(A very fitting tribute to Hans’s extraordinary achievement, g’raj)
Over the years, a small lane in Daryaganj has remained a writers’ nursery, an adda for debates, a breeding ground of controversies and a formidable seat of literary power. At a time when many literary journals in Indian languages are folding up, Hans remains a benchmark in the literary world.
Not attached with any publication house or foundation, the monthly journal turns 25 this month with a record of uninterrupted publication. Hans was started by Premchand in 1930. After his death, fellow writers and his son continued running it before it was closed in 1952. Prominent Hindi writer Rajendra Yadav revived it in 1986 on the birth anniversary of Premchand: July 31.
“There is no other literary journal in Hindi or possibly other Indian languages, which has survived without any government or outside support, and run purely by readership for so long. It’s a major achievement,” says Ashok Vajpeyi, Sahitya Akademi winner poet and chairperson of the Lalit Kala Akademi.
Agrees Jnanpith winner Kannada writer UR Ananthamurthy. “Yadav is a national hero. Only writing in English gets such recognition, sometimes fairly and often unfairly. We should talk about this achievement.”
Beginning with 5,000 prints, the journal today sells nearly 12,000 copies per month, surpassing its rivals by more than double, and breaking the myth that serious writing has no readers.
Yadav, one of the pioneers of the Nayi Kahani movement in Hindi, attributes the journal’s success mainly to two factors: for its rejection of the status quo and because it broadened the base of the discourse. “We are not a journal, but a movement. We deconstructed cultural norms, introduced social sciences and politics into literary debates. People found us more relevant than others,” says Yadav.
His editorial, in fact, is the most read bit of Hans. He once decided to take a break– in three months the readership came down by one-third.Says Vajpeyi, “Hans played a central role in introducing feminist and Dalit discourse into the Hindi world.”
Be it assailing abstract poetry or opposing Sanskritised Hindi, Yadav has sparked many controversies. “I do not believe in art for art’s sake or abstract art. A journal should have a social vision. We published Black Literature, brought marginalised writers into the mainstream,’ he says.
Says Archana Verma, noted Hindi writer who was associated with the editorial board of Hans till recently, ‘We were a team of four, witnessing the demise of Hindi journals. We’d discuss every story, article all night. Each issue was a gem.”
Even though the other two members of the team left within a few years, Verma and Yadav held anchor. Both complemented each other — if he was the head, she the soul of the journal. An associate professor at Miranda House, Verma would select pieces, take them home and read the proofs in nights.
As Hans held its silver jubilee yearly seminar on July 31, Yadav, now 81, is a worried and lonely editor. “Archana contributed a lot in determining the character of Hans. She has also left. I don’t know what will happen to the journal after me. Ab mujhe dar lagne laga hai.”