New Delhi: Biographies of Swami Vivekananda, an account of the Kedarnath catastrophe, self-help books and even a book on the army which has been adapted into a movie. Short stories, non-fiction, travelogues, novels and even poetry. India’s new Human Resource Development Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ has authored all these and more.
The sheer volume of Nishank’s work — 44 books — would put him in the company of a giant of Hindi literature like Munshi Premchand. The fact that he uses a pen-name or nom de plume, ‘Nishank’, would put him in the same bracket as the legendary poets Ramdhari Singh ‘Dinkar’ and Suryakant Tripathi ‘Nirala’.
But they’re hardly works of art — according to scholars and literature connoisseurs, his books are heavy on patriotism, light on literary quality.
Among Nishank’s books on Swami Vivekananda are Himalaya Mein Vivekananda, Karmyogi Vivekananda, Chicago Mein Vivekananda and Mahayogi Vivekananda. His novel Major Nirala was adapted into a film in his home state, produced by his daughter Arushi. Some of his work has been translated into English and other Indian languages as well.
Most of his books have been published by two private publishers — Vani Prakashan and Diamond Books — while government publisher National Book Trust has also brought out some. A large number of books were published between 2009 and 2011, when he was chief minister of Uttarakhand.
‘No literary value’
“The kind of books that Nishank ji has written are nowhere close to being called literature. I have read some of his books, and they seem to have completely different writing styles in different chapters — almost seeming like a compilation,” said a teacher of Hindi literature at Delhi University, who did not wish to be named, of Nishank’s body of work.
“Most of his books got published during the period when he was the CM of Uttarakhand, and the reason they got published is probably because he had connections. No one talks about his ‘literature’ before or after holding an important position.”
A professor of Hindi, who too did not want to be identified, added: “I just know that he is a BJP MP who has now become the HRD minister and wants to be known as an author. But beyond that, I have no idea about his work as a writer. If someone has written 44 books, he should be known in the literary world, but sadly, he is not known.”
A former president of the Sahitya Kala Akademi added: “I have been a part of a literary body, but I have never come across any work by Ramesh Pokhriyal. Maybe it doesn’t have any literary value.”
‘Connects with the people’
However, Dr Chandan Kumar, who also teaches Hindi at Delhi University, is familiar with Nishank’s work, and disagrees with his peers.
“His work might not be literary, but he is definitely someone who connects with people through his writing. The idea of India and patriotism reflects very well through his books,” Kumar told ThePrint.
He added that books like Bheed Sakshi Hai and Pahaad Se Uncha, both novels, “have a connect with the common man, especially Pahaad Se Uncha, which is all about self-confidence”.
Bechain Kandiyal, who handles Nishank’s publishing interests, says his books are commercially successful, and he earns a decent royalty amount from Uttarakhand and the rest of the country.
“His books are sold all over the country and not just in Uttarakhand. He has written many books even before he was the CM of the state,” Kandiyal said.
“Big publishers like Vani Prakashan and Diamond Books have published a number of his books, and they have also displayed and marketed them at book fairs. We keep getting royalty from his books, and recently, one of his books fetched a royalty of Rs 25,000.”