Gautam Sachdev (8 June 1939 – 29 June 2012)
Year : 2013
By Lalit Mohan Joshi (This obituary was carried by the Guardian, London on 26 July 2012)
Gautam Sachdev, who has died aged 73, was Britain’s leading Hindi litterateur. Besides wielding a facile pen, he was my friend, philosopher and guide. Indeed, there are many who turned to him for advice on literary, cultural, intellectual as well as personal issues. In the 1980s he was an ace BBC Hindi broadcaster whose flagship Hindi magazine programme ‘Hamse Poochiye’ (Ask Us) had millions of listeners in India and other parts of the world. Many Indian civil servants admit preparing for India’s prestigious Indian Administrative Service (IAS) entrance examination by regular listening to his programmes.
My relationship with Sachdev grew after I joined BBC Hindi Service in the late 1980s. What brought us close were our long discussions in the Bush House canteen on Indian literature, theatre and cinema. Over the last decade it was amazing to see him effortlessly churning out either a book of poetry, stories or essays, year after year.
Born in Warburton, Punjab (now in Pakistan) in undivided India on June 8, 1939, Sachdev along with his family migrated to India during the tragic partition of the country in 1947. Many of his poems and stories reflect the trauma of Partition. Years later, Sachdev recalled how his father had to hastily abandon his flourishing business overnight amidst riots in Warburton and start from scratch in Delhi. His story collection ‘Sadhe Saat Darzan Pinjare’ (Seven and a Half Dozen Cages, 2005) contains many stories that deal with this trauma.
Sachdev started his career as a Hindi Lecturer at the University of Delhi. His Ph.D. thesis dealt with the narrative and diction of famous Indian author Munshi Premchand and is acclaimed as a seminal work on Hindi literature. Sachdev started as a Hindi broadcaster at BBC Bush House, London in the early 1980s and soon carved a special niche for himself due to his original style, content and analysis.
Sachdev’s literary writings continued during and after his Bush House career. He is well-known for his poetry collection – ‘Suraj Ki Pankhudiyan’ (Petals of the Sun, 2011), ‘Triveni’ (Three Strands, 2009), ‘Boond Akash’ (Bits of the Sky, 2006), ‘Ek Aur Atmasamarpan’ (Another Self-dedication, 2000) and ‘Adhar Ka Pul’ (A Bridge Without A Base, 1996). His poetry and story collections will endure since they document the cultural conflicts of the second generation South Asians living in Britain.
Sachdev’s fiction also exposes the hidden malaise of traditional Indian society. Sachdev was a regular columnist for Dainik Jagran, a well-known Indian newspaper in Hindi language. A man of many talents, Sachdev was a painter, an amateur singer and an original thinker. He was a culturally alive individual and was the Vice-Chair of the London-based film education charity, the South Asian Cinema Foundation (SACF). He is survived by his wife Manju, his two sons Rahul and Anshul and a daughter Divya.
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