Rajendra Yadav,the last surviving member of the trio of the Nai Kahani,a major trend in Hindi literature, is gone. The large crowd which assembled at the Lodhi Road crematorium to bid adieu to him consisted of people from different age groups,a fair number of them being youth and women, with diverse professional and political backgrounds. It demonstrated the huge popularity he had earned for himself in the last quarter of his life as the editor of Hans, a literary monthly in Hindi.
The office of Hans in Daryaganj always kept its doors open for new writers, especially Dalits, tribals, Muslims and women, with a pipe wielding Rajendra Yadav ready to welcome them. He could instantly draw them into conversation and many of them left the office of Hans with a feeling of discovering a new and dependable friend. He took care to dispel the aura that should have adorned him with his long innings in the field of literature but could also have distanced him from the young. He was a person of wide reading and was therefore always in the proximity of greatness. He, however came out as a person who was more interested in the raw and unformed and many a times, what was in the eyes of others, uncouth and vulgar. He took risks with the untested and kept patience with it. Most probably he believed in the principle of plenty, that quantity and numbers were important to start with, life would fashion itself on this strength.
Deeply political, Rajendra Yadav was a fiercely democratic man. An uncompromising secularism defined him. His unwavering support for the politics of the Dalits and ‘backwards’ earned him the ire of many of the upper caste Hindus but he seemed to enjoy their abusive assaults. Controversy became the other name for Rajendra Yadav. Some of his friends, like his detractors, suspected that he wrote deliberately to stoke the fire to remain in the limelight. His boldness, verging on loudness, upset the refined taste of many but he never changed his style. Rigour in editing was not his forte or perhaps he consciously avoided it to give space to the first generation writers. He was a great simplifier and at times looked impatient with complexities. He saw his role more as a provider of space rather than as an arbiter of taste. He was perhaps the first in Hindi literature to realise the demands of the politics of recognition and the urgency with which it needed to be responded in literary language.
Social movements found a friend in Rajendra Yadav. He was one of the few Hindi writers who would respond instinctively to the call of the deprived,the persecuted and the minority. He could be seen in their demonstrations and protests, despite his life long physical constraints and failing health. He openly supported the cause of sexual minorities.
Rajendra Yadav belonged to the era of Hindi writers who sincerely believed in the power of fiction and literature. They dreamt of living by it. They came from small towns, migrated to cities like Kolkata, Mumbai and Delhi with cosmopolitan sensibilities. They lived uncertainly, changed professions, always thinking that literature could be their final abode. This was the romantic phase of Indian democracy. Friendships were formed, writers participated in each other’s lives and material scarcity did not diminish their optimistic attitude towards life and literature. It was also a generation with true literary memories. Mohan Rakesh, Kamleshwar, Dharmveer Bharti, Namvar singh , Mannu Bhandari and others were part of this milieu. Rajendra Yadav lived long enough to watch his era pass into oblivion. One by one all his friends departed. He spent his last years in loneliness. Could it be a reason, that he constantly sought company of the young and not so young, to fight this increasing emptiness?
Delhi, where most of these writers finally settled down, was in their youth a place of hope, possibilities and proximities. Writers could meet daily and were available for their friends. Gradually distances devoured the city. Rajendra Yadav tried to recover the lost neighborliness through Hans. It was not unusual to get his call inviting you to his birthday parties. He also started an annual congregation on 31 July, the birth day of Premchand and Hans. It became an occasion for people to renew their contacts , meet new faces. People from outside Delhi would also join without waiting for a formal invitation. In all such gatherings Rajendra Yadav could be seen sitting in a corner, quite at peace with himself.
Rajendra Yadav had turned old, his eyesight had started failing and physically he was very frail. However, his keenness and eagerness for life never diminished. He kept the cup of life close to his lips. He was seldom found complaining and always seemed thankful for the days that were bestowed on him by nature. He did have the usual weaknesses and vices of a human being but they failed to unmake him. Mortality was what he sought to celebrate, to remind the world that the frivolous and ordinariness should not be shunned as life grows out of it.
Rajendra Yadav would be missed sorely and his death mourned sincerely by all of us. We know that with him we have lost a relaxed space of friendship and solidarity.
( Published first by Rediff.Com on 30 October,2013)