“...kahāniyā͂ ākhir bantῑ kaise hai͂?!” (“…how, after all, do stories originate?!”): The Clash between Indian and Western Literary Traditions in Ajñeya’s Short Stories





Ajñeya, Hindi literature, short story, kahānī, realism, East-West encounter, rasa


The aim of this paper is to prove that Ajñeya (pseudonym of S. H. Vātsyāyan, 1911–1987), a Hindi writer of poetry and prose, formulated some theoretical essentials for kahānī as a literary genre, which influenced its further development in the second half of the 20th century. Examples from his selected short stories and theoretical essays have been quoted to illustrate issues which preoccupied the Hindi literary environment in its transition from tradition to modernity. The issues discussed in this paper refer to more general questions of a modern Indian writer’s attitude towards a loss of traditional values and a search for identity in an encounter with the West. Ajñeya’s contribution to the development of the modern short story still requires recognition because he was often criticized for excessive intellectualism and individualism. This situation started to change after his centenary jubilee celebration in 2011. The paper includes an outline of trends prevailing in Hindi short stories, which helps us to examine Ajñeya’s modern approach. Materials analyzed in subsequent sections reveal demands which he formulated towards modern authors of short stories. His claim for the liberation of a writer and the personal experience as a source of literature has been illustrated with quotations from the short story Kalākār kī mukti. It proves the writer’s awareness of tensions which affected Hindi literature in the time of transition. In this context the term mukti is presented as one of the key-words of his writings. His deliberations on the change within the concept of reality in Indian literature and transformation of Indian literary audience are discussed. The quotations from further short stories (i.e. Nayī kahānī kā ploṭ, Alikhit kahānī, Kavitā aur jīvan. Ek kahānī, Tāj kī chāyā me͂) reveal how realistic, mythical or romantic plots and characters are juxtaposed in one work. The examples from: Paramparā. Ek kahānī and Sikṣā present Ajñeya’s postulate of revealing deeper truths in literature. The usage of symbols, the means of suggestive language as well as techniques of building an “atmosphere” of the modern short story are analyzed (Gaiṇgrin, Alikhit kahānī, Darogā Amīcand, Hīlī-bon kī battakhẽ). In this context an application of traditional poetics of rasa to contemporary texts is investigated. The paper leads to the conclusion that while mastering the skill of short story writing, Ajñeya acted also as a theoretician, who attempted to teach Hindi writers and critics how to save their own tradition and identity in a clash with the West. He postulated that modernity should not exclude exploring one’s own traditional literature and art, it should focus on its transformation into modern idioms. This claim is presented as the writer’s literary manifest. Ajñeya’s demands analyzed in this paper are explained as resonating with some criteria of a modern short story later defined by the writers of naī kahānī school. It leads to the final conclusion that his achievements is this genre possess model features for creating modern short stories in Hindi.

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How to Cite

Miążek, Teresa. 2015. ““. Kahāniyā͂ ākhir bantῑ Kaise hai͂?!” (‘…how, After All, Do Stories originate?!’): The Clash Between Indian and Western Literary Traditions in Ajñeya’s Short Stories”. Cracow Indological Studies 17 (December):169-212. https://doi.org/10.12797/CIS.17.2015.17.10.