By Dr. R.K. Tamiri
Premi lived for just fifty-five years, yet he left behind a solid legacy in the
form of brilliant creative literature, which many would envy. He had his tryst
with Urdu literature through short stories. His monumental work on Saadat
Hasan Manto, the enfant terrible of Urdu literature earned him fame. It also
made Manto better known. Dr Brij Premi's literary biography of Pt. Prem Nath
Pardesi, an eminent litterateur of yesteryears, is a pioneering work. It has yet
to see the light of the day. Dr. Premi was in deep love with
and took pride in its rich past. This made him explore Kashmir in all its
dimensions—Historical, Cultural, Social, Literary etc. His work in this field
parallels that of Mohiuddin Fauq, another outstanding historian of Kashmiri
origin. Dr Premi had suave temperament and was full of affection for others. He
was a gentle colossus.
family lived in the ancient locality of Drabiyar, in Habbakadal quarter of
He was born on
24th September, 1935,
which happened to be the day of Janam Ashtmi. His parents decided to name him
Brij Krishan. Sometime independence, the family shifted to Rang Teng, Ali Kadal
in a rented accommodation. Dr. Premi had his early education from DAV High
Pt. Sham Lal
Aima, father of Dr. Premi, was an able teacher and a man of many parts. He was a
good short story writer. Such men of literature-Pt. Nand Lal Talib, Pt. Kashyap
Bandhu, Pt. PN Bazaz, Pt. Prem Nath Pardesi, etc. would often drop at his
house. Dr. Premi grew up in this ambience and imbibed interest in literature. He
had his initial grooming under his father. Later, Pt. Prem Nath Pardesi became
The death of
Pt. Sham Lal Aima at young age of 44 in 1949 came as a major setback to Dr.
Premi. He was just 14, but the only eligible member in the family who could
succeed his father as the bread earner to take care of two brothers, a sister
and mother. Young Premi, who had just enrolled himself as a science student in
the college, was recalled back. He was employed in place of his father and
served in 'Boy Service' for two years, before being recruited as a
regular teacher. He was posted in Modern School, Amirakadal on a monthly salary
of Rs 30.
saw hard life. He had to take tuition work to supplement the family income.
Being a man of literary tastes, he disliked this job. He refers to it in one of
his allegories in 'Varasat'. On another occasion he was
transferred to Ompora (Budgam) a village 11 kms away from Srinagar. He used to
go to Ompora daily on bicycle, at times even on foot. Excessive cycling affected
his health. Dr. Premi earned the respect of his colleagues for being workaholic,
efficient and honest. He passed his MA examination in Urdu as a private
candidate with distinction. He had already cleared honours in Urdu (1953) and
As a Short story writer:
break in literature came in 1949 when Amar Jyoti, Srinagar published his
short story 'Aqa'. He wrote many more stories in other journals and
newspapers. 'Sapno Ki Sham', created sensation in literary circles
Kashmir. Premi became the youngest ever writer to
be published in Biswin Sadhi. He received over two hundred letters of
appreciation. This story was set in rural landscape of Ompora and had many local
characters. Famed Urdu writer, late Pushkar Nath Bhat till then had not seen a
Karewa. Soon after the publication of this story, he visited Ompora in the
company of his friend Dr. Premi to see how a Karewa looked like.
good short stories came from his pen. These include Lamhon Ki Raakh, Mere
Bachey Ki Salgrah,
Dard Ke, Khabon Ke Darichey, Mansbal Sookh Gaya, Ujadi Baharon Ke Ujade Phil
etc. Premi liked the fiction of Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi and Krishan
Chander, the doyens of progressive movement in Urdu literature.
over sixty short stories, though less than 25 are available today. He had
mastered the technique of short story writing and wrote elegant prose. He was
influenced by PN Pardesi, Tagore and Maupassant. His range of themes was vast
and included Romance, depiction of nature and realism. In 'Lamhon Ki Raakh',
he experiments with Chashme Shavoor (stream of
consciousness) a technique introduced by Qurrat-ul-An Hyder.
eminence. Prof. Abdul Qadir Sarwari, Prof. Manzoor Azmi (ex-HoD, Jammu
University), Pt. Pushkar Nath Bhat, Shri Moti Lal Saqi etc. have praised his
short stories. Prof. Sarwari applauded the language, plot construction and
realism of Premi's stories in 'Kashmir
Dr. Azmi was
impressed with his characterisation and portrayal of Kashmir's social life. Moti
Lal Saqi attributed realism in his short stories to the Marxist influence.
