Mohan Rakesh, whose real name is Madan Mohan Rakesh Guglani, was born on February 8, 1925 at Amritsar. His father Shri Dharmachand Guglani was an eminent lawer, who was deeply interested in literary pursuits. His mother was very simple woman who was highly spiritual and committed towards her duty as mother and wife. Mohan Rakesh‘s father would invite scholars from every sphere and discuss thouroughly various aspects of art, music and literature for hours together. This continuous parley with the scholars indirectly shaped the career of Mohan Rakesh as an artist. He post graduated in Hindi and English literature from Punjab University. Initially, he started writing in Sanskrit, as he was a student of Sanskrit and he practiced prose and poetry in Sanskrit only. But in due course of time, he realized that Sanskrit is not the language to be commonly read and understood and he switched over to Hindi as medium of his expression. He felt that his experiences will be better conveyed to people in Hindi, being a common place language in India.
However, this pleasant literary feast could not continue for a long time, as his father died on February 18, 1941. He was just 16 years old and had to shoulder the household responsibilities of looking after his aging mother and younger brother. In his words, “There was no option left. I was fitted in the yoke of life at the age of just 16. I had to adjust myself to the set frame of life.” He started carrying out his duty as responsible head of the family by taking tuition and other ways which would fetch him some money to run the house. During the days of mental and economic crises caused by the burden of responsibility, he was consoled and emotionally supported by a girl of 17 years Premika Divya (which is perhaps not the real name of the girl). Mohan Rakesh used to share the sufferings of life with her to distress himself from his routine goings- on. To alleviate his mental agony, she used to come from Amritsar to Lahore to meet him at the cost her lectures.
At the age of 22, Mohan Rakesh had to face two tragedies in his life – one was partition of India and the other one was sudden demise of his intimate friend, Premika Divya. The first was human tragedy and the second being the personal tragedy. He was left traumatized by the severity and grossness of the riots between Hindu and Muslim and killings of innocent people who were not even least concerned with any political agenda. On 15th August, 1947 he was in Amritsar. From there he was forced to come to Mumbai via Delhi in search of employment.
In Mumbai, Mohan Rakesh led a miserable life as he was not equipped with the kind of life Mumbai demanded. He was deeply ingrained in morality and hence could not compromise everywhere in his life and this sometimes led him to quit his job frequently. However, after completing his Master‘s degree in Hindi, he worked as a lecturer in Sydenham College of Commerce, Mumbai, Elphiston College, Mumbai, Bishop Cottage School, Shimala, and D.A.V. College Jalandhar from 1947 to 1951. From 1950 to1954, he had the worst kind of life as he had neither job not mental peace. He was wrongly removed from his jobs as he was not complying with their terms and conditions demanded by the job. Meanwhile, he was married in order to get involved himself in family life in 1949, but it turned out to be quite unpleasant experience and in 1952 again he had to leave the job. He then was determined to lead life based on his writings but this adventure also proved a kind of day dream. He then again started looking for a new job. Quite surprisingly, he was invited by D.A.V. College as the Head of the department where he was not confirmed and removed. After working four years in D.A.V. College, he resigned from the job in 1957. It was again a bad phase of his life, as his married life proved to be unsuccessful and thus the relation between them ended forever officially. Under the financial crisis again he was forced to work as lecturer in Delhi University in 1960. In 1962, Mohan Rakesh took over as editor of Sarika and standardized it to a higher level, but in 1963 he left that job too.
Mohan Rakesh‘s mother tongue was Punjabi but his education was through Sanskrit medium. However he did not find either Punjabi or Sanskrit suitable to be a medium of his literary expression. He, therefore, switched over to Hindi and thus contributed significantly to the growth and development of Hindi Literature. However, the impact of Sanskrit is reflected on his writings and his language turns out to be highly modified and standardized expression of his lofty feelings. Despite his association with Sanskrit scholars, he was familiar with the western culture and literature and kept himself free from the shackles of traditional practices in contemporary society.
Having reflected on his biographical details, it is reasonable to dwell upon the political, social, cultural and literary situations which went a long way in shaping his career as literary artist. When Mohan Rakesh was born, India was entangled in the yoke of British government and people in India charged with patriotic feelings were determined to throw aside the shackles of slavery of British Government from India forever. On the political portal, political leaders like Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Gandhiji emerged, who were trying to reawaken the dormant feelings among Indians by blowing new message of freedom among common people. By 1942, the freedom movement came to be strong driving force resulting in the freedom of India in 1947. This was the year when India was divided into two nations, Hindustan and Pakistan, and caused a lot of traumatic situations across the borders.
Though in 1947, India became free from the clutches of British Government, the selfish politicians tried to elevate themselves politically and did not accomplish the job which they were supposed to do during post independence. It was commonly noticed that so – called politicians have involved themselves in dirty politics of vested interest and departed themselves from the common goodness of common people who elected them to be their representatives for resolving their recurring problems in life. The trend shows that there was gradual deterioration in moral and human values which further endangered the unity and integrity of the nation. These unhealthy situations in the country compelled the author to express his experiences of life through literary forms. Twentieth century, which is characterized by the scientific advancement, has alarmingly affected the unity and integrity of a family. It witnessed that people who preferred the ideology of joint family are now in the favor of unit family. Even the material wellbeing and independence of wife gave rise to misunderstanding between husband and wife, which dismantled the aura of entire family bond and their children suffered painstakingly the barbs of the marital discord of the parents.
Besides the political and social conditions, literary situations are credited to have substantiated his creative sensibility in art of writing. Perhaps, Mohan Rakesh experienced the dying age of Chhayavad (a literary Movement in Hindi literature) and humble beginning of Pragativadi Yug (a literary movement in Hindi literature). In 1935, the extreme imaginative Chhayavad was announced officially stopped and in the same year, the most celebrated Pragativadi writer, Munshi Premchand announced the manifesto of Pragativadi writing and stressed that literature should be always written in the context of real life and literatiture should be linked with the realistic phase of life which is teemed both with joys and sorrows. He further stressed literature should not be the ideal entity to be imagined but a realistic platform which gives full insight into the real life led by common man. During this phase of literary production, there emerged a literary movement in a context of stories called New Stories. Prominent artist like Rajendra Yadav, Kamleshwar and others equally powerful story writers try to relate literature with life. These writers did not believe in empty presentation of ideas but rather switched over to facts of life. Many regional writers like Phanishwar Nath Renu try to present the regional sensibility and common understanding of regional people through their works.