Nirmal Verma (3 April 1929 – 25 October 2005) was a Hindi writer, novelist, activist and translator. He is credited as being one of the pioneers of the Nai Kahani (New Story) literary movement of Hindi literature,[1] wherein his first collection of stories, Parinde (Birds) is considered its first signature.[2]

Nirmal Verma
Born(1929-04-03)3 April 1929
Shimla, Punjab, British India
Died25 October 2005(2005-10-25) (aged 76)
New Delhi, India
OccupationNovelist, writer, activist, translator

In his career spanning five decades and various forms of literature, writing story, travelogues and essays, he penned five novels, eight short-story collections and nine books of non-fiction, including essays and travelogues.[3]



Nirmal Verma was born on 3 April 1929 in Shimla, where his father worked as an officer in the Civil and Services Department of the British Indian Government. He was the seventh child among his eight siblings. One of his brothers is one of India's greatest artists Ram Kumar.[4] He is survived by his wife, Gagan Gill who is a writer.[5][6]

He wrote his first story for a students' magazine in the early 1950s. He completed Masters of Arts in History from St. Stephen's College, Delhi University. Thereafter he started teaching in Delhi and writing for various literary magazines.

"For a writer to desire spiritual security is as fatal as an aspiration to material pleasure. For a writer, every place of refuge is a pitfall; you fall once, and the clear sky of creativity is lost forever."
- Dhund se Uthati Dhun [7]

His activism streak was visible even during his student days; in 1947–48, he regularly attended Mahatma Gandhiji's morning prayer meetings in Delhi, even though he was a card holding member of Communist Party of India, which he resigned in 1956, after Soviet invasion of Hungary. The very activism was soon to be reflected in his stories, which added a whole new dimension to the Indian literary scene.

He stayed in Prague for 10 years, where he was invited by Oriental Institute to initiate a program of translation of modern Czech writers like Karel Čapek, Milan Kundera or Bohumil Hrabal to Hindi; he also learnt Czech language, and translated nine world classics to Hindi, before returning home in 1968, as the result of Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia.[4]

During his stay in Prague he travelled widely across Europe, and the result was seven travelogues, including Cheeron Par Chandni (1962), Har Barish Mein (1970) and Dhund Se Uthti Dhun and his first novel, based on his student days in Prague, titled, Ve Din (Those Days) (1964). On his return from Prague, he was disillusioned by communism and later became highly vocal against Indian Emergency, and an advocate for the Tibetan independence movement. His subsequent writing reflected his concerted relooking of Indian traditions, which he found to be innately modern, compared with external modernity reflected in the western viewpoints and cultural milieu, which were being imposed on Indian ethos, all around, so much so that later his views were confused as pro-Hindutva as well.[7] A critical analysis of Verma's work was presented by Ram Prakash Dwivedi[8]

From 1980–83, Verma served as chairman of Nirala creative writing chair in Bharat Bhavan, Bhopal. In 1988–90 he was director of Yashpal Creative Writing Chair in Shimla.[2] A film based on his story, Maya Darpan (1972), directed by Kumar Shahani, won the Filmfare Critics Award for Best Film.[9]

In his popular novel A Torn Happiness, August Strindberg looms large over the heads of many characters.

He died on 25 October 2005 in New Delhi.

Awards and milestones

  • Jnanpith Award in 1999, the highest literary award for Indian writers.
  • 'Kavve aur Kala Pani', A collection of seven short stories, won the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1985.[10]
  • Padma Bhushan in 2002.[11]
  • Jnanapith Trust's "Murtidevi Award" for his book of essays, Bharat Aur Europe: Pratishruti Ke Kshetra (1991).
  • Jury member Lettre Ulysses Award for the art of Reportage −2003.[2]
  • He was a fellow with the International Institute for Asian Studies.
  • Library of Congress catalogues most of the works of Nirmal Verma in its collection.
  • India's highest literary award, for lifetime achievement, the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship in 2005.[12]
  • On the publication of his book, "The World Elsewhere", in 1988, by the Readers International in London, BBC Channel Four telecasted a film on his life and works.[2]
  • Chevalier de l'ordre des arts et des lettres (France) 2005

Nai Kahani movement


Nirmal Verma, together with Mohan Rakesh, Bhisham Sahni, Kamleshwar, Amarkant, Rajendra Yadav and others, is the founder of the Nai Kahani (new short story) in Hindi literature.

