RAJENDRA YADAV’s views on old age and history are inseparable. “I don’t suffer from nostalgia. People who reminisce about past greatness and a golden age are making it all up,” he announces. “People don’t learn from history, only from mistakes. I don’t believe in looking backwards. Vision means looking towards the future.”
The enfant terrible of Hindi literature, for whom ‘values’ are “a disciplinary way to protect status quo,” has always been a merciless critic of hypocrisy, whether in the realm of class, caste, gender or sex. The blowback has included accusations of sexism, misogyny and politicking, as well as a 2004 biography titled Hamare Yug ka Khalnayak (The Villain of Our Age). But moral outrage bounces off him.
“I always knew the old person I didn’t want to be – the kind who goes on about his sacrifices, doing khich-khich all day, nagging female relatives,” he says. A painful sciatic nerve makes movement difficult, but he remains mentally agile. His days go in managing Hans, Premchand’s literary journal that he revived in 1986. Evenings can mean a literary event or meeting friends for drinks and gossip. He’s fond of watching television and is quite enjoying Sach ka Saamna these days. Ask him about old age and he has a joke ready: “Someone asked an 80-yearold woman, ‘Amma, do sexual desires disappear with age?’ She replied innocently, ‘How can I say? I’m only 80!’”