Friday, April 29, 2011

The World of Yatri

Baidyanath Mishra , who with his independent and resilient intellect came to known as “Yatri”, “Nagarjun” and most remarkably as peoples’ poet/Jankavi ,naturally left overarching effects on the modern Maithili and Indian literature. As per existing custom in Mithila, he was born at his maternal place {Village Satlakha, Madhubani} on June 30, 1911. But alas, only at the young age of three, he lost mother and consequently the attention of father, who was by nature a wanderer and free from holding the worldly obligations. Such familiar stiffness made him untimely matured towards the worldly affairs.

Although defying all odds, young Baidyanath started learning through traditional Sanskrit/Maithili education in his maternal village and later moved to Kashi in the quest of knowledge. He was a great informal learner, that adaptability might be shaped with the chronic adverseness he faced but finally that established him as an avid scholar of Maithili, Sanskrit, Hindi, Bangla, Pali, Prakrit. Further in his formative years, he established very intimate ties with the natural impulses that kept him highly sensible throughout his literary voyage. Probably, with feeble familiar back up, he sensed the importance of travelling and relentless learning albeit that didn’t deter him to be in functional material fray. So, he married to Aprajita Devi, who played atleast half role in making of this poet; with amazing determination and sacrifices, she brought up her six child and allowed freedom to “Yatri” for continuing with the humane aspirations, that proved catalyst in his literary productions.

Except of short overtures in family, 1930’s onward “Yatri” became completely align with writing and traveling, and rest is history before us about his broader perspectives and its literary expression. Primarily and even ultimately, he was closer to instinct rather following mechanical cognition order, which he demonstrated by remaining at ease and keeping himself away from the institutional engagements, except a short stint as teacher in Saharanpur {UP}in very early phase of transition. Here, he was closer to Tagore; both emphatically valued the natural human instinct in place of surpassable artificial affiliations. The basic difference between these two great poets were of not world views but of approaches-Tagore with his aristocratic background was obviously an elitist unlike the “Yatri” whose background and construction of psyche both were akin to people-centric and based on the social realities.

If culturally, Mithila was closer to Bengal, then on socio-economic counts, there used to exist a huge drift…lack of urbanization and western temptations were among the foremost reasons of reality check. Although, he was too a keen naturalist like Tagore but again the differences were on the institutional levels. If Tagore had vision for an institution like Shantiniketan and later institutionalizing his own works too; “Yatri”, on the other hand had incessant devoid for such possibilities. A stout reason was ofcourse the aloofness of Mithila from outside world unlike Bengal during the British colonialism and in post-colonial years. “Yatri” missed a dynamic Mithila, and this region an enlighted mediation from him that could have made a huge difference on socio-cultural fabric in this region. But in absence, things of importance met to lackluster treatment at large and Maithili way of life never impacted the national mainline as it should have. Though with his unique standing against the unfortunate social stigmas, he heralded a revolutionary wave of progressivism inside and outside of the Mithila and established himself as first Maithil on national and international literary arena.

Meanwhile, in the course of experiments with the knowledge, this freethinker came under the Buddhist influence-though it was short lived as he couldn’t suppress his embedded Maithili progressivism albeit before that he travelled across the Tibbat, Central Asia and Srilanka (Kelania). Even after, he left the Buddhist commune, his cult name “Nagarjun” followed him forever-it reminds another contemporary literary figure and also a Buddhist, Rahul Sankritayan. In late 1930’s, he again entwined with a new ideology-Communism, though it remained his part of vision throughout the remaining life. He was a progressive minded, both in life and writing-he understood the Communism through direct experiences in U.S.S.R, and kept alive that touch within or outside the purview of Indian Communist Parties. What he did best with ideology, he supported it as movement rather a means of party blocks that happened in India post 1962.

“Yatri” had struggled against the authoritative extreme, equally during the independence struggle against British and in post-independent India with authoritarianism of political classes…he spent time in Jail (1939-42) and again in 1975-77 during emergency. Like a true maverick, he remained attracted with the peoples’ causes, for their upliftment, he struggled with the eminent peasant leader, Swami Sahjanand Saraswati (Founder, Kisan Sabha) during colonial period and later under the socialist movements including in JP Movement. “Yatri” was among the finest part of Bengali Hungry Generation Poets, there could be no doubt, why he is regarded only next to Tulsidas in India through his stellar convictions for mass folks.

Away from Geographical boundaries, his literary expression has closeness with high universality but whenever, he touched the themes of Mithila, a unique and very close affinity came out there. He had in mind the prevailing realities of Maithili socio-economic scene and its challenges for an equitable and just society. It was a positive co-incidence that some of iconic names in Maithili literature-Harimohan Jha, Phanishwar Nath “Renu”, Rajkamal Chaudhary, Lalit, Dhumketu and in politics-Bhogendra Jha, Chaturanan Mishra, Suryanarayan Singh, Shivchandra Jha, Lalit Narayan Mishra were his contemporaries – theirs collaboration made huge impacts on the socio-cultural atmosphere in Mithila.

