Need Ka Nirmaan Fir by Harivansh Rai Bachchan
This is the second book in the 4 volume series of Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s biography. I read the first volume more than a year back and is reviewed here. This volume begins from the time his first wife dies when he is around 26 years old to the time when he prepares to go and do research in Cambridge leaving his family behind in India.
The most striking thing about reading this book is the Hindi, it’s a pure pleasure to read such chaste Hindi. In fact of all the books that I have read in Hindi, I can say Bachchan definitely defines the standards in Hindi writing. His expression of his emotions is so elaborate and descriptive that you almost feel you are living the emotion he probably lived close to a century back. This is a period in his life where he has established himself as a poet with work like ‘Madhushala’ behind him but is yet unsettled in life. He tries to put different hats and at times tries to push the poet in him behind him, but the poet manages to re-surface all the time, triggered by his sensitivity to everything that is happening, and the pain that he carries with him all the time.
Harivansh Rai Bachchan joins the university to complete his masters after a long time along with another friend. This is his attempt to bring a change in his life, which had not been too easy after his wife expired. He is regularly invited for the poetry sessions (kavi sammelans), establishes himself as a leading Hindi poet of his times, and this realization dawns on him that now he is a known personality and an aura around him, though it does not seem it impacted either him or his writing. He makes friends with most leading poets of his times like Sumitranandan Pant, whom he fondly calls Pant Ji.
Harivansh Rai Bachchan had been quite vocal about his personal life in both the volumes, his relationship with women, women whom he got attracted to, were probably the inspiration and the pain behind his poetry and he constantly had them in his life. He speaks with his usual eloquence about a Christian girl whom he fell for but could never win over more than as a friend, and how he was ready to defy all the customs and family expectations to be with that girl. He also talks about the female in him being more dominant than the man and hence his need for a woman who has a dominant male in her. He emphasizes on this aspect of his quite a bit to illustrate his various reactions. But he is not as open about his relationship with his wife and children after he is married. You can feel that when you have read about other women that happened in his life before his second wife. Though, he keeps talking about how Teji was instrumental in letting him develop as a poet, and how she took over all the responsibilities of running the house and left him to only earn the money and write poetry. Teji Bachchan comes out as a strong woman, who takes her own decisions and lives life on her own terms. She comes out as a woman who lives in the shadow of a famous husband but has the charisma to be-friend people like Indira Gandhi. She also gave up interests like her love for acting and her desire to act in movies. (Now we know where her famous son got his genes for acting from) Interestingly being a part of such a public family, there is not a single picture of her anywhere, at least I could not locate it anywhere on the net, as I was tempted to know how she looks based on the description that her husband paints of her.
Harivansh Rai Bachchan talks in detail about all the people around him during this period. You can not but be impressed by the details that he gives about so many people, that too after around 30-30 years of his actually having spent time with them. He usually begins describing a person by giving his physical description along with what he/she was wearing at the moment when he met them, it kind of paints a picture of the person right in front of your eyes, and you would often be amazed about the details he captures more or less with a few glances. He goes in detail describing the people who became his friends, who could have been friends but remained acquaintances, people who liked him as a poet and people who were envious of him for the same reason. He describes in detail all the houses he lived in and how the character of the house influenced his thought process. He describes the neighbors and their lineage to the extent he knows, this becomes little boring at times as you don’t relate to them and do not see the relevance, or rather he describes them more or less without relevance, though in his mind there must have been some as he remembered them after many decades.
He identifies and explains the dichotomies in him, like his non-belief in any religion and rituals but at times he identifies himself as Kayastha and Hindu. He calls himself a non-believer of any theories but at the same time acknowledges using the others beliefs in the time of crisis. Like when his son is not well and he is unable to be with his wife and son, he remembers that Babar in a similar situation gave up something dear to him to get his son Himanyun cured, and he swears never to drink if his son gets well, and he kept that promise till he wrote this book. Even for his second son, once he gave up eating meat and he also got well as soon as he did that. There is another mention of his dream, a day before Amitabh is born, of his father coming back in his house. What I really appreciate and is, probably a sign of an evolved human being that while you accept the facts as they happen, but you do not impose them upon anyone else till you are able to explain it.
One observation that I had while reading both the volumes is that any famous personality is a result of nurturing that it gets from people around it. People who are able to devote themselves to something, are the ones who have very strong support systems in their lives, be it their family, their partners and most importantly their friends. To my surprise, Bachchan himself acknowledges this when he writes a poem about his younger brother’s demise and expresses that he would not have been a poet had his brother taken care of the family responsibilities.
All in all, a must-read for all Hindi lovers…it would be a delight to read an interesting life in best Hindi that can probably get your hands to, a prose interspersed with poetry.