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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Mythology of NRI Gujarati writer Madhu Rye

--Tushar Bhatt
The noted writer Madhu Rye, a pioneer in the New Gujarati writing,who lives in the U.S.A. personifies the dilemma of Non-Resident Indians. A modern man of letters, with the twentyfive-odd books, Madhu(68) is an author streets ahead of the contemporary Gujarati writers and more in tune with the West. Madhu knows it and has been making home in New Jersey for more than 25 years now.

The transformation began four decades ago when in 1970 he attended a 2-semester programme in stagecraft techniques at the East West Center at University of Hawaii, Honolulu, USA.It preached minimalist style and Madhu led a movement against the absurdist Gujarati playwriting of that time, for which he is regarded as an alien by Gujarati literati.
Yet, he is perpetually pining for Gujarat,comes home almost every year to soak his inner being with the air of the native land. And, most of his original,creative writing is in Gujarati.
Physically, he loves the comforts and life style of the Yankee land. Mentally, he is at home in the dusty environment of the Desh.Madhu Rye’s homesickness highlighed the common factor among different strata of the first generation NRIs. Educated and aware , like the author or otherwise, all of them are haunted by nostalgia because they grew up in cities,towns and villages of India. Gen Next does not have it.
In Gujarat recently for a month, Madhu Rye deflected questions on why does not he decide to settle down in one place or the other.
Most of us are more generous or sometimes careless when in comes to airing opinions on the affairs of the world, Living in competitive environment of the USA, Madhu still feels financially insecure,and is keen to avoid offending anyone.
Born in Jamkhambhalia, Jamnagar in 1942, he grew up in Kolkata, where his father taught. Renowned Gujarati literary figures in Calcutta such as playwright and novelist Shiv Kumar Joshi and the flamboyant literary figure Chandrakant Bakshi helped him get noticed in Gujarat and Mumbai literary circles where his works promptly won prizes in competitions and state awards thereafter; and his short stories became a fad in the late 1960s.
Moving to Ahmadabad in 1967, he completed his first full-length play, ‘Koipan Ek Phulnu-nu Naam Bolo To’ or `Tell Me the Name of a Flower` . This play used stagecraft to tell a meta-theatrical murder mystery revolving around a young woman caught in her own imaginary myth Radio.
His novel ‘Kimble Ravenswood’ got made into a mini series on the national TV by Ketan Mehta. Rye adapted the same novel into a play in Gujarati ‘Yogesh Patel-nu Vevishal’ and English, ‘Engaging Mr. Patel’).
He got the much-coveted Ranjitram medal for his lifetime achievement in 2000. He has written seven novels, four collections of short stories, eight plays and four collections of one act plays. Based on Madhu Rye’s novel Kimble Ravenswood, director Ashutosh Gowarikar is filming “What’s Your Rashee?’ in Hindi.
Ability to write well is a gift of Nature which has to be nursed meticulously. Good writers not only care for spellings but the exact meaning of the word. Even in that elite league, Madhu who migrated to the USA in 1974, is a tough customer.He writes and rewirtes his copy at least half-a-dozen or more times.
This carefulness has transformed him into an author whose insistence for pristine glory of the langauge is on a par with late Swami Anand. Swami would not agree to publish a book if he found proof-reading less than perfect. It also made him distrust the spoken word, since it cannot be replaced.
Most people become bold when it comes to airing their opinion on the affairs of the world.A stickler for accuracy and meaning of the words, Madhu appears to leads an intellectually miserable existence in the Dollar Land where Gujarati is on the wane.He has become an introvert.
Madhu tries to steer clear of controversies which chase him because he has strong beliefs and opinions. In Surat,he confessed he did not like poetry, especially ghazals and all hell broke lose. It is perhaps the arrogance of a thinking man that leads him to say what he has to say. His detractors are infuriated further when he refuses to enter into a discussion.
Madhu has imbibed Intellectual arrogance of the West.He hides it behind a wooden expression on the face. To a question, who are you,he says he is Madhusudan Vallabhdas Thaker.When told that is name only, he simply says:” I don’t understand your question. Please reply as if I had asked you the same thing.” You feel as frustrated as Rambo might as he tries invain to interrrogate a robot.
How do you discuss the concepts of Brahma ,Brahmanand and Brahmand with him? A smug smile makes him even more enigmatic as if he is whiling away time, waiting for the last train to India.(ENDS)