New Delhi | How many movements and campaigns does it take to build and nurture a peoples’ identity, their culture and politics? Many, and Bhisham Sahni was a part of it all, including the struggle for freedom and the fight against ignorance and entrenched biases, his memoirs an inspiring testimony to a life lived at the intersection of progressive currents.
Writer, actor, activist, theatre person, freedom fighter and Padma Bhushan awardee Sahni in ‘Today’s Pasts’ (Penguin, 2015) does not burrow vertically back down the tunnel of time but, as the title of the work suggests, makes the time that has been resonate deeply in the time that is now. Originally in Hindi, the book has been rendered into English by Snehal Shingavi, assistant professor of English at University of Texas, Austin, who maintains a light touch in the translation even as the author gives the narrative a gentle, flowing pace.
An icon of progressive Indian theatre and a giant of Hindi letters, the pages of Sahni’s autobiography resonate with his ardent passion for the arts, given as he was to going to great lengths for the sake of pursuing it, surrounded by others like him who were driven by the energy of modernity that had captured the imagination of educated Indian youth in the early days of independence.
In these pages you will meet iconoclasts and literary giants such as Ismat Chughtai, Kaifi Azmi, Khwaja Ahmad Abbas, Krishna Sobti and see at close quarters the likes of Hazari Prasad Dwivedi, Namvar Singh and, of course, the celebrated Balraj Sahni, one of the earliest Bollywood stars and doting elder brother to the writer and an important influence in Bhisham’s life.
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