Nirmal Verma is best known for his short stories and his best known story, 'Parinde' (Birds) (1959) is supposed to be the pioneer of the Nai Kahani Movement in Hindi literature.[4] Nirmal Verma's other notable stories are Andhere Mein, Dedh Inch Upar, and Kavve Aur Kala Pani. Nirmal Verma's last story was published in "Naya Gyanodaya" August 2005 issue, titled "Ab Kuchh Nahin".

Nirmal Verma experimented vividly with theme as well as technique of the Hindi short story in the 60s and 70s.

A collection of his letters written to Ramkumar (well known artist and his brother) has been published by Bhartiya Jnanpith, titled "Priya Ram" (Dear Ram). His books have been translated into several European languages such as English, Russian, German, Icelandic, Polish, Italian and French.

Major works



  • Ve Din – His first novel, set in Prague, former Czechoslovakia (1964),
  • Antima Aranya (The Last Wilderness)
  • Ek Chithara Sukh (1979)
  • Lal Teen Ki Chhat (Red Tin Roof), (1974)
  • Raat ka Reporter (1989)

Story anthologies

  • 'Parinde' (Birds) (1959)
  • Jalti Jhari (1965)
  • London ki raat
  • Pichli Garmiyon Mein (1968)
  • Akala tripathi
  • Dedh Inch Upar
  • Beech Bahas Mein (1973)
  • Meri Priya Kahaniyan (1973)
  • Pratinidhi Kahaniyan (1988)
  • Kavve aur Kala Pani (1983)
  • Sookha aur Anya Kahaniyan (1995).
  • Dhage (2003)

Reportage and travelogues

  • Cheeron Par Chandni (1962)
  • Har Barish Mein (1989)(In Every Rain)


  • Teen Ekant (1976)

Essays and literary criticism

  • Shabda aur Smriti (1976) – Literary essay
  • Kala Ka Jokhima (1981) – investigation of the Indic arts in the 20th century
  • Dhundha Se Uthati Dhun – written like a diary on issues related to Hindi literature. – Literary criticism
  • Dhalan se Utarate Huye – Literary criticism
  • Bharat Aur Europe: Pratishruti Ke Kshetra (1991) – Essay.

Further reading


See also



  1. ^ Ode to Nirmal Verma The Hindu, 6 November 2005.
  2. ^ a b c d Nirmal Verma, India. Retrieved on 22 May 2016.
  3. ^ AUTHOR SPEAKS:"I cater to several layers of sensibilities" The Tribune, 10 March 2002.
  4. ^ a b c 'He was the modern voice of Indian genius' Obituary,, 26 October 2005
  5. ^ दुबे, प्रियंका (3 April 2018). "निर्मल वर्मा ने इंदिरा को बताया था 'साक्षात बुराई'". BBC News हिंदी. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  6. ^ "Gagan Gill | The Caravan".
  7. ^ a b Nirmal Verma, 1929–2005 Archived 24 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine Frontline, Volume 22 – Issue 24, Nov. 19 – Dec. 02, 2005.
  8. ^ Dwivedi, Ram Prakash (16 October 2020). "CCGS International Journal". Retrieved 17 October 2020.
  9. ^ Nirmal Verma at IMDb
  10. ^ Sahitya Akademi Awards.
  11. ^ "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  12. ^ Fellowships Archived 30 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine Sahitya Akademi Official website.