Upendranath Ashk

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Upendranath Ashk
Born 14 December 1910
Jalandhar, Punjab, British India
Died 19 January 1996(1996-01-19) (aged 85)
Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, India
Occupation novelist, short story writer and playwright
Awards Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1965), Soviet Land Nehru Award (1972), Iqbal Award (1996)[1]

Upendranath Ashk (Urdu:اپندر ناتھ اشک, Hindi: उपेन्द्रनाथ अश्क), (14 December 1910 – 19 January 1996)[2][3][4] was an Indian novelist, short story writer and playwright.[5] He was born in Jalandhar, Punjab.[6] In 1933 he wrote his second short story collection in Urdu called Aurat Ki Fitrat, the foreword of which was written by Munshi Premchand. Ashk began his literary career writing in Urdu but he switched to Hindi on the advice of Munshi Premchand. He joined All India Radio in 1941[5] where Krishan Chander, Patras Bokhari and Saadat Hasan Manto[7][8] were among his colleagues. He settled in Allahabad in the late 40's.[9] He was the first Hindi dramatist[1] to receive the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for playwriting in 1965.[10]


Early life[edit]

Upendranath Ashk was born Upendranath Sharma to a Saraswat Brahmin[11] family in Jalandhar, Panjab. Ashk began composing Panjabi couplets at the age of 11,[12] and began writing in Urdu in 1926, under the tutelage of the Jalandhari poet Mohammad Ali "Azar'. His first Urdu poem was published in the Sunday supplement of the popular Lahore-based Urdu daily Milap. In 1930, while still in college, he published his first collection of short stories, titled Nau Ratan. It was during this phase that he adopted the nom de plume 'Ashk' ('teardrop' in Urdu) in keeping with the Urdu tradition of taking a takhallus. The takhallus was chosen in honour of a childhood friend, whose death left a lasting impression on him. After graduating from college in 1931, Ashk taught at his alma mater for a few months before leaving for Lahore with the poet-journalist Mela Ram "Wafa". For the next three years he worked for Lala Lajpat Rai's newspaper Vande Mataram as a reporter, and then worked his way up as a translator and then assistant editor for the Daily Veer Bharat and the weekly Bhoochal. During this time he continued to publish poems and short stories in local journals. He also married his first wife, Sheela Devi, in 1932. In 1932, on the advice of the celebrated Hindi author Premchand with whom he maintained a correspondence, Ashk switched to writing in Hindi, painstakingly writing each story in Urdu first and then translating it into Hindi. His second collection of short stories, Aurat ki Fitrat, was published in Hindi in 1933, with an introduction by Premchand. In 1934, financial and other problems in his family made Ashk decide that he must adopt a more secure career path. He resolved to study for a law degree and become a sub-judge. But just as he completed his degree, his wife, Sheela Devi, died from tuberculosis. In a state of profound grief, Ashk abandoned his plan to enter the legal profession and resolved to become a full-time independent author. At this juncture he also resolved to write realistically about suffering and poverty. In 1936, he published the short story "Ḍāchī" which was considered a milestone in progressive realism in Hindi-Urdu fiction.

His son, Neelabh Ashk, was also a poet and translator.[13]

Work for All India Radio[edit]

In 1941, after living for two years at the commune Preetnagar near Amritsar, where he edited the Hindi-Urdu journal Preet Lari, Ashk was hired at All India Radio (AIR) as a playwright and Hindi adviser. Other notable writers associated with AIR at that time included Sa'adat Hasan Manto, Khwaja Ahmad Abbas, Miraji, Rashid, Krishan Chander and Rajinder Singh Bedi. Also living in Delhi at the time were Hindi authors Agyeya, Shivdan Singh Chauhan, Jainendra Kumar, Banarsi Das Chaturvedi, Vishnu Prabhakar and Girija Kumar Mathur. During this period, Ashk began work on his semi-autobiographical novel Girtī Dīvārẽ ('Falling Walls'). In 1941, Ashk also separated from his second wife with whom he had had a short-lived marriage, and married Kaushalya Devi.

Work for Filmistan[edit]

In 1944, Ashk moved to Bombay, where he began as a dialogue and screenplay writer for the production company Filmistan. At Filmistan, Ashk worked closely with Shashdhar Mukherji and the director Nitin Bose. He wrote dialogues, stories and songs and even acted in two films: Mazdoor, directed by Nitin Bose, and Aath Din, directed by Ashok Kumar. While in Bombay, Ashk became involved with IPTA and wrote one of his most noted plays, Tūfān se Pahale, which was produced for the stage by Balraj Sahni. The play, which was critical of communalism, was later banned by the British government. In 1946, Ashk contracted Tuberculosis and in early 1947, he was moved the Bel Air Sanatorium in Panchgani. Ashk remained in the sanatorium for two years, during which time Girtī Dīvārẽ was first published, in 1947, and he also composed his well-known poem "Barghad kī Beṭī".

