Good satire is satin covered spear which both cuts and corrects: Gopal Chaturvedi
Octogenarian GOPAL CHATURVEDI is the Hindi language’s luminous satirist. Devoid of blatant, uncouth expressions, his satire is like a sharp spear laced with velvety satin cover. In a tenor, peppered with humor and wisdom he exposes vices, corruption, and red-tapism, all with élan. This iconic satirist, who has seen eighty springs establishes that good humor has no season and that it never goes out of fashion because it not only entertains, it refreshes, activates your mental faculties, and lifts up your spirits. He has proven that a writer never gets old but gets seasoned with passing years. Gopal Chaturvedi’s satire is often his defense and armor that protects his sensitive soul and feelings he never shares, like the pain of having lost his only son Sandeep, in the prime of his life.
Tell us about your childhood wherein lie the seeds of your love for writing.
I was born and spent the early years of my childhood in Luck now. My father was an academician and hence instilled discipline and love for acquiring knowledge in me. Ours was a joint family and, I happened to be the youngest so there was no one my age to play with. Books became my childhood companions and my inclination towards literature increased more when I was put into a boarding school.
Tell us about your Education.
Got my primary education in Lucknow and when my father became principal we moved to Dewas. I completed my Intermediate from Scindia College and my graduation from Hamidia College, Bhopal. My master’s in English literature I completed from Allahabad University. Here I had as my teacher Prof Yadupati Sahay, who was the brother of renowned Urdu poet Firaq Gorakhpuri’s (Raghupati Sahai) who also taught at the University. His awe-inspiring personality impressed me a lot and I feel so privileged to have known him, even though from a distance.
Tell us about your early writings.
Seems I enjoyed expressing myself in words right from my childhood. My Pen has been my constant companion. In my college days, it earned me my pocket money as those days my poems and stories were published in Hindi publications and I was also invited for recitation at the All India Radio. When I was doing my master from Allahabad University my poems got me popularity and I had a good fan following. The money I earned from my writing helped me pay my bills at the coffee house.
What kind of poetry did you write in your college days?
Obviously at that age one could and should write Romantic poetry, and that is what I wrote. It got me a lot of attention , especially from the opposite sex.
You had cleared the Indian Police Service (IPS) but you quit. Why?
Yes I had been selected for the IPS and was posted as ASP, Faizabad, but I resigned. The thought of spending the next four decades of my life surrounded by criminals scared me, it was not my cup of tea. I was later selected in the Indian Railway Accounts Service and I are so happy that I made this decision.
Tell us about your very interesting meeting with your life partner
Nisha was in the Customs and Narcotics Department and was posted in Bhopal. Our batch went there for some training program and I met her. It was love at first sight. Even after changing many spectacles no, my love for her remains the same. I made the right choice. She has been my life’s inspiration.
But how come you never dedicate any book to your inspiration?
I write satire, how I can dedicate it to her, but all my romantic poetry, most of it was written before I met her, I would like to dedicate to her.
Jokes apart, it is true that Nisha has been the most supportive and encouraging life companion I could have asked for. It is she who has seen my pain and my tears which I never let the outside world see. This journey of life would not have been so satisfactory, so rewarding if Nisha was not my wife.
How did you switch to writing satire?
I wrote my first satirical piece in 1975-76 during the emergency. I was posted in Varanasi. I think as a government servant you see a lot happening around you that you have to ignore and keep your mouth shut. It kind of suffocates you. I tried to hit at the system, all that needed to be changed both in humans and in society, and that I did through my satire. My first prominent book was Afsar ki Maut. It was a satire on bureaucracy and was much appreciated.
How difficult was it to attack the government policies when you were within the system?
Well it could have been difficult but I suppose it was not because that was an era of tolerance and secondly the fact that bureaucrats of that time never bothered much about the vermicular press also helped me. On my part, I took care not to attract too much attention and remained low profile as far as my work was concerned. That helped a lot, my books were appreciated, many got reprinted several times but I remained behind the curtain and did not seek the limelight.
How did you manage to get your books released by dignitaries like President Shankar Dayal Sharma, and Union Minister Madhav Rao Scindia who was union minister then.
Six of my books were released by Dr. Sharma, he was my father’s friend and I had my Bhopal connection too. He did ask me once how come I write against the system while being in the system and I had given him the same answer.
Two of my books were released by Scindia, I suppose he did so out of respect and never questioned the content as he was my junior in Scindia College.
What about your satire on politicians?
Incompetent political leadership has always disturbed me but somehow I never got to writing on this aspect until just a few years back. There is nothing more disgusting then politicians who on an are anti-people attitude though they are public servants.
In these years you have been bestowed with many prestigious awards. Do tell us about them.
I have received the UP Government Yash Bharati award, Sharad Joshi award from MP government and so many more, Each award has made me more humble and made me devote more time to my writing.
Your friends and the associate list reads like a Who’s Who.
My friends are my lifeline and many of them have been with me for decades Like for instant Ex-Governor and veteran Congress leader Aziz Qureshi, late journalist Anees Jung. I was fortunate to enjoy the company of Kishan Maharaj, Bismillah Khan Sahib, Sitara Devi. My Posting in Varanasi brought me in contact with these legendary souls. I feel enriched by having been in their company.
Are you happy you chose Hindi as a medium of satire writing
100 percent. But it pains me that the vernacular writers are so poorly paid and that they have to survive on hand-to-mouth existence. For me, writing was a passion and so remuneration did not matter.
By Kulsum Mustafa