Hindi Literary Stalwart: Mannu Bhandari

Hindi Literary Stalwart: Mannu Bhandari

The author of the most-read novel in India’s history, Mannu Bhandari passed away recently. She was a prolific and popular writer known for writing about women and society.

Early Life

Born in Madhya Pradesh on April 3, 1931, Mannu Ji grew up in a literary household in Ajmer. Her father Sukhsampat Rai, a freedom fighter, put together one of the first English to Hindi and English to Marathi dictionaries.

She received her early education in Ajmer and then graduated from Calcutta University, going on to pursue an M.A degree in Hindi from the Banaras Hindu University. She started her career as a Hindi teacher at Kolkata’s Ballygunge Shiksha Sadan and later taught Hindi literature at Miranda House, Delhi University, till 1991.

Main Haar Gayi published in 1957 was her first individual literary work. Earlier, she had worked on a novel Ek Inch Muskaan, with her husband, Rajendra Yadav.

Hindi Literary Stalwart

Mannu Ji wrote many books, which date back to the late 1950s and early 1960s in India. Her work dealt with Indian society, gender inequality, and the emerging class of educated women.

Through her writing, she challenges the exploitation of women-folk by exposing dangerous attitudes that objectify their sexuality, femininity, and intellect. She created feminine characters who were no-nonsense powerful individuals. She captures the thoughts and feelings of the protagonist, making it easy for readers to relate to them.

Her novel Aapka Bunty (Your Bunty), published in 1971, was a success. The novel depicted the tragedy of a child whose parents have divorced. They are trying to find new ways of relating to each other and to him. Her other most loved novel was Mahabhoj (The Great Feast), published in 1979. It was an eye-opening narration of politics, politicians and crime. It has the power to strip even the most gullible citizen of his/her remaining illusions.

Ek Plate Sailab (1962), Yehi Sach Hai aur Anya Kahaniya (1966), Teen Nigahen Ek Tasveer (1969), and Trishanku (1999) were her other notable works.

Tributes Pour For The Legend

At 90, Mannu Bhandari passed away in a Gurgaon hospital on Monday.

People took to social media to pay their tributes to the legend.

“What one needs to remember is that Mannu Bhandari gave the Hindi literary world heroines that were pragmatic and bold at the same time. They made their own decisions, and they were also working women. This is the 60-70s when Bhandari was writing, this was very new. We had never seen or heard of such heroines before,” said Prabhat Ranjan, Hindi novelist to The Indian Express.

“The quiet heroism of her battle, the odds against women in a hyper-patriarchal society, the small victories of self-assertion and independence, sparkle in her stories and give them resonance even with the passage of time,” said Namita Gokhale to Scroll.in.

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