Science Fiction and its Status in Hindi: An Overview
Science fiction [SF] is all about imagining the future of mankind. The pace with which technology is altering our ways of life it’s very much possible that we are going to have a world of tomorrow quite different from our today’s world. Science fiction writers’ more often than not foresee that future very well in advance. Jules Verne, the celebrated French novelist had such a prophetic vision and could very well predict the man's victory over moon.
Isaac Asimov, noted American SF writer defined the genre in following way,
‘Science fiction is that branch of literature which deals with human responses to changes in the level of science and technology.’ In addition to this there are as many definitions of sf as there are sf writers but this definition is easy to comprehend and understand the nature of genre by the beginners.
Science Fiction in Hindi:
The roots of Hindi science fiction[sf ] could be traced in Indian mythological stories- in stories of heaven and hells, in various incarnations, in those bizarre inter-generic surgical skills[Lord Ganesh!],in clones[birth of Kauravas! ] and the like but genre sci fi in its real sense appears to have originated in 1884 with Aascharya Vrittant [a strange tale !] written by a famous litterateur Pandit Ambika Datta Vyasa in Peeyush Pravah,a popular contemporary Hindi magazine published in Madhya Pradesh . The story appears to have set a trend in Hindi literature which followed notably the publication of ‘Chandralok ki Yatra’ by Babu Keshav Prasad Singh in Saraswati [1900 ], yet another reputed contemporary magazine of that era .Notwithstanding such an early start this relatively new literary genre could not attract the attention of Hindi literati for long despite the ardent appeals of some stalwarts of Hindi literature like Rahul Sankrityayan, Acharya Chatursen Shastri and Dr Sampurnanand.
Rahul Sankrityayan himself wrote an impressive sf novel in1924 entitled 'Baaisvee Sadi’ [The Twenty second century!] in order to attract the attention of Hindi literati. Likewise Acharya Chatursen Shastri wrote Khgraas [Total Eclipse!] which appeared in serial form in Dharmyug in 1959. But it still took long time to get this genre established in an organized way of sf writing in Hindi and it was only with the advent of Yamunadatt Vaishnav 'Ashok', Naval Bihari Mishra on the scene in 1950’s that the genre got a real impetus and momentum.
Other Prominent Writers :
After a long period of oblivion the genre got a boost when in seventies of last century writers like Ramesh Verma, Kailash Shah, Mayaprasad Tripathi, Devendra Mewadi shaped and promoted this genre through their continuous and and relentless efforts. Many young writers followed the trend including the author who published his story ‘Ek Aur Kraunch Vadh’ in noted Hindi magazine, Dharmyug in 1989. 'Ek Aur Kraunch Vadh' attracted the attention of many mainstream story writers and met with an unexpected applause and praise. The story was based on the cruelty on experimental animals and the possible effects of pesticides on avian fauna. In 1995, with the advent of Indian science writers' Association in Faizabad [near Ayodhya, UP.] under the president ship of Dr.R.R.Upadhyaya many new talents sprang up to enrich the genre. Thenceforth sf movement got a real boost and momentum and is presently garnished by more than a dozen active sf writers including Manoj Patairiya , Kalpana Kulshrestha, Zakir Ali Rajnish, Shukdeo Prasad, Harish Goyal, Zaeshan Haider Zaidy, Manish Mohan Gore, Swapnil Bhartiya, Arvind Dubey, Amit Kumar, Yugal Kumar etc. Hindi sf now appears to have come of age. But by and large sf in Hindi is generally considered a non mainstream literary genre and is usually presented under the label, 'genre sf'. This trend is detrimental in getting this genre established as a mainstream literature. The traditional literati hardly give any credit or importance to this kind of literary offshoot. The reasons of this kind of apathy of Hindi littérateurs to this emerging literary genre may be traced in the ignorance and unawareness of this kind of genre amongst them at large. Unless Hindi sf makes a dent in mainstream literature it is not going to enjoy the status it really deserves amongst the Hindi readers. Efforts should be initiated to achieve this goal by writing simpler and people oriented sf.
Popular Themes, Styles and Contents
Popular themes in Hindi sci fi writing include space travels, environmental imbalance, population explosion, material transfer, clones, memory transfer, planetary travels, mass transportation, innovations in medicine etc. Since sf is imaginatively very fertile field Hindi sf writers are trying on many themes of their choice. Every writer genuinely possesses a unique style and is known and easily identified by his /her writings .But the styles and contents of many young writers below 40’s especially the contemporaries of the first author are easily understandable by common people. While writings of some elder but still active writers demand more scholarly attention. The most prolific present Hindi sf writer is undoubtedly Mr .Harish Goyal who hails from Rajsthan and is known for his penchant for themes like clone and intergalactic travels. Manoj Patairiya usually gives a dramatic touch to his sf plots. A blend of sf and Indian myths and traditions could be seen in the writings of Arvind Mishra .Devendra Mevaadi’s writings are unique in the sense of their aesthetic values and literary standards. Kalpana Kulshrestha is known for her social commitments and treatments in shaping the stories and she has assigned a term ‘socifi ‘to describe her stories. Zeashan Haider Zaidy usually gives a mystical touch akin to ‘Tilism’ stories of Babu Devakee Nandan Khatree and Swapnil Bhartiya seems to be heavily influenced by western sf stuffs. Zakir Ali ‘Rajneesh’ deliberately avoids future set-ups and locations/backgrounds and favours the depiction of present day social scenario and technologies in his stories.
Science fiction and science fantasy
There are many hotly debated issues in Hindi sf like the one that is there any discrimination in between science fiction and science fantasy? Fiction is a Latin word which means 'to invent' and fantasy is a Greek word meaning 'to imagine'. Both are in fact lumped together in general understanding of sci fi in Hindi . In science fiction the science and technology is depicted as whatever it is without distortions while in science fantasy even wild imaginations are acceptable like time travel, anti gravity themes etc. But this is the aspect where a dividing line could also be drawn in between good and bad sci fi. According to Jayant Narlikar, many fantasy elements like journey faster than light could make the science story a bad one despite its good style and form. But this is again a debatable point like many others of controversies of. sci fi world .
Mythology and Hindi science fiction
.The pace with which technology is altering our ways of life it is very much possible that we are going to have a world of tomorrow quite different from our today’s world. Science fiction writers try to foresee that future very well in advance. Jules Verne, the celebrated French writer of last century had such a prophetic vision that he could very well predict the man's victory over moon. But predicting the future is not any pursuit of recent origin. Our many scriptures are full of such references. A mythological description of PUSPAK VIMAN which is depicted to have an endless capacity/facility to accommodate any passenger even at last moment of its departure and is also is an emotional entity. SUDARSHAN CHAKRA, which comes back to Lord Krisna's hand after killing the enemy and MAYA YUDDH a kind of virtual war where it only seems that a war is in progress but nothing happens in reality are just a few cases in point. In Hindi sf the influence of mythology is apparent and appears to be a mainstay because of their similar nature of style and the nature of themes/contents in which fantasy is the main element.
Our ancestors imagined all such bizarre and interesting things but because the appropriate technology was not available at contemporary times the dreams were not realized in their own times. We are still waiting to see many of predictions made by our scripture writers to see the light of the day. Intelligent machines and many unbelievable technologies are already here and many more are in queue. We must salute wisdom of our ancestors that mythology still holds water to show us our future and Hindi science fiction owe a lot to this treasure trove of endless imaginative ideas.