Bhoole Bisre Chitra
(Rajkamal Prakashan, Delhi; 1959)
(Sahitya Academy Awardee-Hindi-1956)
"Sri Bhagwaticharan Verma (b. 1903) is a veteran poet and novelist. Bhoole Bisre Chitra is a novel depicting three generations of a middle class family in north India. The novel throws interesting sidelights on the national struggle for freedom and presents a vivid picture of our times delineated through a number of unforgettable characters, convincingly drawn." (Citation)
Bhagwati Charan Verma's Bhoole Bisre Chitra is an epic novel divided into five parts. In the field of Hindi novel, after Premchand it is for the first time that we see such a comprehensive and artistic document of social and political history depicting chronological development and changes in values of the first phase of the modern Indian society. It narrates virtually the changes that occur in relations among the persons of four generations of a family and depicts the disintegration of the "joint family system, state of the middle class, dominance of feudalism and capitalism and tension and struggle of generations breaking, of conventions, consciousness of contact with new ideas, progress and capacity for radical thinking during the national movement for freedom. Munshi Shivlal, Jwala Parshad, Ganga Parshad and Naval Kishore are the representatives of four generations.
Shivlal is the representative of the first generation. He holds the favour of British Collector and due to this his English educated son Jwala Parshad succeeds in becoming Naib Tahsildar. Orderly woman Chhinaki tries that Jawala Parshad's wife Jamuna may go to Ghatampur with her husband. The changes in middle class life are symbolised by the character of Chhinaki. When the family of Munshi Radhelal with his good for nothing and licentious son comes to live in the Government bungalow of Jwala Parshad and Jwala groans with financial burden, Chhinaki becomes active. The joint family is now bound to disintegrate and here we see how a joint family becomes a hindrance in the development of the individual. Nambardar of Shivpura Lal Parbhu Dayal and his wife Jai Devi, with their own selfish motives, become intimate with Jwala Parshad and Jamuna. But after the murder of Parbhu Dayal, the intimacy and fascination of Jai Devi towards Jwala Parshad becomes more meaningful. The episode of the marriage of the daughter of Thakur Gajaraj Singh brings out the hollowness of feudalism. Inspite of the heavy indebtedness he cannot keep away from false pomp and show. The impudent Barjor Singh is also a natural symbol of false stubbornness and boast. He is driven to suicide with a bad conscience. Jwala Parshad himself felt that there is a demon in Parbhu Dayal and Barjor Singh which does not let them do anything good. Parbhu Dayal's son Laxmi Chand is symbolic of neo-capitalism. There are also other characters like Mir Sakhawat Hussain and Thanedar Amjad Ali. Rights and power go on changing places. Shivlal comes to realise that his role in the family is like the role of Pandu in the Mahabharata and Radhelal's role is like that of Dhritarasbtra. The perversions of the joint family are seen in the deeds of Kishan Lal and Shyam Lal. Ultimately Jwala Parshad has to separate the family of his uncle. Jwala Parshad's son Ganga Parshad is brought up in prosperity and luxury and has become a Deputy Collector. He is a man of the new age. He loves two women-Santo and a prostitute Malakha. With the motivation of her husband Radhakishan, Santo plays the filthy game of love with Mr. Watts and wins the title of ‘Rai Bahadur’ for Radhakishan and ‘Rani Satwant Kaur’ for herself. This is the vile face of capitalism. Ganga Parshad goes on living a dramatic life and realises the hypocrisy of his officership. He has no faith in the decayed moral idealism of his father and grandfather. He jerks away the ties of the joint family which Munshi Shivlal and to some extent Jwala Parshad were protecting. Through the character of Ganga Parshad, the author has exposed the hollowness and immorality of the upper class. The author has provided a realistic depiction of contemporary communalism through the characters of Swami Jatilanand and Allama Vahasi.
Naval is a character who has grown up with self-respect during national freedom movement. He is the sparkling example of consciousness and independence and is determined to revenge his insult by the British. Gyan Prakash has political firmness and intelligence. On the other hand, in his opinion, Naval's career has no value and he drops his plan of appearing for the ICS. Due to this decision he has to lose his beloved Usha, the daughter of Rai Bahadur Kamata Nath. After his father's death he gets Vidya Devi to whom he was engaged before married, yet is insulted by money hunters. Naval is inspired by Gandhi and Satyagraha and joins the Salt Movement and decides that the national movement as his aim. In a way Naval is representative of bright aspirations of Satyagraha. The plot ends with the rise of sharp political awakening in the young generation.
On the whole the plot exposes the various historical processes of social development through a series of pictures and by the end we cross, in a very interesting way the journey of five decades of social, political, moral, cultural and economic development. The unity of the plot is never broken and the most vigorous aspect of Bhagawaticharan Verma's art, i.e. characterisation emerges. Though due to the big span of the canvas all characters can not be depicted in full detail, yet inspite of the limitations characters like Chhinaki, Jwala Parshad, Gyan Prakash, Lata Ripu Dman Singh leave an indelible impression in the mind of the reader because of their closeness to life and reality.
Here we have characters representing all communities. They may not have enough depth yet they represent the complete reality of contemporary life. Bhoole Bisre Chitra has undoubtedly made a big contribution to the progress of the Hindi novel.
(Source: Sahitya Academy Awards – Books and Writers – 1955-1978
Published by Sahitya Academy. ISBN 81 7201 014 1)