Premi's stories were full of life. His admirers were dismayed when he gave up
short story writing and took to criticism and research. The issue was taken up
by Pt. Pushkar Nath Bhat, his friend. Dr. Premi had no answers.
for daily, Martand under name de Guerre of 'Qusheen'.
Dr Premi also guided others. His comments on plays written by Sh. Makhan Lal
Kaul, a noted playwright form part of the book titled "Mayi Manz Chai".
Premi helped MN Kak, his colleague of MP H/S, Srinagar days, in updating
the literary magazine Gaash Augur (1972-73). The magazine enjoyed
Progressive Phase :
came under Marxist influence in mid-fifties. As per Shri CL Chrungoo, his
friend, colleague and comrade, progressive cultural movement of fifties pushed
him towards Marxism. Premi was closely associated with Democratic Conference in
1960s and sat on Dharna during 1967 employees strike. His son Dr. Premi
recalls," I first time saw Marx's photograph in my father's personal library,
which was full of Russian and Left literature". His close associates included
Mr. PN Jyotshi, Advocate, Mr PL Mattoo, Mr Ashok Dulloo etc. Messers Mattoo and
Dulloo, alongwith Prof. Bashir Qadiri (former HoD Pol. Sc.
were part of a club called 'Golden' of which Premi was the leading light.
This was a meeting point for literary discussions. Dr. Premi also enjoyed good
association with Prof. M.K. Teng and Prof Ramkrishan of Kashmir University.
days of Cultural Movement two literary groups were in existence—Halqa
Alim-o-Adab at Khanyar and Anjuman-e-Arbab-e-Zauk. Mr.
Bahuddin Zahid, who too had taste for Urdu literature was quite active with
Alim-o-Adab. Meetings used to take place at his home. These were attended by
well-known literary personalities—Messers Tahir Muztar, Pushkar Nath Bhat, Wajid
Ahmed Andrabi, Hakim Manzoor, Makhmoor Badakshi, Rehman Rahi, GN Firaq, PN
Pardesi etc. Premi was Secretary of the Club. The writers would read their
afsanas (compositions). In one of the meetings a non-Kashmiri writer,
created sensation by reading out his 'afsana' ex-tempore. Kamar
Jalalabadi, who later joined films also visited once the club at the instance of
Hakim Manzoor. Devendra Satyarthy would join them at times. In Arabab-e-Zauk
mainly progressive writers were invited. Subsequently, the literary meetings
used to be held in Mahraj Gunj and other interior parts of the city, the purpose
being to expose the common people to progressive culture.
involvement with the left movement in 1960s left him no time to pursue
period he occasionally gave radio-talks. For nearly seven years he wrote very
little. During the day he had to attend the professional work, in evenings he
was busy with tuitions, meetings connected with party work continued till late
hours of the night. This affected his health. Dr. Premi Romani comments, "Had
those seven years not gone waste, my father would have attained great heights in
Work on Manto :
He began his
dissertation work on Manto as a private candidate in early 1970s. These were the
years when he served as District Education Survey officer in Budgam, a job he
performed with distinction. His guide was Prof. Hamidi Kashmiri, who happened to
be his classfellow of college years.
had two considerations in choosing Manto for his Ph.D. work. One, Manto's
forefathers were Kashmiri, Manto was the best representative of creative mind of
Kashmir. Secondly, Manto was a virtuoso in the
art of short story writing. Premi says, "Manto had a method and a way of his own
in communicating himself. I admired his plot construction, the art of
characterisation, the subject individuality and the economy of words...The
treatment of his topics was excellent, perhaps none could match him....Manto's
art is not propaganda and journalism. He was not a poet nor does one come across
ornamentalism in his language...He can shake the reader, not by using
unnecessary vocabulary but through his sheer style of writing....His essays,
letters, pen-sketches, radio dramas and translations are of good standard and
show excellence. They are no less interesting".
he observes, "by temperament Manto was outspoken. He was a writer who worked in
hurry. He has written much about himself, but it lacks an organisation and
order. It was very difficult to organise all this into a single entity".
lot of difficulties in working on Manto. The latter was an obstracised writer.
