When the Sahitya Akademi asked me to prepare this representative volume of short stories in Hindi, I was in a dilemma for quite some time. Selection and evaluation of literature demands scholarship. I do not possess that. It would have been better to entrust this job to some prominent critic.
Then I was told there is no need to make a historical analysis of the short stories, all that was required was to select outstanding stories of my choice. I saw a way out, for one can follow one's taste. But who can claim that he has read all the short stories in Hindi? Moreover every reader is a critic. What if my selection is not fully representative? I wanted to escape all this.
But I could not get out of it. The result is this volume. Because of the limitations of the frame, even a reader limited like me has had to keep a check on himself and has had to respect the advice of friends as well. I will not say that their advice confined my choice. It showed me the way and helped remove my doubts. Even if it does not have anything else, at least this selection definitely has the approval of these friends.
Almost every day new compilations of stories are being prepared and sold in-the market. But most of them are best ignored the reason being they are inspired by commercial motives There are few selections free from this consideration. From this point of view the present volume will fill that void in Hindi and also help in establishing the glory of Hindi short story at home and abroad.
If you are looking for novelty in this volume then perhaps you will be disappointed. What is new or old in a story except its form? I have always believed a story is a story in any form. Right from the beginning of life, story writing has had one purpose only - to express life through the various constituents of life. As far as forms are concerned, it depends on the storyteller or the writer. Every person is a law unto himself. His story has special qualities insofar as it stands as an expression of his personality. If it fails to do so, then it has little worth as a story. There is no sense in presenting what is available to every one. Thus every storywriter must have his own personal quality and that quality alone creates the attraction of his story.
This is true of subjects as well. These days it is frequently said that the most outstanding feature of modern fiction is its concern with regionalism. This means describing the life and culture of a particular region. But which writer has not written about his own particular region? Who has ignored his own milieu? And if he stops just there, then on what strength is it acceptable outside that region? That is why the writer transcends his region to reach the sky and also delves deep into the background and the mind. The modern story may be known by its regionalism but for its reach and extent it need not remain within a region. There are also other things besides this - such as form and technique. But, like language, they are all means and not the end. Changes due to the period and individual taste should not come as a surprise to us. But these are externals and not the story. The story is in all of them and above them.
For that reason I have concentrated on the story, the narrative, and not on techniques and methods. Emphasis on methods can impart knowledge but not interest. And that which does not interest, with what audacity can one call it a story?
The story is Indian in origin. It is in the Upanishads and also in the Panchtantra, and Hitopdesh. It is through these that it travelled abroad, developed and assumed different forms to make a home in millions of hearts. The short story in its modern form has come to us from foreign lands. As soon as news of its arrival was received, the tradition in Hindi was revived and once again found an expression. That is the reason why though the early stories in Hindi seem hesitant and diffident, within a few years they showed a new assurance and confidence. This self-assurance was first seen in Guleri's story Usne Kaha Tha ("She Had Said So"). Written against the backdrop of the First World War, this story is complete and touching and even today it gives pleasure. The depiction of the sacrificing love restores our faith in idealism.
But Usne Kaha Tha may have been a shot in the dark. Guleri's other two stories are lifeless and aimless, as if there is nothing to say and nothing to express. The truth is that like the Hindi novel, the Hindi short story is also linked with Premchand.
Premchand's stories appealed to me when I first read them, and even today they leave a deep impression. The way he shares everything with the reader, the social relevance of his subject matter and the delicacy of narration - they all help to keep the Hindi short story close to the Indian tradition. Premchand's aim was to relate a story but he was also concerned with jolting the country out of the slumber it had fallen into. But in narration he does not have any other limitation. The same is true of Kaushik and Sudarshan. It is in the writings of this trio that the real foundation of Hindi story is laid. Chatursen Shastri also had this quality to some extent, but he seemed to overwhelm the reader. This gave his story a tinge of unreality. Whatever it was, the post-Premchand story was suddenly more concerned with the internal movement, from the social to the internal. The player became a character and an individual more than a mere means to an end. Later on, the old style surfaced again in some writers, but once the door was opened to the study of the inner self it remained open.
1. Premchand (1880-1936) was the pen name adopted by the great novelist and short story writer Dhanpatrai who was born at Lamhi (U.P.). Started writing in Urdu and later switched on to Hindi. His best known novels are Sewa Sadan, Rangbhoomi, Godan and Nirmala. He has written a large number of short stories.
2. Chandradhar Sharma Guleri (1883-1922) educated at the Allahabad University became very popular for his first short story Usne Kaha Tha. He wrote only three short stories. Other two are Sukhmay Jiwan and Buddhu Ka Kauta. His two eassys Kachhua Dharma and Maresi Monhi Kuthawan are also well-known.
3. Jaishankar Prasad (1889-1937), one of the leading poets of Chhayavad school of Hindi poetry, was born at Banaras. Also wrote fiction, plays and essays. Besides Kamayani, a famous epic poem, his other poetry collections are Aansoo, Jharna, Lahar and plays Ajaatshatru, Skandgupt, Dhruvswamini etc.
4. Vrindavan Lal Verma (1889-1969) well-known for his historical novels and short stories. His important novels include Jhansi Ki Rani, Garh Kundar, Mrignayanl and Sana. Received a number of awards; D. Litt. (honoris causa) from the Agra University (1958); and Padma-bhushan (1965).
5. Radhika Raman Prasad Singh (1890-1971) was conferred an honorary degree of Sahitya Vachaspati by Hindi Sahitya Sammelan in 1970. Some of his important short story collections are Gandhi Topi, Sauni Sama besides novels Purush aur Nari, Chumban aur Chanta etc. He was honoured with Padmabhushan (1962).
