Shrilal Shukla


Rag Darbari

. (Rajkamal Prakashan, New Delhi; 1968)


(Sahitya Academy Awardee-Hindi-1969)


"Sri Shrilal Shukla (b. 1925) is a distinguished novelist and satirist. Born at village Atrauli in the Lucknow district of Uttar Pradesh, Sri Shukla received his education first at Lucknow and then at Kanpur and Allahabad. A graduate of the Allahabad University he entered the state Civil Service in 1950 and is at present working as Additional District Magistrate at Kanpur. .

Although Sri Shukla became interested in literary writing fairly early in his career, he started writing regularly only in 1957 when he published his first novel, Sooni Ghati Ko Sooraj. His second novel, Agyatvas, was published in 1961. Besides his novels, Sri Shukla has also written a large number of satirical essays and articles which are remarkable for their pungency and wit. Two collections of his satirical writings have already been published.

The award book, Rag Darbari is his latest novel which lays bare the sordidness and pettiness of the every-day life in the rural areas of Uttar Pradesh, and is a daring commentary on the greed, selfishness and corruption in our social life. For its sharpness of style and realistic characterisation the work has been hailed as an outstanding contribution to contempo­rary Hindi literature." (Citation)


Shivpalganj is a typical village somewhere in Uttar Pradesh inhabited by ordinary people with their village-level squabbles and intrigues. In a rambling documentary style the novelist scans this obscure landscape. As the novel grows the characters also grow into recognisable social and political types. It is their uncanny, and sometimes deliberately mischievous, resemblance to an average Indian leader - with his unscrupulous ways playing havoc with Indian life and morals - which the author satirises. His deep human concern, a keen sense of humour and irony, are marked by subtle craftsmanship. It is the careful juxtaposition of the real and the typical, regional and the universal, which gives to this novel its special authenticity and punch. The environment in Rag Darbari is important it has a certain stub­bornness of character which does not change, nor does it change anything, and as a vast human drama unfolds itself against a dusty rural backdrop, certain important points emerge both as comments and as observations. Ironically it is the pathetic heroism of martyrs like Langar, fighting for justice and fairness, who painfully remind us of what is seriously at stake in our national and personal characters.

Known for his satires even before Rag Darbari was published, Shrilal Shukla has a way with language which has the subdued flavour of sophisticated old Sanskrit classics and the robust rustic humour of spoken Avadhi. Rag Darbari remains one of those landmarks which has raised satirical fiction in Hindi to classical stature.

Kunwar Narain


(Source: Sahitya Academy Awards – Books and Writers – 1955-1978

Published by Sahitya Academy. ISBN 81 7201 014 1)