Hindi literature is a reservoir of beautiful stories that we have possibly ignored forever.
However, it is high time you add a few amazing pieces of writing to your reading list - and these classics are perfect to start your journey into the world of Hindi literature:
1. Nirmala by Premchand
It is hard to pick a single novel by Premchand because all his stories bring to the forefront harsh realities of life, written with a trademark ironical twist. However, it is Nirmala - that describes the story of a child bride and her husband, who is very senior to her - that stands apart as one of his finest works. His nuanced character descriptions and descriptive writing make for a thought-provoking read indeed.
2. Madhushala by Harivansh Rai Bachchan
Madhushala is easily one of the most popular works of Hindi literature, and rightfully so. Full of beautiful metaphors, this book of 135 quatrains is renowned for its contribution to Neo-romanticism. Though on the face of it the poem talks about alcohol, it actually is a reflection of life and its complexities. There is also a version recited by his son, actor Amitabh Bachchan.
3. Yama by Mahadevi Verma
Considered as a 'modern-day Meera', Mahadevi Verma was one of the four founding writers of the Neo-romantic age of Hindi literature. Her work revolved around powerful animal imagery and Yama is a collection of some of her finest poetry. It is also the book that won her the Gyanpeeth Award.
4. Tamas by Bhisham Sahni
The novel that won Bhisham Sahni the 1975 Sahitya Akademi award is a vividly descriptive novel, that evokes a multitude of emotions with every phrase! Set against the backdrop of partition, Tamas - that means darkness - is the story of a small town caught in volatile riots.
5. Kamayani by Jaishankar Prasad
Jaishankar Prasad's works are renowned for his use of words derived from Sanskrit, but never from Urdu. Kamayani, an epic poem that describes the creation of the first man on earth, is complex but worth the effort, especially because of the graphic descriptions and the philosophical undertones.
6. Kashi Ka Assi by Kashi Nath Singh
Set in one of the holiest cities in India - Varanasi - this novel is everything but pious. It is a realistic story of a city where conversations occur over ghats and not cafes, where the characters are more candid than cautious, and where the changes in the society are subtle but not ignorant. The novel, on which the movie Mohalla Assi is based, is a must-read for lovers of humor, and culture.
7. Maila Aanchal by Phanishwar Nath Renu
Considered to be one of the finest examples of a regional novel, Maila Aanchal expertly reflects the uniqueness of the region it is set in- a village in Bihar. The setting plays as much a role in developing the story as do the characters - because the behavioral traits, superstitions etc. are firmly rooted in the region the characters reside in.
8. Chandrakanta Santati by Babu Devakinandan Khatri
For lovers of fiction and fantasy, this novel is a real treat. Like any fan of fantastical fiction would know, it is the details that can make or break a mystical novel - and it is exactly such details that Babu Devakinandan Khatri gets right on point with Chandrakanta Santati. It can be read as a stand-alone novel, though it also a part of a trilogy.
9. Rashmirathi by Ramdhari Singh Dinkar
One of the most popular Hindi writers, Dinkar wrote a lot on the famous mythological epic Mahabharata. Rashmirathi, that translates to the rider of sun's chariot, is thus a poem on Karna. The poem offers a different perspective of the saga, highlighting the injustices that Karna suffered.
10. Kitne Pakistan by Kamleshwar
This novel was also inspired by the harsh reality of partition, and a court setting forms the premise of the story. Different historical characters act as witnesses and describe their experience of the partition. An evocative novel, the story is written brilliantly and manages to bring alive the pain of partition in a heartwrenching manner. This novel won Kamleshwar the 2003 Sahitya Academy Award.
11. Gunahon Ka Devta by Dharamveer Bharti
One of the most popular love stories of Hindi literature, this poignant tale is written in a manner that the reader can't help but feel every emotion that the lead characters experience. Chander and Sudha's unfulfilled love story is as raw as it is emotional. This is a must-read for lovers of romance and literature both.
12. Apsara by Suryakant Tripathi Nirala
Suryakant Tripathi Nirala - whose poems have always been featured in school curriculum - is one of the earliest writers to use themes of social injustice, feminism etc. in his writings and his novel Apsara is a prime example of that. It deals with feminity and its extremes, and the way youth deals with social injustice. The novel is still as relevant as it was at the time it was first published.
Time to get your reading glasses on and appreciate the beauty of the language.