Pankar Bisht Hindi writer and activist
Pankaj Bisht is a well known Hindi writer and activist. He edits Samayantar and doggedly insists on the place for a “little magazine” that is entirely concerned with radical social and political engagements.
Pankaj was born on 20 February 1946 in Mumbai (Bombay). He did his school education in Almora, Lucknow, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. He graduated from Agar university and did masters in English literature from Meerut university. Between 1969 to 1998, he worked in different positions with Ministry of Information and Broadcasting covering different roles, including editing of magazines such as Akashvani and Aaj-kal and script-writing. He took early retirement in 1999 and since then is involved in publication and editing of Hindi magazine Samayantar.
His major books include the following:
- Short stories collection "Andhere se" (1976, with Asghar Wajahat, Bhasha publications)
- Short stories collection "Pandrah Jama Pacchis" (1980)
- Novel "Lekin Darwaza" (1982, received Om Prakash award from Radhakrishan Prakshan in 1984)
- Short story collection "Bacche Gavah Nahin Ho Sakte" (1985)
- Novel "Us Chidiya Ka Naam" (1989, Rajkamal Prakshan, award from Hindi Accademy refused in 2001, translated in English and different Indian languages)
- Short stories collection "Tunda Pradesh Aur Anya Kahaniyan" (1982)
- Story book for children, "Golu Bholu" (1994, translated in English and different Indian languages)
- Short stories collection, "Aakhir Kya Hua" (Vagdevi Prakashan)
- Short stories collection, "Khandit Abhimaan" (Praveen Prakshan)
Pankaj’s novel "Lekin Darwaza" has also been translated into Italian and published in the “short novels collection”, La vita e la sanguisuga : raccolta di otto novelle plurali edited by Enrico D'Angelo Catanzaro, Abramo editors, 1997 (I Pavoni collection).
Pankaj Bisht on his becoming a writer
“My family background played a big role in my becoming a writer. My father had great interest in reading and writing, he wrote as as well as edited. I saw my father as a model. For some time, from Nainitaal, I was sent to Lucknow, where I stayed with elder Mama (uncle). He was also fond of reading, even if he didn’t have interest in writing like my father. He used to bring lot of books. I started reading Russian literature there. When I was in sixth standard, I read the initial chapters of Gorky’s My Childhood.
Thus I started to get interested in literature. At the same time, I started to think about expression of my own experiences. By the time I arrived in tenth standard, I started to think about becoming a writer. Till twelfth standard, I was writing small things here and there, but it had no real meaning. I finished BA (college undergraduate degree) and while I was doing the final year of Masters degree, I wrote a very romantic story Awaaz Doobti Gayi, that was published in weekly magazine Saptahic Hindustan in 1969. My way of writing was linked to journalism. I started as journalist and at the same time, writing stories…
I am a very polarized person. I prefer looking at things in a direct way, either here or there. For example, I am against communalism. I don’t like nationalism and the growing economic inequalities…”
(From an interview by Rajesh Ranjan in Literate world, 14 April 2003)
Pankaj Bisht on lack of scientific and sociological writings in Hindi
For the development of any society, it is not enough to ensure only the growth of knowledge. It is even more important that the knowledge reaches all the groups of society and its use is equitable. Another thing that is necessary is that the development of knowledge requires as much participation from other groups as that of dominating groups (high caste groups). Regarding sociological themes, this is even more important since without a critical look at our own society, no change has every occurred nor it can occur…
It is a mystery for me to understand the reason that in a country that had book like Arthashastra written three hundred years before Christ, which reflected on politics and economy in a pragmatic way, and in a country that was perhaps one of biggest centres of commerce, there no other reflections about commerce or economic science. If there was, it was very marginalized or was limited to biographies of kings and emperors and governmental edicts. Or, it was of lower levels, that hardly received any attention from the society and that hardly started any innovative thinking in any field. Don’t you feel worried by the fact that in our knowledge and literature there is hardly any thing that analyses our society in any way, except for books like Manusmriti that are collections of one-sided norms. Why didn't we challenge books like Manusmriti or we initiated converting the ideals of Bhakti Kaal into reality only when we came in contact with western knowledge?…
It is clear that if a language does not have scientific and sociological writings, there is bound to be stagnation in that language’s literature as well. Its it that our old tradition of self-satisfaction has absorbed our capacity to analyse and criticise? Thus it has not happened suddenly that there is a continuous fall in the quality of Hindi literature students and teachers…Even if Hindi is the language spoken by largest number of persons and is so called national language, in 52 years of independence there has been increasing decrease in the importance of Hindi in our society. In reality, not having other areas of knowledge and science in our language, except for literature, has been an important obstacle to the growth of knowledge…
(From “Vaishvikaran, Hindi samaj ki jadta aur samaj vigyan”, Pankaj Bisht, Samayantar, June 2002, reproduced on Literary World, translated into English by Sunil Deepak)
Pankaj Bisht on Bollywood
From an article published on Times News network (March 29, 2003): Bollywood is status quoist and as such it can not be expected to make any positive contribution to engineer change and raise the intellectual level of the cinegoers, said Pankaj Bisht, the well known litterateur and editor of the Hindi literary journal Samkaleen published from Delhi.
Intervening in a discussion on performing arts, with special reference to theatre and cinema, organised as part of the three-day celebrations to mark the establishment of Renaissance, the cultural centre established by the writer couple Sanjay and Durba, Pankaj alleged that besides being status quoists, the Bollywood was also timid and that is why it easily succumbed to pressure tactics employed by the state agencies and the self-appointed culture guardians of the country and for these reasons the protagonists of cultural nationalism found it convenient to establish rapport with the Mumbai film industry.
Making comparisons between Bollywood and Hollywood , Bisht said that Hollywood too, in a way stood for American Imperialism. But at the same time it did have people who can call a spade a spade and who have not mortgaged their conscience. He made specific reference to loud voices of dissent against the ongoing war heard at the Oscar award presentation ceremony a few days back.
Pankaj Bisht also ridiculed those who were engaged in producing what he called trash on the alibi of responding to popular taste. The job of the film maker was not only to produce what found market acceptance, it was also their duty to qualitatively change the tastes and preferences of common people, he said.
Pankaj Bisht on New Year
In another article published on Times News Network (December 28, 2003) about New Year, Pankaj is quoted as: Every day is new for me, for, each morning brings new hopes, inspiration and energy to achieve the unachieved. But the calendar of New Year is marked with parties, celebrations, cakes, music, masti and dhamaal. And I’ll leave no stone unturned in unwinding myself, away from writing the usual novels.
Stand of Samayantar on Gujarat riots
“Next, it was the turn of progressive Hindi magazines Udbhavana and Samayantar. These magazines are well-known for their forthright stand against the Sangh Parivar’s communal agenda. But Newton’s Law as interpreted by the Sanghi physicists causes a neat inversion of the meaning, allowing people to be accused of the very crime of which they are the victims. So, Samayantar and Udbhavna could be labelled ‘controversial’ and capable of ‘disturbing communal harmony’, since they are no doubt capable of provoking the Sanghi goons to attack them.” (From Kavita Krishnan in her article “Save Culture From The “Banned-It” Gangs and The Culture Cops”)