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Shrilal Shukla's Raag Darbari: Satire in Indian Literature, A Critical Analysis by Yoshita Singh



Washington, DC – In the annals of the history of literature, journalist par excellence Yoshita Singh has carved a space by reviving the stinging Sahitya Akademi award (1969) winning book “Raag Darbari,” by Shrilal Shukla. Fifty years ago, Shukla, an Indian Administrative Officer (IAS) penned the book, based on his personal experiences in rural terrains of North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

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As the 50 years of the book Raag Darbari approached, New York-based Singh debuted on the literary scene in 2017 with “Shrilal Shukla’s Raag Darbari: Satire in Indian Literature, A Critical Analysis,” analyzing satire as a genre used in Indian Literature over the years for storytelling as well as for holding the mirror to the establishment.

Digging deep into her personal interaction during a detailed interview she had conducted with Shukla at his residence in Lucknow in 2004, Singh portrays not only the book’s origins but also the brain behind the masterpiece. Singh, then a student of English Literature at the University of Lucknow, had an excellent interview as Shukla opened his heart and shared ongoing emotions in his heart when writing the book, “Raag Darbari,” a satire with piercing but eye-opening touches.

Singh blessed the students of literature and his fans by reproducing her entire interview with Shukla in her book. “It’s very difficult for me to say anything about the craft for the simple reason that the craft by itself is not an independent entity. Craft is always related to the subject matter and the sensibility that a particular writing is going to represent. So it is so much intertwined with the subject matter itself, the way you want a certain thing to be communicated to your reader, that the craft, I think, evolves automatically,” said Shukla in his interview to Singh.

Yoshita Singh
Yoshita Singh

Singh, Chief United Nations and New York Correspondent for Press Trust of India (PTI), built a serious critical analysis around the interview to discuss satire in literature and society. A journalist with a discerning eye, Singh noted Shukla’s remarkably empathetic and yet incisive understanding of rural life in Uttar Pradesh. “He brings alive the rural ethos with such gentle yet effective humor. During my interaction with him I could see how he employed his keen sense of observation in the service of his writing,” Singh said.

Defining the approach of satire, Singh said: “The satirist does not attempt to describe things or people objectively. To be successful, he must to some extent be unfair. He must, for example, largely or totally ignore those aspects of the object of his satire, which might make it in any way acceptable to the reader.”

“Satirist’s activity is primarily intellectual. It is also true that his original motive for writing satire is anger or annoyance, or the sense that somebody or something engaging his satiric interest is ridiculous or absurd,” Singh continued.

Since its formal release in New York after publication by Kanishka Publishers and Distributors of New Delhi in July 2017, the book has been showered with rave reviews. One review highlighted Singh’s own account of life in an Indian village, giving a pragmatic relevance as she drew parallels with the rural life portrayed in Raag Darbari, and her own experiences of visiting her ancestral village near Shahjahanpur in Uttar Pradesh. (IAT)

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