April 16, 2008 10:59:36 pm
True to the title of his novel Inhin Hathiyaron Se, which fetched him the Sahitya Akademi Award in 2007, octogenarian Amar Kant is fighting against penury. And his only weapon is his pen.
The internationally acclaimed Hindi litterateur, who had also participated in India’s freedom struggle, is ailing and penniless. He has already sold his original manuscripts at throwaway prices and may now be forced to sell his awards and mementos so that he can buy food and medicines.
“I have sold my works to publishers, who have cheated me and have not paid the money. I am ready to sell all my awards, including the Sahitya Academy Award. I need money to survive,” Kant says.
The publishers, who used to make a beeline for the rights to Kant’s books and novels, are now allegedly not paying him royalties earned through the sale of his works Sukha Patta, Kale-Ujale, Bich Ki Diwar and Desh Ke Log.
However, even at the age of 82, Kant stands upright “as a living symbol of protest and voice of dissent”. He does not want people to empathise with him and offer charity. Instead, he wants the Government to provide him his rightful “due”.
“I have served the country for long with my works, now I want the Government to serve me,” he says.
Kant suffers from osteomyelitis — an infection of bones caused by bacteria. He can’t even hold the pen and has been advised complete bed rest. “He has multiple fractures and even a slight jerk can pose a serious threat to his life,” says his son Arvind Bindu, who writes as his father dictates.
With no one else to take care of Kant, Bindu is occupied full time in looking after his father and has no other occupation. So, Kant has to keep on writing to make two ends meet. Depending on the number of writings published in a month, he can barely get by. With his medical expenses running up to Rs 5,000 a month, treatment is a far cry. Kant has written to various authorities for grant for monetary aid, but to no avail.
The state Government that honoured him with the Mahatma Gandhi Award and the Sahitya Bhushan has not come forward to help him. Kant is also a Soviet Land Nehru Award winner, and his books are still taught in several universities in Russia, Japan and India.
Recalling his freedom struggle days, Kant says: “I was very young and was an Intermediate student in the Ewing Christian School when I left studies and jumped into the struggle for Independence.” He never claimed the pension given to freedom fighters of the country. Many believe it is because he refused to compromise with the system that he had to wait for 30 years for the Sahitya Akademi Award.
“It is a matter of shame for the Government and Hindi organisations that such a great writer is in such financial crisis in the last phase of his life,” says Doodhnath Singh, another famous writer.
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