Tej Narayan Kak - An Appraisal

Tej Narayan Kak - An Appraisal

Translated by M.L. Koul

TEJ NARAYAN KAK who was a writer, poet and deft story writer practically died unwept, unsung and unhonoured. His death on 14th December, 1998 at the ripe age of 84 in the city of Jodhpur failed to earn media attention. Even the literary circles perhaps not acquainted with his trend-setting contributions to the domain of Hindi prose did not moot a simple resolution to condole his demise. In fact, the new generation writers are totally unaware of Tej Naryan Kak who commenced his literary career in post-Dwedi era and made a mark as a pioneer in the evolution of poetic prose as a specific genre.

Prose alone was not his forte. Tej Narayan possessed a variegated genius which found prolific expression in the delicacies of poetry, in the subtle drawal of characters struggling in tangled situations and more than most in the incisive analysis of issues of criticism. His contributions to the manifold forms of literature were published in the contemporary journals and magazines like Saraswati, Madhuri and Sudha. The famous personalities of the stature of Ram Chander Shukla, Shyam Sunder Das, Maithili Sharan Gupta and Prem Chand were unanimous in recognising the prolific genius and tremendous creative faculities of Tej Narayan Kak.

The ancestors of Tej Narayan Kak had migrated to the heat and dust of plains during the tyrannical rule of Afghans in Kashmir. An ancestor of the family, Shiva Narayan Kak, had migrated from the lust-green valley with a view to saving his skin and faith and had settled in the desert lands of Marwar in Rajasthan. The grand-father of Tej Narayan Kak was a man of high degree status who strutted the corridors of power in Jaipur and Udaipur. His uncle. Pandit Dharam Narayan Kak, was the Deputy Chief Miinister of the State of Jodhpur and continued to hold the position till 1946. Having been born in such an aristocratic family, Tej Narayan was well looked after and put to educative processes in the reputed schools and colleges of Allahabad, Lucknow and Nagpur. In addition to a degree in Law, he assiduously earned post-graduate degrees in English and Hindi. With such educational endowments he joined the administrative services of the state of Jodhpur and retired as an IAS officer in 1972.

Tej Narayan took to writing prose right from his student days. He wrote poetic prose which had taken birth in the Dwedi era and flowered as an independent genre during the romantic period. In the domain of poetic prose.

Tej Narayan Kak enjoyed an equal footing with the pioneers of the genre namely Rai Krishan Das, Chatur Sen Shastri, Dr Raghunath Singh and Mrs Dinesh Dalmia. Poetic prose is characterized by the predominance of Rasa and sensibility and can be differentiated from simple prose by its attributes of music, ornamentation and Rasa. ‘Madira’ as his first collection of poetic prose was published in 1935. Two more collections titled as ‘Nirjar’ and ‘Pashan’ were published in 1943 and earned tremendous appreciation from scholarly cricles. Acharya Ram Chander Shukla fully appreciated and lauded the musical prose that Tej Narayan Kak wrote with absolute finesse. Dr Shaym Sunder Das as an erudite scholar and dojen of Hindi literature placed his ‘prose songs’ in an incomparable category, much superior to those who wrote the same type of prose. In his introduction to one of his poetic prose collections Dr Amar Nath Jha candidly appreciated the beauty, ornamentation and subtlety of his writings. Dilating on some samples of his prose Dr Jha lavished all praise on the author for the lucidity of his expression and enrobement of his prose with romantic sentiments and nuances. Tej Narayan Kak started writing short-stories in a period dominated by the awe-inspiring personality of Prem Chand who was a skilled craftsman none to excel him. He won full-throated appreciation as a story writer. His story ‘Myna’ was rated as the best at a short-story session held at the Prayag University Campus in 1935. The Sudha, Saraswati, Madhuri and other journals and magazines went on publishing his short stories till the fourth decade of this century. He was also a master translator. He translated the short stories of Oscar Wilde, Edgar Allen Poe and O’Henry. Tej Narayan was also a poet who had a full feel of his timers. He wrote the patriotic poems after the pattern of poets following the trend set by the prime mover of the era. He also wrote poems pervading with romantic sentiments. Till 1947 his three poetry collections titled as ‘Bansuri’,

‘Mukhti Ki Mashal’ and ‘Jeewan Jwala’ had been published and had drawn attention and appreciation on the part of literary masters. ‘Rakhta Kamal’ contains poems that are replete with patriotic, zeal and fervour. The poet sticks fast to the view that freedom does not come on mere asking but has to be earned with the spilling of blood.

