Best Young Writers
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Ten writers in Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam, Marathi and Bengali, chosen for The Indian Express by a panel of acclaimed poets, novelists and critics
Poet and critic Ashok Vajpeyi picks Vyomesh Shukla and Geet Chaturvedi as two contemporary Hindi writers with great promise
The poet of Kashi
Vyomesh Shukla i 31
Padmavat, a medieval epic poem by Malik Muhammad Jayasi, is on his reading list. Earlier, he translated American writer Eliot Weinberger's slim anti-war book What I heard About Iraq (2005). Vyomesh Shukla is the latest claimant to the illustrious legacy of writers of Banaras. A poet, critic, and chronicler of Kashi, he is among the most profound voices of the post-reforms Hindi sensibility in search of its identity.
He calls himself a poet of resistance, and attributes the birth of his poetry to the resurgence of the right wing in the early '90s. "RSS men would cast bogus votes of Muslims in elections. They would threaten minorities. It was the moment I felt the only way to resist them was through words," he says.
Shukla is a versatile poet and has two books, Phir Bhi Kuch Log and Hona Ab Jyada Hoga, to his credit. His poem Bahut Sare Sangharsh Sthaniya Reh Jate Hain won the Bharat Bhushan Agrawal award in 2009. While his poems on Gujarat and sectarian violence radiate anger, his verses are in the search of ethereal love: "Tum itne gaur se kyu sunti ho/tum aankho se kyu sunti ho". He can also surprise you with his playfulness: "I did live/ Like fatigue in the sweat of your socks/in mis-spelt words, In stuttering bond of gender with verbs/ In your annoyance." His poetry explodes with a minimalist fervour. Palpable details, without ornate words.
Shukla has also written on classical music and other art forms. In his obituary on Ustad Bismillah Khan, he asks: "Why did the Ustad choose to take the indigenous, ordinary and fraught path of engaging with folk music instead of the reputable and glorified one of classical music with its alankaars, taans and alaaps? Why did he pray that his God grant him not the knowledge of music and its subtleties, but notes that could stir emotions?" He offers an insightful answer: "The temple of Balaji, where he did riyaz, is situated at the periphery, barely, of Hindu religiosity. Unlike the temples of Vishvanath or Sankatmochan, it is not at the centre of the city's religious life."