debate and discussion. He accomplished this task successfully.
At the personal level, I was associated with him for 35 years. I saw him in different moods, in different forms. I still remember my first meeting with him in 1978 in the same office from where Hans is published now. At that time, it was the office of Akshar Prakashan, which was being patronised by Rajendra ji. Even at that time, Rajendra ji, who was one of the three leading lights of the Nai Kahani movement, was well-known, though not controversial. At that time, there was an air of urban elitism about him, which was more artificial than natural. He was a Hindi writer but tried to build an aura of a European author around him. He was very knowledgeable and conversations with him were always extremely interesting and informative. But I rarely saw him taking interest in subjects other than literature. I guessed that he consciously tried to project his image only as a literary figure. This was before he took over Hans. In 1986, I met him in Lucknow, at the 50th anniversary of the Progressive Writers’ Association. It was a grand literary fest and he had come to attend it. Our mutual friend and editor of Kathadesh, Hari Narayan was with him. They told me that Hans was being relaunched. Given my understanding of Rajendra ji’s personality, I got the impression that another literary magazine on the lines Ajneya’s Prateek was in the offing. I even said this to Hari Narayan ji. Probably, Hari Narayan bhai told him about it. When I went to Delhi, a couple of months after the relaunching of Hans, Rajendra ji himself referred to my comment. He was more anxious than me that Hans should not become a platform of elitist confabulations. It was at the Hans office that the plan of launching Sancha – a magazine of serious discourse – was made and it was also brought about.
This was a new aspect of Rajendra ji’s personality, which was hitherto unknown to me. He did not allow Hans to become a toy. He converted it into an instrument for bringing about socio-cultural change. Because of this, he lost many friends and many people, some even unknown to him, turned his enemies. But he never compromised. About two years back, I had advised him to close down Hans as he was unable to manage it and it was losing its prestige and dignity. He refused. Hans continued to go downhill.
Like every human being, Rajendra ji had both virtues as well as vices. But his core quality was his being a democrat. You could disagree with without any hesitation or fear. He never regretted anyone’s disagreement. Jean-Paul Sartre and Jean /Jacques Rousseau were a deep, abiding influence on his subconscious mind. And he was a rebel like Voltaire. He was great exponent of freedom – not only physical but also of thought and expression. He will live forever in our memories. My tearful homage to him!
Published in the November 2013 issue of the Forward Press magazine
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