When I wrote an article on ‘Aur Coca-Cola Haar Gaya’ book I never knew that I would get a chance to meet its author, Mr. Praveen Kumar Bhatt who is into publishing business after being a fierce journalist for 12 years. He is a vivid traveller, photographer, Writer, researcher, a columnist, an awardee of Mayur Uttarakhand Group Award (2012) and a Gold Medalist in Journalism who has worked in various forms of media i.e. radio, TV, web and print. The author has published noteworthy works such as Media Ke Vartman Sandarbh, Uttarakhand Ke Shilpkar, Aur Coca-Cola Haar Gaya and Himalaya Bachega to Ganga Bachegi. His accolades don’t end here. Mr. Praveen Kumar Bhatt has also been honoured with Umesh Dobhal Award for Print Media (2011) and Ladli Media Award from United Nations for best gender sensitive reporting (2011-12). His studies and reports on natural and human resource interdependencies and other issues hold a real value for researchers. I actually brushed up my knowledge about Uttarakhand while meeting him and got to know about his several pieces of research. Read this exclusive personal interview with Mr. Praveen Kumar Bhatt and know why I like to call him the encyclopedia of Uttarakhand.
Q1. Where did you spend your childhood?
Ans: I was born and brought up in a tiny hamlet of Chaupata (Muwani) in Pithoragarh district, Uttarakhand. I saw spend some of the most beautiful days of my life in this quaint village.
Q2. Which is your favourite place in Uttarakhand?
Ans: My favourite place in Uttarakhand is Sunder Dhunga Valley. It is an utterly beautiful place, there is a waterfall about 60-70 feet high which freeze at night and breaks into pieces by the time of dawn. Beneath it, there is the confluence of Sunder Dunga River and another glacial river. Many shepherds can be spotted there and it is one of the best places to pitch your tents and gaze in wonder at the celestial beauty of Uttarakhand.
Q3. Is there any full-time writer in Uttarakhand whose earnings are solely dependent on his writings?
Ans: There is not a single writer in Uttarakhand who is a full-time writer and is solely earning from his writing. Most writers of Uttarakhand are either retired from government posts or are still working. The renowned poet Padmshri Leela Dhar Jagudi was an Officer in Information Department. Although he is one of the finest writers of Uttarakhand but sadly he isn’t a full-time writer. Our favourite Narendra Singh Negi who is a writer, poet and a gifted singer, is also a retired officer. We are still eagerly waiting for that day to come when a person will proudly say, I write for Uttarakhand and it is my bread-butter. That day things will change and people will start idolizing those who write for Uttarakhand.
Q4. Why Uttarakhand lacks full-time writers?
Ans: It is because in Uttarakhand government job is considered as a stable source of living. Nobody wants to risk his future by being a full-time writer. People are ignorant, if you ask them the name of any writer from Uttarakhand, most wouldn’t know any. Also, the interest in reading has decreased, now books are only sold for cracking competitive exams. When a father buys a book on Uttarakhand, he thinks that his son will read it for brushing up his knowledge about Uttarakhand. They don’t have to do anything with the amount of hard work involved while penning down the book.
Q5. How are writers treated in Uttarakhand?
Ans: The condition of writers in Uttarakhand is similar to a stranger as nobody knows them. Even if they sell their books at the book fairs, nobody recognizes them. Let’s take the example of Vidya Sagar Nautiyal who is a renowned writer across the world but in Uttarakhand, very few people recognize him. It’s heartbreaking to see that a person who is trying to bring out the diversity of Uttarakhand through his books is being ignored in his native place. If the same writers would’ve been in Delhi, they would be invited to several functions but in Uttarakhand so nobody calls them. This is a sad plight, I strongly believe that writers must be honoured in Uttarakhand for their work as they are ones who are penning down the history and diversity of Uttarakhand. By doing so other writers will be inspired to work with utmost dedication and produce masterpieces.
Q6. What kind of readers are there in Uttarakhand?
