The Struggles on Street in the Service of Hindi Language

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                                          Translated by Purnima

The World Hindi Secretariat, a joint organization of Indian Government and Mauritius Government awarded the second prize f International Essay Competition 2015 to an essay which is the chronicle of the struggle of a writer who in real sense is the leader of labour culture. He is involved in advertising and spreading his self-authored and self-published books from the smooth highways of Capital Patna to its footpaths to the unpaved roads of the far-off villages of Bihar. Yet the Bihar academic circle doesn’t consider him a writer. Although the elitist and snobbish literary society doesn’t acknowledge the struggles of this writer yet the organization of the stature of World Hindi Secretariat has bowed before his perseverance. Presented before you is the difficult journey of a writer in the words of Anant Prasad Sinha or Anant .

             The Struggle of a Hindi Activist on Road

Introduction: Dr. Lalji Prasad Singh has become the voice of the hard-working, farmer, labours and poor. Be it a vegetable vendor in Patna or a farmer working in a far off village, this hardworking community is his main readership. He is especially famous in the society dependent on labour culture. The egoist civilized and elite academic circle doesn’t consider him a writer. Some scholars call him a roadside writer but Lalji Prasad Singh calls himself an “Untouchable Writer”.

In the 58th year of his life, this writer has been serving Hindi for last 37 years. For the last 22 years Lalji is co-ordinating literary publications. He is the publisher of his books. From villages to towns and cities he organizes book fairs and sells his books himself. During book fairs he also organizes painting competitions. He also awards students participating in the competition tp develop their hidden artistic talents. In the world of Corporate Development, the world is slowly converting into a jungle of concrete to change  this surrounding  he has started writing books on Environmental Conservation to add the colour of greenery to the environment. He gifts precious plants for free to the buyers along with his books. His book releasing is also attractive and unique. His book release is celebrated like a public festival. There is a march with music and festivity. Students, teachers, scholars and other citizens take out a caravan to participate in his book release. During this time he also distributes his books for free among readers. Till now his 41 books have been published

Life History:

He was born on 13 January 1958 in the faraway village of Sonvarsha in Buxar District of Bihar. He was born in the simple family of a small farmer Moti Chand and his early childhood was spent with his parents. He is the eldest among five brothers. He first got education n family surrounding. His father was aware towards education. At a very young age he was admitted in a school situated in his village.

Writing and Publishing in Student Life

From Standard one to the matriculation examination, he got his basic education in the village school. He says, “When I was a student of 10th standard and I saw the published photographs of writers then I wanted to become a writer.  In 1974, I passed matriculation and got admitted to Banaras Hindu University. While a student of graduation I started writing poems. I would write poems and send it for publication to papers and magazines. The poems would be returned but I wasn’t disappointed and continued writing. In 1978 I took money from my father  and self-published my first collection of poems “Shanti aur Kranti” This book costing just 2 rupees wan-t selling so I eventually distributed it among friends for free. After completing Master’s degree in Political Science from Banaras Hindu University in 1980, I returned to my ancestral Village, Sonvarsha. In later years I aataing Ph.D. degree from Magadh University, Bodh Gaya.

Inclination towards Social Revolution

When he returned to his village, the area had completely transformed. The whole vicinity had come under the influence of Naxal Movement and the district had become the centre of Naxalism. At once in the whole Bhojpur there were voices of protest against feudal atrocities. It was an era of Naxal movement. The marginalized society was openly challenging the feudal socio-economic disparity. It was perturbing every sensitive person.

            In 1981 discussing the questions of life and land, Dr. Lalji Prasad singh came forward with a book on Socialist poetry titled “Kursi Khali Karau”. This book written for the masses was distributed among them. Lalji became active regarding social issues. The same year he was married to Rita Singh, a young woman who was studying in the Capital city, Patna. After marriage he was sent to Patna to prepare for competitive exams.

