Friday, November 13, 2009

Phanishwar Nath Renu in Retrospect

Aurahi Hingana, a small village of North Bihar (Mithila region) is situated just two Kilometer south west away from historic Simraha railway station (Araria district). It’s imperative here to illuminate that these subtle geographical locality once used to be the locus of great literaturer Phanishwar Nath Renu’s panoramic communion with nature- simply far from an opulent surroundings. Indeed his intermittent communion in such sedate environment was quite conducive for him as that richness of nature has been enabling him to conceal from skirmish city life of Patna, besides emanating great literary stuffs of Hindi, Maithili and Bangla from those sojourn.

Undoubtedly, this towering giant of Hindi literature mostly derived his laconic art of expression from this milieu, by which his classic characters and meticulously woven plots carried a top sensible belongingness with the rural plights. Apparently, stupendous sensitization of sprawling landscape and folk culture with insertion of his own lucid cosmic views presents a very ruminate view of Koshi’s catchments areas and of actual persisting hurdles. That seems very close to socio-economic inquiry and somehow different from passive literary interaction. Renu has credit to award the literary world with numbers of novels, stories and poems, memoir, satire, reports, travelogue etc.

Amazingly they all quintessentially possess the worth of being sacrosanct to the sensible literary enthusiasts. Like his diversely rich works, Renu’s life was full with adventure. After his initial schooling at parental house, he flew to neighboring Nepal where fortunately he found acquaintances with famous Koirala family of Biratnagar. Henceforth, he kept performing the duty of aide to Koirala’s and remained very close to them, meanwhile he also succeeded in his academics and finally accomplished his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from prestigious Banaras Hindu University. Indeed Koirala’s were the factor behind his staying in the city of Kashi as they have proper establishment in the city of light (Kashi).

The timeframe of late 1940’s was entirely transitory in nature for Nepalese politics as the tussle between De facto rulers Rana’s and Dejure contender Shah dynasty grew sharper. Essentially being the scion of Nepalese politics, Koirala’s had to play some crucial roles in political transformation and further bonding of new ties with India. Being a close aide of Koirala’s, Renu actively participated in those movements and later produced a very comprehensible report on that era named as “Nepali Kranti Ki Katha (Tells of Nepalese Revolution)” which is a crucial document of that landmark era in Nepal. In later phase Renu primarily concentrated on his own milieu and tried to decipher the ruination of Kosi belt.

His magnum opus work in Hindi “Maila Aanchal” is also regarded as top notch literary creation in any Indian language. The novel very aptly elucidates the contemporary realities of Indian village scene at the threshold of independence. Undoubtedly “Maila Aanchal” is a rare piece of literature entrusted with superb delineations of rural wisdom along with the fine fusion of dynamic universal changes that was ready to shift the prevailing idleness of the dogmas in compatibility with the new future of democratic India. From the post-colonial perspectives, this book has immense worth in reckoning the late colonial framework of eastern regions which was over burdened with the segregative policies being carried over native Indians under the guise of Indigo farming, exploitative revenue collection, terror policing etc.

Renu was closely concerned with the endemic diseases like Malaria which was caused by the water logging of Kosi river; being benign, Renu had approached with superb humane concern to judge those plights with completely repudiating any discrimination to even the colonial officials. Mary (Later Mary Gunj was commemorated on her memory), wife of an English official who died from Malaria in absence of proper medicine drew same grief as those for thousands of unprivileged local victims. Renu had eloquently elucidated the challenges of post independent India through his another epic novel in Hindi “Parti Parikatha”; in which he painstakingly tried to show the Nehruvian vision of development in early planning years with adequately acknowledging the pertinent issues like, land reform, abolition of Zamindari, villages self rule (Gram Swarajya), socialization of institutions.

Moreover he visualized a new emerging democratic India with socio-economic change as priority in the growth agenda; indeed Renu in that period had shown overt differences from his earlier radical ideological stand albeit he remained firm as a believer in socialistic form of development. Strikingly, Renu was equally gifted in storey telling and poetry where he equally became successful in forming close bond with the concerned themes. His superb storytelling reached to zenith in works like, “Rinjal Dhan Jal”, “Aadim Ratri Ki Mahak”, “Panch Light”, “Wighthan ke Chhanh”, “Mare Gaye Gulfam or Teesri Kasam” etc. These stories are vigorously moves around the contemporary dynamicism of Terain region of Mithila.

For a short stint, he was also in Bombay to try his destiny in cinema script writing; he penned some scripts and more remarkably cinematised his own lively story “Mare Gaye Gulfam” for a great Hindi cinema “Teesri Kasam (Cast- Raj Kapoor, Wahida Rahman, Iftikar etc)” in mid sixties. Teesri Ksam was directed by Raj Kapoor and produced by Shailendra but unfortunatelly it could not fetch the early commercial succes although in second release “Teesri Kasam” proved remarkable success. Alas! Shailendra couldn’t see the success of his dream project as he failed to sustain the initial shock of failure; probably very few cinemas in modern time have been woven in such lucid intricacies of rural folk life and at best with the greater revelations of humanism over the blind materialism.

By record, it’s true that except two short stories and some memoirs, he directly never contributed anything more in the literary collection of his mother tongue-Maithili. Although through a close inquiry of his work, it becomes seemingly clear that they basically inspired and originated from his Maithili speaking rural locale of Purnia district, eastern Bihar. Renu was a lively humane being like his literary productions exudes. Few months back, I was going through an old issue (Late eighties) of “Hans (leading literary magazine in Hindi)” from my own collection which was consisted with some rare photographs of Renu with Baidya Nath Mishra”Yatri” (Nagarjun for Hindi speaking world) in a rainy season in his lush green paddy field in Aurahi Hingana. Those beautiful photographs shows the frequent visits of celebrated figures during Renu’s staying in village and moreover his universalism under close association of local aesthetic inferences.

Photographs were undated although aesthetically depicts his close communion with natural landscape of his village; Renu often used to said that, my staying in village energies me for creative works and enabling me to produce my literary works in the city of Patna. Indeed he had led most eloquent voice for villages after the great Hindi literaturer Premchand in the literature of any Indian languages; even in modest appraisal, he was a man of deeds who devoted his entire life raising awareness for the afflicted plights of the rural hinterland. His sudden and premature demise was extremely elegiac for entire literary world as his many promising works remained uncompleted...that void is still continue and unlikely to be over. It’s daunting for me to cover the life and works of Renu in a single article; hope I would be able to produce something more on his works and life in future.
Atul Kumar Thakur
November13th2009, New Delhi


  1. oh!very pleasent to read about the life and work of Fanishwar Nath Renu in's rare effort I think because previously I had never saw it...Umesh Agnihotry

  2. Great to read about him in english...very rare occuring I think.
    Aakansha Jha,Bhopal