Ans: In Uttarakhand you’ll find readers that only read for a purpose either for preparing for the government exams or for their research. If you’ll go to Bengal you’ll find 7 out of 10 people have a book in their hand sadly this is not the case with the Uttarakhandis. It is tormenting that we have lost interest in the doorway to wisdom i.e. reading.
Q7. What kind of problem arises in front of the writers when they have to launch their book in Uttarakhand?
Ans: It is not the responsibility of the writer to launch a book, this part has to be played by the publisher. During the launch of a book, the publisher faces problems such as where he will launch the book, what kind of readers should he target? where should the book be made available?
Ans: In India many books have been translated into different languages and are becoming popular. But only Garhwali and Kumaoni books are not being translated. One of the reason is, there is no such translator who can translate these books in a simple yet interesting way which can appeal the readers.
Q9. Who is your favourite folk singer of Uttarakhand?
Ans: My favourite folk singer is Narendra Singh Negi. Since I have been living in Garhwal for quite a long time, now I have started listening Garhwali music and have embraced the dialect too. I believe change is a part of life and we should embrace everything that broadens our view about different culture and languages.
Q10. What will you like to say about the Pahari dialects that are becoming endangered?
Ans: In Uttarakhand many dialects have died and it is because we haven’t tried to preserve them either by recording or documenting it. In our state, many dialects have died and many are on the verge of extinction but no measures have been taken so far. There are thousands of dialects that are being ignored throughout the world and the tribals are suffering from this. Now America is recording all the dialects so they will not become extinct. While the concept of rebuilding is becoming famous in France and people are putting all their efforts to restore them. Not just this they have also launched a new premium channel dedicated for reconstructing the dying dialects.
Q11. How can books play an important role in preserving the dialects of Uttarakhand?
Ans: Books can play a major role in preserving the dialects of Uttarakhand. If something is written in Garhwali it might not be considered as important today, but it will surely become famous tomorrow as people will be curious to know and understand it. For e.g. Now people appreciate the work of Kabir but in his era, he was known as a weaver and mystic but not as a poet.
Q12. If a person aspires to write for Uttarakhand what things he should keep in mind?
Ans: First of all a writer must brush up his writing style and produce such a book which can address all type of readers and may also appeal to the readers of different ages. He should have a deep understanding of the society, culture and geography of the different regions from the mighty Himalayas to the vast bhawar (plains). A writer must write on topics that are out of the box which can entice the readers. One shouldn’t serve an old dish that has already been prepared by someone else. Let’s take an example of Narendra Singh Negi. He is doing a great job and is catering to all kind of audiences. He experiments and plays with his writing style. Negi Ji has a very lucid writing style you can check out his poetries that are very realistic and one can easily relate to them. Literature should be such that it holds the reader and make him think as if he is a part of the story and feels connected.
Q13. How can a writer bring versatility in his writings ?
Ans: Before penning down a book, the writer must question himself whether his work will appeal to the readers? What will the readers learn from it? Whether the info that I am providing is researched based or not? Can I vouch for the information cited in the book? For this, the writer needs to research, conduct surveys, take the help of archives, trekkers, and locals to extract authentic information. Room writing must be avoided, extensive travelling and meeting new people is must. Only then one will learn new words & ideas and can understand the struggle of the locals. This, in turn, will associate the writer with his writings.
Q14. Who are the writers with hope and possibility in Uttarakhand?
Ans: Dr. Anil Karki (Muwani, Pithoragarh), Deepak Benjwal (Rudraprayag), Swati Melkani (Lohaghat), Deepak Bijalwan (Tehri), Bhuwan Bisht (Nainital), Ajay Kanyal (Thal, Pithoragarh), Vikram Negi (Pithoragarh), Deepak Tiruwa (Pithoragarh), Deep Patahk (Haldwani), Naseem Bano (Dehradun), Shashi Devli (Gopeshwar), Neeta Bhandari (Dehradun), Deepika Verma (Mussoorie), Yogesh (Dehradun) are some of the young writers with great potential.