SumitraNandan Pant was one of the writers in the Indian artistic and intellectual traditions who were initially drawn to Gandhism and Marxism. However, over time, these writers became disenchanted after seeing through the shallow materialistic view of the world and returned to their Indian roots, in pursuit of a deeper meaning and honesty in their art. We can experience Pant’s emotional attachment to Gandhi in certain stray poems of his, proving that he was deeply influenced by him. Quoting few lines from his poem
BAPU KE PRATI:
“Sukh-bhog khojne aate sab,
Aaye tum karne satya khoj;
Jag ki mitti ke putle jan,
Tum aatma ke,man ke manoj!”
All come to find happiness and enjoyment,
You have come to find the truth;
Others are the effigy of the earth,
You are the soul, the mind of the mind.
Pant attempted to recapture the nuances of Gandhian beliefs and values in his different works like Yugant, Yugavani, and Gramya
Yugant (1937), signified the beginning of a new voice, tone, and realization. It can be called a synthetic composition, in which the Gandhian thought stream was clearly formed. It even includes a tinge of patriotism which is evident by the line –
“Jo dekh chuke jivan nishith,ve dekhenge jivan prabhat“
Those who have seen the dark of life will see the light.
His friendship with P.C. Joshi is considered to be one of the prominent events in his life as it attracted him towards a new ideology, namely, Marxism. By Yugavani (1938), Pant tries to amalgamate Gandhism and Marxism. But since the two ideologies do not blend with each other, the poems do not sound cogent. This was the intellectual dilemma faced by many writers between forties and fifties of the twentieth century. Considering the following lines from his poem Naveen Sanskarad from Yugavani:
“Shredi varg mein manav nahi vibhajit.
Dhan bal se ho jahan na jan shram shoshad”
Human beings should not be divided on the basis of caste and creed,
Money should be earned by hard work and there shouldn’t be public labour exploitation.
The lines clearly display his Marxist thoughts, condemning against the persecution of the Proletariat (working class) by the Bourgeoisie (capitalist class). It stresses upon the slogan: “from each according to his ability to each according to his needs” popularised by Karl Marx.
In Gramya (1940), many poems have been inspired by Mahatma Gandhi. For instance, Bapu, Ahimsa, Charakha Song and Mahatma ji. It is written in khadi boli Hindi and depicts a change in genre from neo-romanticism to Marxism. In it, Pant tends to foreground the problems of rural life in relation to the reality. Lokayatan (1964), which was Sumitra Nandan Pant’s last voluminous work showcases his magnificent writing. He gives, not only an emotional equivalent of Gandhian concepts but also provides us with vignettes of splendid charm depicting distinctive aspects of the perspective of Indian life. Some of the lines are quoted below in translation:
“Now Gandhian blooms in my heart
An auspicious light like the lotus
It transcends age, death and mortal fears
A gift of love, renunciation, compassion
To an age dead under atomic threat
A gift to make us interiorized peacefully
An eternal creation”
By the year 1936, the Hindi writers had begun to feel that their poetry had entered a cul-de-sac. And so, a new epoch in Hindi poetry began after 1936 when the Progressive Writers’ Conference met under the chairmanship of Premchand. They decided to give a call for creating a new order of sensibility. Hence, class-consciousness entered the mind of the literature. It was a foreign concept. One of Pant’s stray poems, garaj gagan ke gan (1920), carries the suggestion of class-consciousness. In layman terms, class consciousness refers to the beliefs that a person holds regarding his or her social class or economic rank in society and the class interests. The term finds its importance in political theories, particularly Marxism. There is no doubt that the “Progressive literature was a concept which was clearly Marxist in nature”. There were certain Soviet, leftist English and European writers who fed the flow of this movement. It is appropriate to mention here the names of the Soviet writers: Gorky and Mayakovsky, who were quite popular in India.
As told to G . Edward Griffin:
Yuri Bezmenov, a former Soviet spy, identified Sumitra Nandan Pant as one of the “useful idiots”, whom Bezmenov had recruited to collaborate with the Soviet Union in order to propagate Soviet interests and mindset in India. Yuri was directed to slowly but surely establish the Soviet sphere of influence in India. Pant was so moved by the Soviet System that he penned a panegyric which had a hint of sycophancy entitled Rhapsody to Lenin. Since the then-government was embracing Soviet Communism, it was evident that it would extend state patronage to leftist and “progressive” thinkers, writers and poets. Hence, it was common to see the artists of that time disseminating this ideology.
Sumitra Nandan Pant’s progressive poems apparently attempted to overcome the conflict of ideas provided by Gandhi and Marx. The delineation of society in the progressive literature was of utmost importance. While the romantic poets had made imagination, the base of their poetry; the progressive poets, on the other hand, accepted realism as the key point of their art. Needless to say, Sumitra Nandan Pant favored realism and it is evident from the following lines taken from his poem Taj:
“Haye! Mrityu ka aisa amar, aparthiv poojan?
Jab vishnan,nirjeev pada ho jag ka jeevan!”
Which means :
Oh! Such immortal, indescribable worship of death?
When the disgusting, uninhabited life is the life of the world!
All in all, his poetry, despite its shifts under different movements, did not altogether free itself from the Chhayawadi (the era of neo-romanticism in Hindi Literature) imagery and the tender symbols of the power of love and beauty.