Death is a great equalizer. Or perhaps not.
For the first time in the many years of my living, I saw my dad shedding a tear for a dear friend lost into anonymity forever perhaps. His friendship for the last 30 years or so with ‘Jha uncle’ was something he didn’t discuss very often. But it remained, especially spoken of when he would talk about his days of struggle in Delhi. How they did masters in Mass Communications together both in their mid fifties with the gusto of three 20 year olds. Sometimes, every now and then he would mention how the man single handedly made a ‘rags to riches story’ for himself. ‘Riches’, not in the way you would want the story to be, his life was rich, in ways only an artist would want it to be. Arun Prakash ji, or Jha uncle as we remember him, was a man of strong convictions. Someone who lost his father very early in his life, he struggled, educated himself, wrote and retired as quite a well known hindi writer in the last 30 years. He was also the editor of “Samkaleen Bhartiya Sahitya”, the hindi version of “Modern Indian Literature” a bimonthly magazine with poetry and literature from Indian poets and writers across the country.
He established himself as a writer with a strong sense of roots to the Indian setting. With surrealistic approach to the pains and struggles in India, he wrote both about the urban and the rural India. Whether it be the controversial ‘Abhisamragya’ based on the slums of Delhi, or ‘Bhaiyya Express’ based in the riot and terrorism struck Punjab, he made his mark, not wanting fame or fortune, but for the pure pleasure of writing. I am not claiming to have read all his work, but some of his work that I have read leaves a mark, just like his life did on my father’s.
"Arun Prakash wrote a few short stories and only three novels. But he was noticed by avid readers, critics as someone who ushered in the beautiful people of Biha, their simplicity, love of life. The day I read Bhaia Express I felt this is the best story on Punjab and terrorism ever written. Then I read his story Bisham Rag. The maid servant living in a jhuggi came alive with her passionate love, and immense mental strength.So were his other stories: Jal Prantar, Gaj Puran etc. I translated two of his short stories into Bangla and the response I received was mind boggling.He was my friend for 25 years. But even today I don't understand how he gathered the strength to defy his own pain, sufferings and bring out the positive side of life amidst penury, deprivation and exploitation.Arun Prakash, eminent writer in Hindi and editor of Samakaleen Bharatiya Sahitya passed away on 18th June, 2011."