Move to Allahabad[edit]

In 1948, Ashk and the Hindi poet Nirala were each awarded Rs. 5000 by the government of the state of Uttar Pradesh to aid them in recovery from their illnesses. This largesse from the U.P. government encouraged Ashk to move to the literary city of Allahabad, where he would live until his death in 1996.

Selected works[edit]


  • Sitārõ Ke Khel (ستاروں کے کھیل , सितारों के खेल), 1937
  • Girtī Dīvārẽ (گرتی دیواریں , गिरती दीवारें), 1947
  • Garam Rākh (گرم راکھ , गर्म राख), 1952
  • Baṛī-Baṛī Ānkhẽ (بڑی بڑی آنکھیں , बड़ी बड़ी आँखें), 1954

Short story collections[edit]

  • Judāī Kī Shām Ke Gīt (جدائی کی شام کے گیت, जुदाई की शाम के गीत), 1933
  • Kāle Sāhab (کالے صاحب, काले साहब), 1950


  • Jay Parājay (جیہ پراجے , जय पराजय), 1937
  • Swarg Kī Jhalak (سورگ کی سھلک , स्वर्ग की झलक), 1938
  • Lakṣmī Kā Swāgat (لکشمی کا سواگت , लक्ष्मी का स्वागत),1941–43
  • Qaid (قید , क़ैद), 1943–45
  • Uṛān (اڑان , उड़ान), 1943–45
  • Alag-Alag Rāste (الگ الگ راستے , अलग अलग रास्ते), 1944–53
  • Chaṭhā Beṭā (چھٹا بیٹا , छठा बेटा), 1948
  • Anjo Dīdī (انجو دیدی, अंजो दीदी), 1953–54

Collections of poems[edit]

  • Dīp Jalegā (دیپ جلے گا , दीप जलेगा), 1950
  • Chāndnī Rāt Aur Ajgar (چاندنی رات اور اژگر , चांदनी रात और अजगर), 1952


  • Manṭ̣o Merā Dushman (منٹو میرا دشمں , मंटो मेरा दुश्मन), 1956
  • Chehre Anek (چہرے انیک , चेहेरे अनेक), 1985

Further reading[edit]

  • Romesh K. Shonek, Upendra Nath Ashk: A Brief Biography and the Theme of Society and Self in His Semi-autobiographical Trilogy, 1975
  • Diana Dimitrova: Upendranāth Aśk's dramatic work : women and gender in modern Hindi drama as revealed in the plays of Upendranāth Aśk, Heidelberg 2000 (Thesis)
  • Diana Dimitrova, Western Tradition and Naturalistic Hindi Theatre, Peter Lang. ISBN 978-0-8204-6822-8.
  • Daisy Rockwell, Upendranath Ashk: A Critical Biography, Katha, 2004. ISBN 978-81-89020-02-6


  1. ^ a b "Upendra Nath Ashk". HarperCollins Publishers India. Retrieved 15 January 2013. 
  2. ^ [1] INDIAN COUNCIL FOR CULTURAL RELATIONS, Annual Report April 2010 – March 2011
  3. ^ "Ashk, Upendra Nath". Retrieved 14 January 2013. 
  4. ^ Kuldip Kalia (30 January 2000). "Atal Behari Bajpai you said?". The Tribune, Chandigarh, India. Retrieved 14 January 2013. 
  5. ^ a b Amaresh Datta (1987). Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature: A-Devo. Sahitya Akademi. p. 244. ISBN 978-81-260-1803-1. Retrieved 15 January 2013. 
  6. ^ "Upendranath Ashk". Retrieved 14 January 2013. 
  7. ^ Sisir Kumar Das (1 January 1995). History of Indian Literature: 1911–1956, struggle for freedom : triumph and tragedy. Sahitya Akademi. pp. 169–. ISBN 978-81-7201-798-9. Retrieved 17 January 2013. 
  8. ^ "'Main chalta phirta Bumbai hoon': Manto and Mumbai". IBN Live. 
  9. ^ Shamsur Rahman Faruqi. "Urdu and Persian Literature in Allahabad". Retrieved 16 January 2013. 
  10. ^ "Theatre – Playwriting (Language-wise) – Hindi". Sangeet Natak Akademi. 
  11. ^ Daisy Rockwell; Kathā (Society) (30 March 2004). Upendranath Ashk: a critical biography. Katha. ISBN 978-81-89020-00-2. Retrieved 18 January 2013. 
  12. ^ Ashk, Upendranath (1988). Ashk 75. Neelabh Prakashan. 
  13. ^ "Tongue Twisters - Indian Express". archive.indianexpress.com. Retrieved 2016-07-23.