About Uday Prakash
Uday Prakash (b. 1952) is one of the very best among contemporary writers, though not as well-known outside the world of Hindi literature as he should be; or more accurately, not as well-known to English language readers as he should be. This latter situation, however, is changing: English translations of his short stories and novels have begun to appear, joining translations of his work into other European and South Asian languages. He is a poet, a master of the short (sometimes the very short, and sometimes the not so short) story, and a novelist. He is also a painter and an accomplished journalist and film-maker. It is Another Subcontinent's very great pleasure to play a small role in his ongoing introduction to English language readers.
Uday Prakash has won a number of literary awards and honours, including the Bharat Bhusan Agrawal Puraskar, the Pahal Samman, the Sahityakaar Samman and the Shrikant Verma Award (for Tirichha, Vani Prakashan, 2001). Awards notwithstanding, as Robert Hueckstedt points out in his introduction to Short Shorts and Long Shots (Katha, 2003), Prakash is not an uncontroversial figure in the world of Hindi literature. He has been attacked from all parts of the political spectrum for his very individual approaches to the contradictory manifestations of modernity in contemporary Indian society. In the conversation that follows Prakash mentions as well the challenges posed by the Hindi literary establishment to younger writers who wish to do new things with language and form. Despite this heated political and critical reception, Uday Prakash is thriving as a writer as never before.
In my conversation with him at his home outside Delhi I was struck by his commitment not just to the craft of writing but also to an ethical vision of the writer as a member of civil society; by his engagement not just with a much wider world of literature and art, but also with his readers: he is both a passionate writer and a passionate reader, and his respect for his own readers is palpable. As if to underline this, our conversation was punctuated by the appearance of emails and sms messages from readers responding to his latest short story publication in a Hindi magazine. His stories, even in translation, challenge, invigorate and inspire. We hope this conversation will inspire a few more people to discover the reasons for themselves. And that those who are already familiar with his work will also find something here to enrich their sense of the writer.
About this Conversation
As with all interviews featured on Another Subcontinent, the transcript of the recorded conversation has been cosmetically edited to make it a more "readerly" text, but is presented as it happened: a free-flowing conversation that did not follow an agenda. That said, I would like to thank Moazzam Sheikh who first suggested that I try to meet and interview Uday Prakash while in Delhi, and who provided a number of questions that I could ask in order to appear as though I had read more of his work than I had at the time. I would also like to thank Ravi Singh of Penguin India for the introduction to Uday Prakash, and, of course, Uday Prakash himself for making time in his busy schedule, on very short notice, for this conversation.