 Academic Struggle in Patna

He came to Patna to prepare for competitive exams but delved deep into writing poems and stories, Every moment he was planning to establish a printing press but could not attain this dream. He got Rs. 250 for his pocket money. His in-laws owned a house in Patna. With his pocket money he started gardening on the rooftop. During this period of struggle hi first book “Kasak”  got published in April 1983. The book was priced at Rs. 10 only. According to Lalji Singh, his wife sold her jewelleries to get the story collection published.

In the same year Hanuman Sharan College was established Mainpura locality of Patna city, Lalji Prasad was appointed the Dean of Political Science Department of the college. As soon as he became a teacher he got associated with Bihar Inter Teacher[s association. Dr. lalji Singh remembers that The then Association-s Leader Madhu Singh sent copies of the story-collection “Kasak” in every corner of Bihar but the amount of money that he had spent could not be recovered.

Ways of Advertising the Book

Buy a book and get a cash prize. Lalji Prasad recalls that he wouldn’t get any salary from the college. He would buy papers and the teachers at the college would make copy out of them which he would then sell on a cart. The cover page of the copy had the name of the college printed on it. Along with the advertisement of the college the sale of the copies also earned some money for the teachers. One day it struck to Lalji Prasad that if copies can sell in this way then books can also sell in the same way.

After this Lalji Prasad started selling books along with copies in Patna’s wayside. To increase the sale of books, he started the prize scheme with the books. On buying a book at just Rs. 10, one would win prizes from Rs.2 to Rs.50. Notes from the denomination of two to fifty were kept in a book wrapped with transparent plastic. By this time they were able to buy cart, microphone, horn etc. from the sale of copies. Whenever there was announcement for books, a great crowd would gather there. Readers would buy these books to get the prizes. By this method the sales of the books increased. Most of the books would sell in Patna’s Harding Park. The reason behind the high sales in Harding Park was the GPO of bus-stand. For the travellers the scheme of books with cash prize was a curiosity. On one side there was increase in the sales of his books on the other hand the literary society had united in his criticism. Nonetheless Dr. Lalji Prasad Singh continued on his own path.

            At the same time in 1989 Bimal Narain Arya was appointed the Principal of his college. Mr. Arya noticed his dedication towards Hindi and started walking hand in hand with Lalji Prasad Singh, He advertised for spreading education but the newspapers didn’t give him any importance.

Participation in Book Fair

Getting the support from his Principal, he organized a stall in Book Fair of 1996 organized by Centre for Readership Development. In this Book Fair he would sit throughout the day with only 10 story collections. In this fair the then officer of ISBN San jay Mallick saw him. Seeing his dedication towards Hindi Literature Mallick gave him registration form to fill. Lalji Prasad filled the registration form for ISBN and Mr. Mallick issued ISBN for 100 books as soon as he reached Delhi. In this way Dr. Lalji Prasad Singh’s Lalji Sahityik Prakashan got recognition

On the Route to Hindi Green Revolution

After the division of Bihar, there was the burning issue of too few tress in Bihar. He felt that along with conservation of Hindi, conservation of forests is also important. With proper planning he first developed his garden. He decided to gift a plant among his readers with his books in book fair. Whenever he would organize a book fair, he would gift their readers with plants like aloe vera, vermillion, clove, tulsi, odanium, shami. Money plant, rubber plant, football, carotin, sudarshan, lemon grass, jasmine, henna, lily, hibiscus, ashoka, stone apple, black plum, Allahabadi guava and many other medicinal plants. For this he would sweat in his garden. Now his garden was not confined to his own roof but had stretched itself to the compound of Mahant Hanuman Sharan College. Coolege’ Principal, Bimal Narain Arya describes Lalji’s effort, “The plants purify the air while his works give mental therapy.”

