The his­to­ry of Hin­di poet­ry in the 20th Cen­tu­ry is a his­to­ry of its grow­ing dis­tance from the mass­es. Over the decades, a neat divi­sion among poets has come about. There are ‘high brow’ poets whose poet­ry is read and appre­ci­at­ed by a small num­ber of poet­ry lovers, and there are ‘low brow’ poets whose poet­ry is heard and admired by thou­sands of peo­ple in kavi sam­me­lans. Thus, poet­ry that can offer aes­thet­ic plea­sure and intel­lec­tu­al nour­ish­ment remains con­fined to a lim­it­ed num­ber of peo­ple while poet­ry that aims at pro­vid­ing momen­tary thrill and pedes­tri­an enter­tain­ment man­ages to reach a very wide audi­ence. Gone are the days of Hari­vansh Rai ‘Bachchan’ or Ramd­hari Singh ‘Dinkar’ who could sway the audi­ences with their poet­ry with­out mak­ing any com­pro­mis­es with its lit­er­ary qual­i­ty. How­ev­er, there was one notable excep­tion to this rule – Nagar­jun, the people’s poet whose 106th birth anniver­sary has just passed us by on June 30. Like Rahul Sankrityayana, Nagar­jun too was a phe­nom­e­non. While Rahul was an intel­lec­tu­al colos­sus, Nagar­jun was a lit­er­ary giant. Born as Vaidyanath Mishra in the Mith­ila region of Bihar, he too went to Tibet and Sri Lan­ka and became a Bud­dhist monk. […]