Author Geetanjali Shree created history when the International Booker Prize was awarded to her novel, ‘Tomb of Sand.’ The novel was originally written as ‘Ret Samadhi’ in Hindi by India’s Rajkamal Prakashan. It was translated into English by Daisy Rockwell and the translation was published by UK-based Tilted Axis Press. Ashok Maheshwari, Managing Director – Rajkamal Prakashan, who was present at the International Booker Prize ceremony as well as the Hay Festival, rejoices, “Being selected for the International Booker Prize for ‘Ret-Samadhi’ is a special achievement for literature being written in all Indian languages including Hindi. This further establishes that the excellent writing in Hindi and other Indian languages is rapidly attracting the attention of a global audience.” He further adds, “As readers and reviewers, we should not hesitate to talk about works that mark a departure. Writers should also not hesitate to talk about their creations.”

What makes Geetanjali Shree’s triumph even more special for Rajkamal Prakashan is the fact that this year also marks the 75th year of the publication’s operation. As Managing Director – Rajkamal Prakashan, Ashok Maheshwari has also brought out Hindi translations of several classics of world literature, including the ones by Gabriel García Márquez, Roberto Calasso, Nadine Gordimer, Camilo José Cela, Milan Kundera, Choi In-hun, Amin Maalouf, Atiq Rahimi, and Stephen Hawking, among many others. Maheshwari has played a pivotal role in the promotion of Hindi language in the country. He has published more than 7,000 Hindi books, including books written by great personalities and statesmen of the country.
Evidently, Rajkamal Prakashan’s history is actually the history of modern Hindi language and literature. “In 75 years of our journey, we have regularly published literary geniuses and our catalogue is testimony to the writings we publish. Rajkamal Prakashan’s literary legacy includes a host of literary greats such as Phanishwar Nath Renu, Sumitra Nandan Pant, Harivansh Rai Bachchan, Bhagwati Charan Verma, Nirala, Nagarjun, Shamsher Bahadur Singh, Trilochan, Muktibodh, Bhism Sahni, Shiv Pujan Sahay, Rahi Masoom Raza, Mohan Rakesh, Javed Akhtar, and many such names,” explains Maheshwari who has been bestowed with several prestigious accolades such as Gyan Prakash Award, Vidya Bharti Samman, Federation of Indian Publishers Award, and Utkarsh Samman, among others.
Coming into form in the pre-twilight of India’s freedom in 1947, Rajkamal Prakashan ushered in a literary movement that provided voice to the voiceless. “Rajkamal Prakashan’s journey started a few months before the Indian Independence. Of the first two books that Rajkamal Prakashan published, the first one was by INA’s Shah Nawaz Khan, which was published in Hindi as well as English. The second one was Louis Fischer’s ‘Gandhi and Stalin.’ That too was published simultaneously in Hindi and English. So, we were also a part of the freedom struggle and once India got the independence we brought out books on very many subjects, which were both reelvant and important. Here, I must mention that when the Five Year Plans were introduced there were no critics in the beginning, regardless of their pros cons. It was Rajkamal Prakashan that published Shrilal’s novel ‘Raag Darbari,’ which dared to offer a strong critique of the post-colonial era,” reveals Maheshwari.
In the digital era, Rajkamal Publication continues to lead by example. During the pandemic, the publication even organized an online book fair which saw participation from over 40 countries. “Today, in the digital age, we are available on almost all digital platforms possible and with the same integrity and drive to promote the Hindi language and literature. As an organization we enjoy great respect among the best of the writers and we treasure all our writers dearly. During the early days of lockdown, we launched a WhatsApp group to engage with the readers which became a rage as thousands of readers connected with us. Earlier in the year we also organized the Rajkamal Online Book Fair to make up for the absence of the World Book Fair. It was a huge success with people from more than 45 countries participating in it. The online fair witnessed over 1,45,000 reader visits. Book enthusiasts from Delhi, Lucknow, Patna and Jaipur joined the fair in big numbers. More than 16,000 first time readers joined Rajkamal Online Book Fair. More than half of the participation came from the youth,” rejoices Maheshwari.
The 75 year journey has been full of challenges but the Rajkamal Prakashan Group has managed to pass the test of time. At a time when the whole nation was hearing both fear of division and light of freedom together, Rajkamal Prakashan backed up the new age poetry and story era of Hindi Literature. At present, they are publishing more than 500 books every year and are committed to taking the tally ever higher. “We are willing to take the legacy forward and we are doing so faithfully with the merger of other big names in Hindi Publishing like Radhakrishna, Lokbharti, Remadhav, Sahitya Bhawan, Purvoday and Saransh Prakashan. We are enriching wider through expansion into English publication as well with the Banyan Tree Books. We have a long publishing history and rights for publishing a large portion of India’s legendary works, as well as translated works from world literature,” sums up Maheshwari.