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Wednesday, May 18, 2022
Outlook.com
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Appreciation

The Laughter Says It All

Celebrating 80 years of the creator of Raag Darbari turned out to be as musical as the author who's always considered literature to be beyond ideology.

The Laughter Says It All
The Laughter Says It All
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

[As the tradition of literary assemblies goes, 30 December 2005 sure turned out to be a unique evening. Kamani Auditorium was chockablock and filled to capacity where young and old littérateurs from Delhi, Lucknow, Allahabad, and even Rohtak, Agra and other places had assembled to celebrate 80 years of Srilal Shukla, invited specially from Lucknow. While Shukla's oeuvre is by no means limited to Raag Darbari, it is the one book that he is best known for, and while written in 1969, it remains a timelessly incisive and witty narrative of a small north Indian village, capable of reducing any somber gathering to peals of laughter and a riotous bout of hilarity.

Perhaps it was mere coincidence that while Kumar Gandharva had performed on the octagesimal celebrations for Ajneya, the former's daughter, Kalapini Komkali, was present to perform in honour of Shrilal Shukla - who is not only a connoisseur but also a good exponent of classical singing. Krishna Baldev Vaid and Namvar Singh were present at the gathering. Namvar Singh appropriately pointed to Shukla's biting satire and humour by invoking Nirala:

"wah hasii bahut kuchh kahtii thii
phir bhii apne meN rahtii thii

That laughter said a lot
But still stayed within itself]

I don't quite remember when I first met Shrilal Shukla. But I remember that I had been a bit jealous of him for many days. After all, he too was an officer like me, but no one ever maligned him by calling him an official-writer. One main reason for this must certainly have been the fact that from the very beginning of his important literary career, he mocked the official life and subjected its dilemmas and contradictions to his penetrating gaze. If nothing else, I do remember that in meeting him one met a lively and fun-loving author, not an officer who also dabbled in literature.

There are very few authors in Hindi who love classical music. There are some who seem stricken by the rather feeble-minded notion that our classical music is a remnant of feudalism and therefore 'reactionary', something which comes in the way of these subaltern-sympathiser revolutionaries. There are some who do every now and then enjoy this music, but do not think it necessary to make any effort to understand its nuances closely. Meeting Shrilal Shukla, like meeting Kunwar Narayan, was meeting one such author who not only understood the diversities, minutiae and complexities of classical music but also had a good grip over it. He is passionate about music.

There is no dearth of such 'Sir Sobriety's (Guru Gambhir) in Hindi who undoubtedly take themselves very seriously and never, even by mistake, have the time or courage to laugh at themselves. Thankfully, despite being someone who is fully alive to his responsibilities as a writer, and to his moral and social obligations, he has always laughed at himself. And he is a true liberal. He considers himself left of centre, but has never adopted an extremist or fundamentalist approach towards writers or literature, although the lack of this extremism has begun to be seen as a lack of ideological commitment, as an adulteration in proven dependability and reliability. Perhaps it should not be said thus, lest the faithful be upset, that Shrilal Shukla considers literature to be, above ideology and thought, a creative and essential transgression


Adapted from Outlook Saptahik.

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