With broadness of canvasses and amazing hold over translation skills, his work hardly leaves any technical dialectism between Maithili-Hindi; most of his work is available in both the language. As a poet, he could visualize beauty in oddness and grief in lavishness-so, writing on jackfruit or icefall at hill stations; both were very kin to him. His collection of poetries-“Patrahin Nagna Gaachh”, “Yugdhara”, “Satrange Pankhon Wali”, “Taalab ki Machhliyan”, “Khichhri Viplab Dekha Hamne”, “Hajaro-Hajaro Banhon Wali”, “Purani Juliyon ka Koras”, “Tume Kaha Tha”, “Aakhir Aisa Kya Kah Diya Maine”, “Es Gubbare ki Chhaya Me”, “Ye Danturit Mushkaan”, “Main Military ka Budhha Ghora”, “Baadal ko Ghirte Dekha Hai”, “Paka Hai ye Kathal” introduces to his wider reach among the common folks and intricacies of humanity. He was never been a subversive preacher despite having genuine anger against the social and political system, instead his progressive stand enabled him to be a rational novelist, in this role; he forwardly acted as social change agent.

His novels-“Ratinath ki Chachi”, “Balchanma”, “Baba Batesar Nath”, “Nai Puadh or Nav Turia”, “Barun ke Bete”, “Dukhmochan”, “Ugratara”, “Jamania ka Baba”, “Kumbhi Paak”, “Paaro”, “Aasman me Chand Taare” exudes the diversity of Maithili as well as Indian villages under the new compelling challenges. With great exposure to the outside world, his memoirs, travelogue and even hundreds of published letters gives delight and zest to readers while exploring his writings. His collection of essays, “Annan Hinam Kriyanam”, work on culture “Desh Dashkam aa Krishak Deshkam/’, his travelogue “Baadlo ko Ghirte Dhekha Hai”, satire “Mantra Kavita” and “Aao Rani Han Dhoenge Palki” and many Bangla poetries introduces to his broader grasp with amazing expressions over the range of themes.

He had a unique credit of making a generation of writers/critics in both the Maithili and Hindi-fortunately that worked out well for him and overall literary scene. Like Renu, he never had to face the reckless wrath of preoccupied critics…foremost among them, even Namwar Singh couldn’t maintained his line of regionalism with him. Despite all wandering and fame, he remained essentially a non-possessive man attached to his route…his village Tarauni, nearest railway station, Tarsarai Muriya (East Central Railway, near the erstwhile princely town Darbhanga ) remained closest to his heart&soul. In 1998, he left the world from Khajasarai (Darbhanga) after streamlining his prolific literary works. On his birth centenary, my fond remembrance for this great literary figure, who was and still is a most loving BABA for many generations.
Atul Kumar Thakur
Thursday, April 29th 2011, New Delhi


  1. nice to see this -- my dear friend Shekhar Pathak of Naini Tal was a friend and admirer of Baba, send link to him...

  2. Read through - it is a well-written tribute but at times goes wrong while placing Tagore and Yatri on comparative matrix...their times and challenges were so different. Can't write in detail as I am traveling a lot now. Regards

  3. Doing things differently means getting the lift and excitement...good work....

  4. sargarbhit lekh. angreji pathak ken nagarjun son parichay karebak lel badhai.

  5. Nice reading,especially liked the emphasis on few unexplored possibilities about Yatri ji/Nagarjun...overall, a good tribute BABA..

  6. "Atul i like this BABA...also thanks for sharing...."

  7. Atul ji,

    I thank u for not only having presented the life of the greatest modern Maithili poet, but also for having nicely summed up the entire life and times of this remarkable person.
    Ur observations and analysis are very apt and enriching


  8. A very thoughtful article on Baba's life. What made baba different from others is his approach to life and poetry.While many others writing in a 'people centric' mode, later on get bogged down and become a voice of a particular ideology by leaving aside people.Baba was never reluctant to keep people in center whenever he had to choose between the two. Perhaps the best Maithili Postmodern poet till date.

  9. ajul ji,
    bhut sundar aa sar-garvit aalekh achhi. aalekh me Taigor aa Yatri jik lekhkiy sambandh kono harz wala nhi achhi. Nachiketa ji k anusar ehi doonuk samay kal bhinna chhani, muda jakhan rachanaa shilataak gpp hoit achhi takhan ehi tarahak sambandhk charch prayh hoit elaik achhi.


    Ha, ekta paksha par kni aar sochabak jaroori achhi je Maithilik YATRI, Hindik NAGARJUNA sampoorn sahitya jagatk BABA, ke Hindi sahitya-sansar me kehan sammaan del gelani ??? jakhn ki hindi sahityak pathak varg me etek priya chhalah.