Book Fairs in Villages and Towns

He increased the area of his book fair from Patna to townships and far-off villages of Bihar, he organized the exhibition of his books. From places near Patna, from Danapur, Punpun, to Aarah, Buxar to the distant corners to villages like Sonvarsha and Mahadevganj, he would display his books. He was able to sell 800 to 900 books in the exhibitions organized in towns and villages. A lot of preparation was done to organize book fair in villages. He would require 10 to 15 days to organize a book fair. He would contact scholars, teachers and other citizens of the area before organizing a book fair in the area and let them know that a writer was coming to their place. Whenever a writer was attending a fair it was advertised a week in advance by Lalji Prasad. He would inform people that a writer was going to join them and his books will be available at low prices. In this way common people were contacted and book fair was organized on the fixed date. For motivating the students, young artists were also awarded. Dr. Lalji once said, “Now I have also started including Mukhiyaji, Sarpanch and Zila Parishad membersto my group. Leaders associated with rural politics also help in the endeavour. With their support a large area is covered.Now when I publish a book, I also acknowledge the people who have helped.

Uniquely Attractive Book Release March

The book release festival is also unique. He doesn’t believe in cold lecturing in closed rooms like other publishers and writers and doesn’t certify himself as a big writer. . The release festival was celebrated as public festival. On 24th April 2012, book named “Plastic ka Bhalu” was released in a bullock cart in Danapur. After the release students, farmers, labours, professors, book-lovers from every strata of society boarded on bullock carts and carriages and would unfurl the Indian flag with music band and songs and went to Patna’s Kargil Chowk. It is worth noting that the distance between Danapur to Patna is 13 kms. People were captivated by watching such a stunning march.  Dr. Lalji recounts an incident when some Russian tourists saw the caravan march on its way. On seeing this spectacle, Russian tourists were astonished. Tourists also joined them fo some distance and clicked photographs with them. On 25th July 2014 he launched “Udaan Bharo Aurat” from Kargil square of Bihar’s capital Patna. In the book release programme, students, teachers and other lovers of literature started a candle march. People in this march played conch, damru, bells and drums and carried their march to JP circle. On 8th March 2015,  Shri Prasad released his 41st book from Delhi’s Jantar Mantar which is famous for protests and hunger strikes. In this programme the Principal and students of Mahant Hanuman Sharan College and students of Shivam Public =students participated with fervour.

Criticism of his Work

Dr. Lalji’s work has skipped the eyes of critics from Patna to Delhi. While some young critics have read and understood his literature. Young critic Rajeev Mani says that he wants to read and re-read his work “Mercy-Killing”, the beautiful beginning of this story, lively social construction and declining social and family values, the surviving humanity fills his story with life.  Woman journalist Situ Tiwari has written,” Lalji’s literature is bringing forward the topics of human values and emotions of labour class and unendingly raises his voice against superstition and other social evils in the working class.

            Young critic Arun Narain writes: “In his stories, poems and novels he identifies with the lower middle class and the public senses that he is voicing their concern as his plots revolve around them.” In a time when thought and action hardly have any difference in literary arena just like other walks of society even area of literature has turned its back on values. In this situation Lalji Prasad-s devotion and forthrightness makes him popular among common masses.

Conclusion

The society is running the race of digital India in present time. India is a part of global village and the debate is on that which is the Lingual God, Hindi or English? There is also this fear that in the modern times books in printed medium might reach its end. New generation awed by the English culture may start living in the Hinglish language world. In such times Dr. Lalji Prasad Singh’s strength is that he writes in Hindi and campaigns for Hindi language. He believes that even in the internet era, the books will survive. The readership of Hindi will increase. Sri Prasad may be a small publisher but he publishes 3000 copies of every book in paperback. In the world of economic boom everyone wants to read for mental satisfaction but the high pricing of books makes it difficult for the masses to buy it. Dr. Lalji Prasad singh has understood this weakness of the society so he makes his book available to readers at cheap price to spread the light of Hindi language. We need more such torchbearers to spread the light of English throughout the world .

Introduction – Purnima is an Assistant Professor of English in Vasant KanyaMahavidylaya, Kamachha, Varanasi, India.