6. Vishwambharnath Sharma Kaushik (1891-1945). His literary urge found expression first in Urdu under the pseudonym of Raqib. He is known for his short story collections and plays which include Sangharsh, Galpa Mandir, Bhikarini, Paris Ki Nartki etc.
7. Chatursen Shastri (1891-1960), a prolific writer of fiction was also a physician. Published more than 150 books including 30 novels, over 350 short stories and 15 plays. His important works include Dukhwa. Mein Kase Kahoon, Soya Hua Shahar, Vaishali Ki Nagarvadhu, Somnath, Alamgeer and Sona aur Khoon.
8. Siyaram Sharan Gupta (1895-1963), the younger brother of Maithilisharan Gupta, was a significant poet, fiction writer and an essayist. His first verse narrative Maujya Vijay was followed by Anaath. He also wrote a play entitled Punya Parva and three novels Goda, Antim Akanksha and Nari.
9. Sudarshan (1895-1967), real name Badri Nath Bhatt, eminent short story writer, was born at Sialkot (Pakistan). His first story Haar Ki Jeet (1920) showed promise. Kavi Ki Stri, Aparadhi, Sansar Ki Sabse Bari Kahani and Kamal Ki Beti are his other short stories. He also wrote a number of novels and plays.
10. Bhagwati Prasad Bajpai (1899-1973) was born at village Mangalpur, Dt. Kanpur. Starting as a poet, he entered the field of fiction with his short story Yamuna. He wrote 55 novels and more than 300 short stories. Some of his famous books are Prempath, Gupt Dhan and Manushya aur Devta. For some time, he edited Urmi and Aarti.
11. Pandey Bechan Sharma 'Ugra' (1900-1967) was born in Chunar, U.P. A prolific writer, he produced 4 books of verse, 20 collections of short stories, 10 novels, 5 full length plays and two one-act plays. His autobiography Apni Khabar is unique. He also edited Matwala, Vina and Swarajya.
12. Ilachandra Joshi (1902-1982) wrote more than 100 short stories and 11 novels. He was honoured with the title Sahitya Vachaspati by the Hindi Sahitya Sammelan. Some of his important books are Sanyasi, Parde Ki Rani, Pret aur Chhaya, Jahaj Ka Panchhi, Rituchakra and Khandahar Ki Atmayen.
13. Bhagwati Charan Verma (1903-1981) was one of the leading fiction writers. Has written a number of novels of which Akhri Dao, Patan, Apne Khilone, Chitralekha, Vah Phir Nahin Aayee, Tede Mede Raaste and Bhule Bisre Chitra are well-known. Received Sahitya Akademi award (1961); and Padmabhushan (1965).
14. Yashpal (1903-1976), a progressive fiction writer was associated with the revolutionary movement during freedom struggle. Some of his important books are Dada Comrade, Deshdrohi, Jhootha Sack, Meri Teri Uski Baat, Pinjare Ki Udan and Abhishapta. Received Sahitya Akademi Award (1975).
15. Jainendra Kumar (1905-1988) made his literary debut in 1929 with a collection of short stories Phansi. With his masterpiece Tyagpatra (1937) he joined the top ranking Hindi novelists. Received Hindustani Academy award (1932) and Sahitya Akademi award (1968). Was elected Fellow of the Sahitya Akademi (1979).
16. Chandragupta Vidyalankar (1906-1982) was a short story writer, playwright, essayist and journalist of repute. He was more successful in one-act plays. As a journalist, he successfully edited the monthly journal Ajkal (Hindi) for a number of years. His famous works are Vapasi and Chandralekha.
17. Upendranath Ashk (1910-1996), a novelist, short story writer and playwright started his career with Urdu and switched over to Hindi. His noted works include Shahar Mein Ghoomta Aiyna, Girti Diwaren, Chhata Beta, Anjoo Didi, Qaidi, Bhanwar, Charvaha, Chilman and Sukhi Dali. He wrote more than 150 short stories.
18. Agyeya (1911-1987), a leading poet and fiction writer was in the forefront of literary movement especially Nai Kavita. Published over 30 books. Received Sahitya Akademi award (1964) and Jnanpith award (1978). Important publications are Angan Ke Paar Dwar, Kitni Navon Mein Kitni Baar, Shekhar : Ek Jiwani and Nadi Ke Dweep.
19. Vishnu Prabhakar (b. 1912), a prolific writer of fiction, plays, biographies, travelogues etc. was born at Mirpur (U.P.). His famous publications include Sangharsh Ke Baad, Khandit Pooja, Dharti Ab Bhi Ghoom Rahi Hai, Awara Masiha and Ardhnarishwar. Received Sahitya Akademi award (1993).
20. Radhakrishan (1912-1979), best known as a novelist, short story writer and playwright started writing in 1930 with his first short story Sinha Sahab. Published 9 books including Sajla, Ekadashi, Footpath, Sansanate Sapne and Bharat Chhodo. He also wrote under the pen names of Ghose-Bose-Banerjee-Chatterjee.
21. Dwijendranath Mishra'Nirgun' (1915-1995) was born in Badayun, U.P. Besides a number of novels, he wrote more than 200 short stories. His important short story collections include Bahuji, Chhaya, Do Kinare, Kachcha Dhaga etc. He edited Maya and Manohar Kahaniyan for a number of years.
22. Chandrakiran Sonrexa (b. 1920), a short story writer, playwright and novelist started writing short stories in her early age of 11 only. Her first collection of short stories Adamkhor was published in 1946. Her important publications include another collection of short stories Jawan Mitti.
23. Rangey Raghav (1923-1962), a leading novelist and short story writer was born at Agra. Has written a large number of novels, short stories and plays. Some of his important novels are Gharonde, Murdon Ka Teela and Kab Tak Pukaroon. He translated Shakespeare into Hindi.