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There are twenty two ‘scheduled’ languages in India and dialects run into many more. The 2001 census put the count of all spoken languages and dialects at 780, second only to Papua and New Guinea which leads with 839 languages. 

With such a huge babel of words at it’s disposal, some languages languish from neglect. Some profess Urdu is one such victim. Recently, much is being written about how Urdu is dying in the bylanes of Old Delhi .

Urdu, a language of the court and poetry, graceful and elegant in its usage, came to be recognised fully around the eighteenth century in India. Before that, Persian was used in the Mughal courts. Urdu evolved as a language that was used by both Hindus and Muslims, perhaps a language of harmony. It used the elegant Nastaliq script. 

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Munshi Premchand(1880-1936), born as Dhanpat Rai Shrivastav, was one of the foremost Hindi writers of the early twentieth century. He has to his credit more than three hundred short stories, fourteen novels, many more essays, letters translations and plays and even a film script.

His short story Shatranj ke Khiladi was made into an award winning film by Satyajit Ray as were a number of his other works by noted directors, like Hrishikesh Mukherjee.

With his reformatory zeal and an ability to create empathetic overtones, Premchand was a prominent writer in Hindi who was appreciated more after his death than before. Writes David Rubin, late translator and scholar, in The World of Premchand (Oxford, 2001): “To Premchand belongs the distinction of creating the genre of the serious short story—and the serious novel as well—in both Hindi and Urdu. Virtually single-handed he lifted fiction in these languages from a quagmire of aimless romantic chronicles to a high level of realistic narrative comparable to European fiction of the time; and in both languages, he has, in addition, remained an unsurpassed master.” Interestingly, Rubin taught for a number of years in Allahabad and Rajasthan Universities in India and is also known to have translated not only Premchand but also another very well-known Hindi poet, Suryakant Tripathi ‘Nirala’.

The rise of online publishing and social media may inadvertently be beneficial for Hindi authors and its readers: The Hindu

downloadDr. Usha Bande is an Indian writer and critic who lives in Shimla. She writes in Marathi, Hindi and English and translates short stories from Marathi into Hindi. She has several research papers and more than a dozen books to her credit including Writing Resistance: A Comparative Study of Women Novelists. Her most recent work is a collection of short stories, A Box of Stolen Moments (Lifi Publications, 2014).

Kitaab recently interviewed her through email.

When did you start writing short stories? 

Long back.  I was in school when I wrote my first story but it was never published. In fact, I did not know where to send, how to send and all that. I mean tricks of the trade. In 1960s we were not much aware and smart as youngsters today are. Anyway, I wrote a small piece in Hindi for a story writing competition when I was in college; it was published in Navbharat Times and I got a third prize. It motivated me but again there was a gap of several years. My first real story which got published in English was “Painter Sahib”, included in my collection A Box of Stolen Moments. And I like this story as it has a kind of soft touch to it. It is partly real.

Tell us about some of the interesting stories in this collection and what inspired you to write them?

A very relevant question, indeed though a little difficult to answer!