25 June, 2021

An Incorrigible Litterateur

Krishna Sobti shuns regimentation. She allows freedom even to her characters, so they can speak out her silences.

An Incorrigible Litterateur

FOR Krishna Sobti ("70-plus," she whispers evasively), politics stems from language. "Can you imagine," she shudders, "the horror of the word adhyaksh mahoday? I would always use sahib-i-sadr. And what about that other abomination, padhariye? Awful. Krishna Tashreef rakhiye, on the other hand, is generous, lofty." She gestures grandly towards the snow peaks that surround the sudden Gothic beauty of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS) in Shimla, where she is a national fellow.

Sobti's an unlikely eminence grise; she looks like a purple-clad goblin bouncing up a flower-lined path. Yet she's the author of over a dozen novels and a Sahitya Akademi fellow who has held several university chairs in Hindi literature. "Sobti's a writer of the first rank," says poet Namvar Singh. "It's a pity that someone whose language is so refined and consciousness so urbane should not be known outside the Hindi world."

She did hit headlines recently though. When the newly-appointed chairman...

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