It is with grief that we learnt of the sad demise of Mrs Bhanumati Nagdan, Hindi writer of grit. She died at the age of 80 after a period of illness.
On Saturday 30 November last Hindi lovers, friends and relatives paid a befitting homage to her at the Subramanien Bharati Hall, MGI. I was in Bihar when she died on 20 November and was shocked to learn about it on my return.
Born on 12 July in 1933, Bhanuben hailed from a typically traditional Gujarati family of Rose-Hill. It was those days when girls were confined to the restrictions and “char diwari” of the family house. As her son Adarsh befittingly said in his homage, “women were still considered inferior to men. Girls were destined to get married very early; to become good bahus, biwis and look after the house and the children.”
She left school at the early age of 13 and got married at 17. But being a restless soul, and a woman of mettle, adamant and persevering, she took up the challenge to complete her O- and A-levels at the age of 30 through self-education. She loved reading and she was versatile in not only Gujarati her mother tongue, but in English, French and Hindi. In fact, she chose to give expression to her creative energies in Hindi.
Bhanuben leaves a void in the Hindi literary world as she was a writer of substance. Her pen was sharp and penetrating. She moved off the beaten track and it is this distinction which made her stand apart and unique in the crowd. Whether in her writings or in her public discourses, or heated exchanges with friends and literary circles, Bhanu did not mince her words. She was an avant-gardiste. She was a voice for the voiceless. She dared to say what she felt and said it bluntly too. Her voice was incisive and undauntable.
It was way back in the early 1970s, when she joined the Port Louis Hindi Parishad set up by Somdath Buckhory, eminent Hindi poet and writer, that she slowly started putting her thoughts together. She was further encouraged by Shri Jai Narain Roy, eminent writer, politician and educationist. Bhanumati Nagdan has written over 3000 short stories, so prolific she was. But sadly enough, due to the great problem that all Hindi writers face in Mauritius, that of finding good publishers, somehow all her works could not appear in print. One day, she told me, so aggrieved was she by this situation that she burnt and turned to ashes a good number of her unpublished manuscripts.
However, thanks to her loving son Adarsh and devoted daughter-in-law Shalini, some of her short stories found their way in a beautiful hardcover collection published in 2006. Bhanumati shot to fame with her famous short story “Minister” written in 1981. In fact she won a literary award for this story and later it became the catching title of a collection of her other short stories.
Bhanuben wrote about the downtrodden, the poor, women’s plight, especially during the early implantation of textile factories in the rural areas, domestic violence, society, politics and other current issues. She loved life and lived it to the full. She was kind hearted, a humanitarian and a committed social worker. She was a dedicated member of the Mauritius Red Cross Society.
Though no longer present physically, yet Bhanuben lives on through her gripping writings.
* Published in print edition on 6 December 2013