Nirmal Verma: Extraordinary Writer of the Ordinary


Nirmal Verma: Extraordinary Writer of the Ordinary

Illustration: Akshita Monga/Arré


he obscurity of Shimla’s Kaithu area can be adjudged from the fact that it was most recently in the news for a leopard’s nonchalant stroll down a walkway in broad daylight, of which, the area receives a modest supply. Kaithu sits in the shadow of Shimla’s central hill, Elysium, below the main road, at a comfortable distance from both casual approach and coincidence. I was, I think 22, when I discovered that novelist Nirmal Verma was born and brought up in a little home on the second floor of a Raj-era house in Kaithu.

A couple of days later, when I tried to look for his books in the only two bookstores in town, I couldn’t find any. Not one. Anonymity had consumed Verma in his place of birth, completely at odds with the stature he had earned in Indian literature. In death, Verma had become one of his own people: Somewhere and nowhere at the same time, feet dragging in a quest for the self, a lingering sense of un-belonging. I say people and not character because that is what Verma wrote – people.