In this fascinating video by journalist Shekhar Gupta on the recent controversy of Bloomsbury India retracting its contract for Delhi Riots 2020 Mr Gupta made a reference to the very first book that generated a controversy and unfortunately resulted in the murder of the publisher, Shri Rajpal. He was the founder of the eminent Hindi publishing firm, Rajpal & Sons. It was founded in Lahore but after Independence in 1947, the firm was resurrected in Delhi by the late Shri Rajpal’s sons, Vishwanath and Dinanath Malhotra.
Pranav Johri shared the following citation that the International Publishers Association had posthumously awarded his great grandfather Shri Rajpal. It is called “IPA Special Award Dare to Publish”.
Coincidentally earlier this week I saw a video that Meera Johri recorded. It is a fabulous talk remembering her father, Mr Vishwanath Malhotra ( 1920 – 2013) and his contribution to the world of Hindi publishing. It was his centenary on 27 July 2020. It is an extraordinary talk for not only does it commemorate a legendary publisher but it also gives a bird’s-eye vew of Hindi literature over the decades. Some of the stalwarts of Hindi literary world were published by Rajpal & Sons and those backlists continue to remain alive. Mr Vishwanath Malhotra was responsible for not only keeping Rajpal & Sons functioning after 1947, but he was also responsible for the establishment of Hind Pocket Books and later Orient Paperbacks. He founded Hind Pocket Books with his younger brother, Dinanath Malhotra ( D. N. Malhotra), another legendary publisher. Due to the immense foresight of the two brothers, they decided to split their assets in their lifetimes and not leave messy legacies for their heirs. So D. N. Malhotra managed Hind Pocket Books. It was ultimately sold to Penguin Random House India in 2016. Mr Vishwanath Malhotra managed Rajpal & Sons and Orient Paperbacks and these firms were later inherited by his heirs.
To commemorate the legendary publisher, Rajpal & Sons is kickstarting a year long celebration by organising events. For now these will be online given the unusual circumstances the Covid19 pandemic has imposed upon everyone. Later this evening, the publishers are organising a session where eminent poets from India and Pakistan will be reciting their poetry. It will be LIVE on the Rajpal & Sons Facebook page and later a recording of the session will be available as well.
This is what Meera Johri says “Rajpal & Sons was established in Lahore by my grandfather. Though in 1947 my father had to leave Lahore, but all his life he retained great love for Lahore. So that’s one reason to do this mushaira of shayars from across the border. Secondly our publishing house was the pioneer in making available Urdu shayari in devnagri script, and this series on Urdu shayari continues to sell well even six decades after its introduction.
And last year we launched a new series called “Sarhad ke Aar Paar ki Shayari” . Each book features one shayar each from Pakistan and India, because we believe that while borders may physically distance and demarcate us , our language and literature is a shared heritage which must not be divided. So really it’s a celebration of our shared heritage.”
Rajpal & Sons has been in existence for more than a hundred years. They have a formidable backlist but their frontlist continues to grow. They adapt with the times. They won the first Romain Rolland Prize instituted by the French Institute of India to award a translation into an Indian regional language from French. The firm won it for Main Gumshuda– a translation of Rue des boutiques obscures by Patrick Modiano. It was translated into Hindi by Monica Singh.
Rajpal & Sons recently announced the Rajpal Audiobook store and the Rajpal ebook store too.
The hallmark of a good publishing house is that they do not necessarily rest on their laurels but adapt with the times. More so with the changing reading appetites of their readers. Rajpal & Sons is doing exactly that!
27 August 2020