Altered Realities, New Experiences: Bhisham Sahni, Nirmal Verma, and the “Nayi Kahani” Movement

Madhu Singh
Penn State University Press
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The Nayi Kahani (New Story) movement was a new trend in the post-Independence Hindi short fiction that flourished between 1954 and 1963, with writers like Mohan Rakesh, Bhisham Sahni, Nirmal Verma, Rajendra Yadav, Kamleshwar, and Amarkant among its established practitioners. These writers believed that art could not be alienated from the material world and hence thought and emotion were equally important in the context of Nayi Kahani. Disintegration in middle class families, erosion of values, insecurity, melancholy, loneliness, and anxiety became the major concerns in Hindi short fiction. It was felt that Hindi fiction was experiencing literary modernism with a new shift in the writer's sensibility grown out of the changed social and cultural contexts. However, “New Story” did not share a common ideology, trends, or concerns, but represented and grappled with multiple realities and tendencies. Although critics often linked Sahni and Verma as practitioners of this “new” genre, I argue that as writers of urban sensibilities they apprehended and rendered life experiences differently. Therefore, it is problematic to identify common denominators and fit them in a single mold. As part of my project, I examine select stories to understand how the two writers navigate through time and place to express reality. Finally, I explore how Verma's stories stand at the confluence of “native” and “Western” sensibilities.