The writer writes in his lonely tower, unafraid of words or feelings. Uday Prakash, among Hindi literature’s foremost figures, shatters this stereotype. He wasn’t always afraid, but now he is. He was bold enough to learn Hindi and choose it to write in, although he grew up speaking Chhattisgarhi in a village 1,037 kilometres from Delhi. But, a month after he gave up his Sahitya Akademi award, Uday Prakash is afraid. Afraid they’ll come for him. For, didn’t they go after A.K. Ramanujan’s many Ramayanas? Didn’t they reject the multiple civilisational lores of the great Indian epic for a single, monolithic version? Didn’t they lynch Kalburgi, ignoring his works, over a mere quotation from U.R. Ananthamurthy that was falsely, malignantly, ascribed to him?
Aren’t they going after ‘secularists’, rationalists, writers and artists, anybody who preaches peace, not war? “Indeed, I’m afraid. I felt afraid as a writer, that’s why I gave up the award. After giving it up I was afraid for I felt alone, isolated on a podium,” he says.
Now, Uday remains anxious, for he is identified by websites and TV’s flickering screens as The One. He was ‘the first’ to forsake the award, to start it all. “Some say I inspired them to give up their own awards. I tell them, the one who inspires is always made a victim,” he says.
He speaks now of further isolation, of feeling even more vulnerable, also because he writes in Hindi. Writers like him speak of a ‘dark India’, the India of khap panchayats, suicides, joblessness. “Not for us the privileges of a Chetan Bhagat,” he says. Bhagat wants writers like him to relinquish their passports, like criminals without a crime.
Now that the middle class has died and...