Kis se padi hai jo aayega

Sat Samandar par!

Tere liye layega

Anupam swatantrata uphar!

Kabi kisi ne kutch paya hai

Anunany kar kar hath pasar!

Mukhti milegee tuje hath mai

Tere jag hogi talwar!

Who bothes to come to you

across the seven oceans.

Who minds to come to you

with the unique gift of freedom

Has anyone achieved anything

with hands spread outlike a beggar?

You will gain freedom

when you wield a sword fearlessly.

In the poems of ‘Rakhta Kamal’ Dr Prabhakar Machwe found the tendencies of progressivism which at a later date came to hold sway over the entire realms of poetic expressions. Dr Gulab Rai felt in them the bubbling spirit of revolution. Dr Ram Kumar Verma was so deeply impacted by the poems that he felt obliged to evaluate them as superb in conception and execution. Tej Narayan Kak as a sensitive poet could not avoid the impact of a new trend of poetry which came to be termed as ‘Chayavad’ in the annals of Hindi poetry. In reality, his poetry was multi-layered and multi-coloured. He wrote poems brimming with sensuousness reflecting the deep influence of poets like Bihari and others. He harnessed his poetic faculties and sensitivities to translate excellent poems from many other regional languages. Some such poems are found in his anthology titled as ‘Vichitra’ published in 1949. The poems that are soaked in maddening love relationships between man and woman are a hall-mark of his poetic sensitivities.

In vastrui mai chippi huee

tumhari dehyashti

Aaisi lag rahi hai mano

Jeene megui ke aavaran mai

Chippi huee vidut-lata-ya

Neel sarowar kee lahriyi mai bal khati hui kamal naal!


In these garments lies hidden

your body-form

and appears as if the lightning-creeper

is hidden in a thin covering of clouds


Looks like a lotus-stalk

moving to and fro in the blue waters of a lake.

He has seen the rapturous joy of man-woman relationships in the background setting of nature and its sights and sound and he writes-

I am a man

I yearn for the company of a woman.

See that tree

It has entwined a vine, slend and thin,

round its burning bosom.

See that vast expanse of an ocean

it hides numerous youth-bubbling

streams in its lap.

The horizon of the poet encompasses manifold emotions, feelings and stirring sentiments. He imagines of love-fires of his beloved in the descending shadows of dusk and of dense hair-plaits of his love in the dense dark watches of night.

This evening

is colourful like your love

but has the potential to burn.

and this night

is intense dark like your hair-locks.

Tej Narayan Kak gave forceful vent to his patriotic fervour in his poetic outpourings and followed the style of romantic poets. It appeared that he would find it immensely difficult to put his feelings, felt and lived, in Braj which had found extreme refinement at the hands of Surdas. Surprisingly, Kak wrote in Braj and made it a plastic medium for the expression of love, sensuous and voluptuous, in a manner that he rivals Bihari, a brilliant poet of the erotica. The dohas that he has written in Braj are original and vivacious yet they are deeply impacted by the style, manner and thought content of Bihari.

Tej Narayan Kak made successful attempts at translating poems and metaphors into Hindi from their originals in regional languages. He translated the ‘Nasidiya Sukta’ into Hindi and also the hymns addressed to ‘Indra’, ‘Agni’, ‘Usha’s’ & ‘Surya’. He was deft at translating poems from European languages into Hindi. George Russel, Robert Frost and Davis are some of the European poets whom he has translated into Hindi, thus enriching the native languages through such translations. He was highly enamoured of Rabindra Nath Tagore whom he has profusely translated. He was also influenced by Urdu poetry which gets reflected in some of his dohas written in Hindi or Braj. Tej Narayan Kak is known for his experiments in the field of essay-writing and critical appreciation. His essays are collected in a work titled ‘Indradanush’. He has also evaluated four prose-writers of Hindi in a work published in 1983. He was fully aware of the tools that make one a successful critic of literature. Kak lived his life away from public gaze. That is how his death did not get splashed in the media.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

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