Vinod Kumar Shukla
(India, 1937)   
Vinod Kumar Shukla

Vinod Kumar Shukla was selected by Hindi poet Mangalesh Dabral for the special edition of PIW India, ‘Poets on Poets’.

Vinod Kumar Shukla (born 1937) is a distinguished writer of Hindi poetry and fiction. He has published three novels, several short stories and numerous collections of poetry. His novel, Naukar Ki Kameez (published in English translation by Penguin India) was turned into a film of the same name by Indian filmmaker, Mani Kaul. Vinod Kumar Shukla’s contribution to Hindi literature has earned him a number of awards, including the Shikhar Samman, the Muktibodh Fellowship and the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award in 1999 for his novel, Deewar Mein Ek Khirkee Rahati Thi (A Window lived in a Wall). He lives in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, and was Associate Professor, Indira Gandhi Agricultural University, Raipur.

Mangalesh Dabral describes Shukla as “a significant poet with a philosophical vision and a contemporary outlook”. He writes: “Shukla’s poetry is defined by understatement and precision of expression . . . [It is marked by] the experience of an almost lifelong stay in small towns, far from cities or metropolitan centres of political and cultural power.”

Shukla’s critique of city life seems imbued, says Dabral, by the gaze of a tribal Baiga from Chhattisgarh. Thus, there is invariably a mix of “amazement and irony” in Shukla’s portrait of the city-dweller:

And I, the city man,
separate from nature so
that I leave the tree behind and sit in the bus.
Sitting in the bus, I wish
that there were trees on both sides of the road.
In my room
I have hung a picture of an entire forest                                                                                                                                                          (‘In Nature’)

Shukla’s is a tone of “tribal austerity”, says Dabral, a poetry that “talks less while saying more”:

In the tree there are so many leaves
but no extra leaf.
And you are not just one brother.
All of you are,
but not a single brother is surplus.                                                                                                                                                          (‘Nothing Extra’)

This is poetry, says Dabral, that “tries to remain a witness to the human condition, that tries to reach out to people, that tries to empathise with ‘the other’, concretely as well as in abstract ways”. He quotes a poem, ‘A Man Had Sat Down in Desperation’ (included in this edition):

A man sat in desperation

I did not know the man.

But I knew the desperation.

. . . We walked together.

We did not know each other.

But we knew walking together.

In the four poems in this edition, we hear Shukla’s quiet ringing poetic voice, all the more resonant for its spareness, all the more evocative for its ability to address the old questions of injustice and peace, suffering, beauty and death with a fine-tuned simplicity and directness:

I shall wish to live forever

For there is a smattering of flowers

And the world is.
(‘It Affirms That There Is A Child’)

© Arundhathi Subramaniam

Select Bibliography


Atrikt Nahin, Vani Prakashan, New Delhi, 2002
Sab Kuch Hona Bacha Rahega, Rajkamal Prakashan, New Delhi,1992
Vah Aadmi Chala Gaya Naya Garam Coat Pehankar Vichar Ki Tarah, Sambhavna Prakashan, Hapur, 1981
Lagbhag Jai Hind, Ashok Vajpeyi, Sidhi, 1971
Kavita Se Lambi Kavita, Vaani Prakashan, New Delhi


Khilega To Dekhenge, 1996
Deewar Mein Ek Khirkee Rahati Thi, 1998’
Naukar Ki Kameez, Sambhavna Prakashan, Hapur, 1979
(translated Servant's Shirt, Penguin, New Delhi, 1999)
Per Par Kamra, Porvagrah, Bhopal, 1996

Translation of a poem, ‘That Man Wearing a New Warm Coat Went Away Like a Thought’, by Vinod Kumar Shukla

Imdb and SAWNET
Information on the film Naukar Ki Kameez, written by Vinod Kumar Shukla


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