Prof. Dev Nath Pathak (South Asian University)

Paper Title:

 A ‘Ghummakad’ of Modern Mithila: An Interpretative Reading of Nagarjun’s Literary and Socio-Political Personhood

Paper Abstract:

Baidyanath Mishra (1911-1998) earned popularity and literary fame with his pen names such as Yatri and Nagarjun. Though fondly and popularly known as Baba Nagarjun amongst his admirers, the prefix yatri, literally meaning traveller, sums up the life and works, practice and perspectives, of the modern litterateur in twentieth century Mithila who wrote prose and poetry in Hindi, Maithili and Sanskrit. Figuratively and literally a yatri, Nagarjun switched from his identification with sanatan Hindu dharm (the Hindu conventions), accepting influences from the Arya Samaj, to Buddhism in terms of his socio-religious orientation. He never shied away from changing politico-ideological affiliations too. Recognising Rahul Sankrityayan (1893-1963) as his significant predecessor, following gumakkadi as a mode of seeing, cognising and understanding, Nagarjun, also known as a jankavi (people’s poet) made valuable contribution to literary public sphere in Hindi and Maithili with his novels, stories, and poems that chronicled the sociocultural subjectivities, lives and historical-material conditions in Mithila and sharpened the questions which hitherto hold political relevance. The life and works of Nagarjun, a modern man with a mendicant’s personality, fluid identity, and a wanderer’s spirit solicits an interpretative engagement. Arguably, a larger than the literal meaning of the word, ‘purush’ of Nagarjun reveals an alliance with this-world rather than an ambition to arrive at the other-world. Hence, the life and works of Nagarjun mirrors his headlong participation in the socio-political movements and awareness of the social-structural anomalies. This paper interpretatively stitches the many identifications of Nagarjun to decipher the meaning of Nagarjun’s ghummakadpan. The manhood of a ghumakkad obtains such utmost flexibility that there is room for creative ambivalence, rather than a rigidity of a unilinear, singular, monchromatic masculinity, deemed ‘toxic’ in critical feminist discourses. 

Participant Bio:

Dev Nath Pathak is a founding faculty of sociology at South Asian University, New Delhi, and previously taught at Hindu College (University of Delhi), Jamia Millia Islamia, and was a visiting scholar at Brown International Advance Research Institute at Brown University, a Charles Wallace fellow at Queen’s University Belfast, a visiting scholar at Indian Institute of Advance Studies, Shimla, and scholar-in-residence at Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta. His latest book is In Defence of the Ordinary: Everyday Awakenings (2021), after the publication of Living and Dying: Meanings in Maithili Folklore (2019). Besides, he edited  Another South Asia (2017)Culture and Politics in South Asia: Performative Communication (2017); Decoding Visual World: Intersections of Art, Anthropology and Art History in South Asia (2019), Neighbourhoods in Urban India: In Between Home and the World (2021), Seeing South Asia: Visuals Beyond Border (2022).

Additionally, he has authored many articles in reputed peer reviewed journals, and occasionally writes in popular forums such as Scroll, Quint, etc. 

He is also a founding editor of the popular public space on YouTube, Galp Lok.