We know that a memoir is a narrative, written from the perspective of the author, about an important part of their life. It’s often conflated with autobiography, but there are a few important differences. An autobiography is also written from the author’s perspective, but the narrative spans their entire life. The author’s own feelings remain embedded in the memoir.
The practice of writing memoirs in literary form was due to western influence in the modern period, but in Hindi literature, there has been a substantial development of the prose genre of memoirs. The best works in the area of memoir writing are available in Hindi literature.
The great writer Nirmal Verma wrote while remembering his another contemporary remarkable literary figure Phanishwar Nath ‘Renu’. ‘Renu Nahi Hain, Mere Liye Yah Ab Bhi Akhbari Afwah Hai’. It has been included in Renu’s famous book ‘Rinjal Dhanjal’.
Two other well-known memoirs are Nirmal Verma’s ‘Dhundh Se Uthti Dhun’ and ‘Chidon par Chandani’.
Kashinath Singh, the respected author of our time, has written his memoirs with great Hindi authors like Acharya Hazari Prasad Dwivedi, Dhumil, Trilochan, Namvar Singh, Assi, Banaras, and all in his book ‘Tumhe Yaad Ho Ki Na Yaad Ho’ in a very distinctive way. These are undoubtedly the best works of memoir in literature. Along with Nirmal Verma and Kashinath Singh, we keep Akhilesh’s work ‘Aks’ in the same order. In fact, the dimension of diversity in Akhilesh’s writing gives him readability.
It is said that non-fiction prose is the measure of excellence for a storyteller. Why would it be called so? What is something different needed for a writer to write non-fiction?
Usually, in this genre, the direct presence of the author is more than in fiction.
After a long time, we now have the new book by the renowned storywriter, editor, and memoirist Akhilesh, ‘Aks’, which basically means reflection.
The obvious curiosities are: Whose Aks or Reflection? of the author’s time? of society? Or the characters whose lives are shaped by the words of this book? Isn’t Akhilesh himself a part of his life? In fact, all of them have mixed here in such a way that it is impossible to separate. When you touch one, the other indicates springs. Akhilesh has created everything wonderfully like a narrative. Therefore, one can read ‘Aks’ as a novel as well, if one wishes.
It is essentially a book of memoirs, which refers to people who were either close to the author or whom the author observed closely. There are memoirs in ‘Aks’, keeping many important writers in the centre. These writers met Akhilesh from time to time during the Rachnayatra of nearly four decades; From this point of view, ‘Aks’ is also an interesting, hitherto untold, living story of the literary world of the last forty years.
Akhilesh is well-versed in creating innovative ideas by ‘jugalbandi’ of opposing elements. He presents the anagram of life and death in ‘Aks’. The reader is confronted with the pain of death, but at the same time, the celebration of life is full. Akhilesh brings out the memory of life in comparison to death. Memory or Smriti is the basic melody of this book, which continues to play throughout the work.
‘Aks’ is a collage of memoirs divided into eleven chapters. These are as follows: ‘Smritiyan Kal Ke Ghamand Ko Todti Hain’, ‘Pita’, ‘Maa aur Mrityu’, ‘Jalandhar Se Dilli Via Allahabad’, ‘Sukhe Taal Morani Nache’, ‘Ab Tak Geet Jon Angawal’ Bhugol Ki Kala’, ‘Chhathe Ghar Me Shani’, ‘Ek Satat Angryman’, ‘Jay Bhim’, ‘Lal Salam’, ‘Ek Taraf Raag Tha, Samne Virag Tha’, and ‘Samay Hi Dusre Samay Ko Mrityu Deta Hai’.
Akhilesh has been writing memoirs of famous writers of our time in a precise manner. While reading these memoirs, we come to know that his writings touch on different genres of literature. The same magic is also in his language, which has been freely taken from the life around him.
Akhilesh is such a wonderful writer of Hindi literature that anyone who reads him is drowning in detail. His stories, especially his novels, seem like poetry in their lines.
While reading ‘Aks’, the shadows of that ‘Kadipur’ town on the sentimental texture of the author can be recognised far away. This experience of the lonely moments of childhood, while creating a continuous lull in Akhilesh’s writings, at the same time leads him to a process of attachment to himself.
Akhilesh is well-versed in creating innovative ideas by ‘jugalbandi’ of opposing elements. He presents the anagram of life and death in ‘Aks’. Whereas the reader is confronted with the agony of death, there is also a full celebration of life. Akhilesh brings out the contrast between life and death in remembrance. The fundamental melody of this book is Memory, or Smriti, and it plays continuously.
While reciting ‘Aks’, a light smoke keeps rising like a mist in the thoughts, which gives the way of the mind being full of sensations, but these sensations do not come out of the consciousness. Instead of outside, they open inwards and give their own information. Parallelly, he opens the layers of the mind, takes the reader to the unknown planet of ‘idea’ and leaves them to travel through their own thoughts. Akhilesh has brought atmosphere in the form of artistically reflecting emotions, relationships, and love in their original form in this book. He takes literature and writing to new heights.
Even before this, Akhilesh had written a book of non-fiction prose. His work, ‘Wah Jo Yatharth Tha’, is also considered a milestone work of non-fiction prose in Hindi literature. Regarding the difference between these two books, Akhilesh says that ‘Wah Jo Yatharth Tha’ is a book of oblivion while ‘Aks’ is a book of remembrance. Many meanings are hidden in the author’s statement, which gives a reason to read ‘Aks’. Good writers are not limited to just engrave or record. They must go on erasing things, memories, and even themselves on that pretext. Because an image is a creation that never remains eternal, if the authors have the courage to make it again and again in their own way, then every time another aspect can emerge in their writing.
Reading Akhilesh’s works is like giving him your finger, grabbing which he is taking you into the farway, deepening world of connection and the sensations that arise from him. Neither is it easy to get rid of the finger, nor can it be returned by running away. But who would want to come out of the beautiful imagination of happiness of Akhilesh’s writing! It should be expected that Akhilesh’s The much-awaited non-fiction work will gain appreciation from a wide readership due to its liveliness, readability, and multi-layered flow.
(Ashutosh Kumar Thakur is a Bengaluru-based management professional, literary critic, and co-director with Kalinga Literary Festival. Views expressed are personal.)