Gopal Chaturvedi, The Iconic Satirist Whose Old-World Charm Is Still Fresh And Infectious
His humility is so real and his welcome is warm and spirited. There is something so endearing about him that it transports you back into the old-world charm. Octogenarian GOPAL CHATURVEDI, is Hindi luminous satirist. He creates magic with words. Devoid of blatant, uncouth expressions, satire is like a sharp spear laced with velvety satin cover.
In this tenor peppered with humor, he exposes vices, corruption, and red-tape like no one. Throughout the interview, he used expressions, one-liners that gave glimpses of his strong grip on the language.
He proved that age is but a number and a writer never gets old but is only seasoned as years go by. This iconic satirist, who has seen eight 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.
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 Lucknow. My father was into academics and hence instilled discipline and love for acquiring knowledge in me. As ours was a joint family and, I happened to be the youngest among the children there was no one my age to play with. So books became my childhood companions. My years at boarding school also enhanced my love for literature.
Tell us about your Education.
My primary education was in Lucknow and then when my father became principal we moved to Dewas. I completed my Intermediate from Scindia College and my graduation from Hamidia College, Bhopal. My masters 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 Sahay) Firaq Sahib also taught at the University. His awe-inspiring personality impressed me a lot and I feel so privileged to have known him, even from a distance.
Tell us about your early writings?
Seems I enjoyed expressing myself in words. My Pen has been my constant companion. In college days, it earned me my pocket money as those days my poems and were published in Hindi publications and I was also called for recitation at All India Radio.
When I was doing my masters from Allahabad University it helped me get popularity and I had a fan following. The money I got helped me pay my bills at the coffee house.
What kind of poetry did you write in your college days?
Obviously Romantic poetry was my passion. It got me a lot of attention even from the opposite sex. “us umr may to yeh hi likhna accha lagta tha"‘( at that age one enjoyed writing that kind of poetry only)
You had cleared the Indian Police service but you quit. Why?
Yes, I had cleared IPS exams and was posted as ASP, Faizabad but I resigned. The thought of spending the next four decades of my life surrounded by criminals did not appeal to me. So I resigned. I was later selected in the Indian Railway Accounts Service and I am so happy that I made this decision because I know my temperament was not suited for the police job. More so Had I not quit and joined IRAS I would not have to meet Nisha who became my life companion.
Tell us about this very interesting “destiny meet”
Nisha was in Customs and Narcotics and 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.
That is so wonderful to hear. But why did you never dedicate any book to your inspiration?
I write satire, how can I dedicate it to her, he says with a loud guffaw. All my romantic poems before I met her I would like to dedicate to her.
Jokes apart she 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 had not been my wife.
What about 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 lead to political satire. There is nothing more disgusting than politicians who are anti-people in their ruling.
In these years you have given so many Books and have been bestowed with many prestigious awards. Do tell us about them.
I have received the UP Govt Yash Bharati, Sharad Joshi award from MP government Subramanyam Arad from Kendriya Hindi Sansthan, Vyangshree from Hindi Sansthan Etc.
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 choose Hindi as a medium of 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.
With this, we come to the end of this interview. Gopal Chaturvedi’s satire I noticed is often his defense and his often humor hides his pain. The pain of having lost his only son Sandeep in the prime of his life. Try asking him about his son and he will so artfully switch the topic.
He will instead start talking about his journalist daughter Swati and how when he had gone to invite President Dr. Sharma for the wedding Dr. Sharma refused the invite and said he would like the couple to capture all the attention on their D Day and if he attended the function the attention would be diverted. The President instead invited the bride and groom and their families to have breakfast with him at Rashtrapati Bhawan. What a gesture!
(The interviewer is a senior journalist and steady contributor for many media outlets of the country. She is widely respected for her passion-driven reporting of social causes, news features, interviews and development journalism reportage.)