His writings were available mostly in Pakistan. It was a stupendous task to
procure these. It is a tribute to the patience and edurance of Dr. Premi that he
took all these challenges in his stride. He virtually contacted everybody who
could tell him about Manto. These include Safia Begum, his wife and Ahmed Nadeem
Qasimi and Abu Sayeed Qureishi, Manto's close friends. Qureishi and Manto, both
were 'disciples' of Bari Alig, a journalist with left views. Manto
himself admits that had it not been for Bari, he would have been a criminal,
rather than a writer. Premi even identified the person who made Manto turn to
Bacchus, that was to ruin the famed writer eventually.
thesis was approved by two leading luminaries of Urdu literature, one of whom
was an outstanding researcher, and the other was regarded as pillar of modern
Urdu poetry. Though thesis was submitted in 1976, it took another decade for its
publication. Premi's other studies on Manto, Manto Katha were published
posthumously in 1994. His work on Manto received rave reviews from people like
Warris Alvi, KA Abbas, Ali Sardar Jafri, Kashmiri Lal Zakir, Gopi Chand Narang,
Khwaja Ahmed Farooqi, Abu Sayeed Qureishi etc. Prof. Mohd. Hassan wrote :
"Till date this work of Brij Premi is the last word on Mantoo; and for every
student of short story writing, this book is worth reading". UP (1986)
(1987) Urdu Academies felicitated Dr. Premi on his work on Manto. Recently, Dr.
Manazir Ashique Harganvi, Professor of Urdu in Bhagalpur University has alleged
that Jagdish Wadhawan has copied most of the contents of his Mantonama'
from Dr. Brij Premi's book.
joined Urdu Department of Kashmir University in 1977, under the Headship of
Prof. Shakil-ur-Rehman. Prior to this he had served State Education department
in assignments as Basic teacher, Master, Additional Head Master and District
University, a new world opened for him. He found the environment extremely
stimulating for intellectual work. It was here he came in close contact with
Prof. Ale Ahmed Suroor, Dr. Shakeel UR Rehman, Mr Qazi Gh. Mohd (of Bandipur),
Dr. Hamidi Kashmiri, Messers Quddus Javed (Present HoD of Kashmir University).
Many leading personalities of Urdu came to Kashmir to attend symposia or as
experts. They included Messers KL Zakir, GC Narang, Qamar Rais, Shahryar, Shamim
Hanfi, Jagar Nath Azad, Prof. Masood Hasan, Prof. Mohd. Hasan, Prof. Gopi Chand
Aman. Dr. Premi immersed himself in Literary criticism and Research. He had
already collaborated with Prof. Sarwari in his field work for 'Kashmir
period he had met noted Kashmiri Urdu writers—NL Talib, Padam Nath Ganjoo, Mirza
Kamaluddin, DN Nadim, Jiya Lal Nazir, Dina Nath Dhar 'Barq'
Kashmiri, Mir Ghulam Rasool Nazki.
Dr. Brij Premi took great pride in
cultural heritage. He would say, "It is an immense treasure. We have to preserve
it." This love made him pursue research work on Kashmir. His works on literary
criticism include Harf-i-Justajoo (1982), Zauq-i-Nazar (1987), Chand
Tehrerein (1988). Zauk-i-Nazar includes essays on Manto, PN Pardesi,
Sardar Jafri, Rajinder Singh Bedi, Talib Kashmiri etc. Jalwae Sadrang
(1985) and Kashmiri Ke Mazameen (1989) reveal different
facets of Premi's research work. Commenting about Jalwae Sadrang, Prof. Sabir
Aafaqi, a noted literateur says the book has revealed many hidden aspects of
Premi's work on socio-cultural history of
Kashmir has encyclopedic dimensions. He has traced history of progressive
writers’ Movement and Urdu Prose in
Kashmir, focussed on urban history, archeological
remains, costumes of people, travelogues of Foreign travellers and the life of
leading literary personalities. Due to restrictions imposed on wordage by
Birla Foundation and the J&K Cultural Academy, Dr. Premi has not been
able to do full justice to the pen-sketches of personalities. His work (still
unpublished) on Pt. Prem Nath Pardesi, 'Prem Nath Pardes—ahd
Shakhsiyat aur Funkar', running into 150 odd pages is a monumental work. It
focusses on life, short stories, poetry, Mahakama and unpublished writings of
the greater literateur. Pardesi had written a novel 'Poti', which
was lost during the turbulent days of Tribal Raid. His Panch Din, a
reportage of the raid is still unpublished. Ramanand Sagar and Devender
Satyarthy, whenever they came to
dropped at his house at Malik Angan, Fateh Kadal. As a postgraduate guide, Dr.
Premi supervised studies on Prem Chand, Ismat Chugtai, Urdu journalism in J&K
and Ahmed Nadeem Qasimi. Dr. Premi during his years at the University has guided
4 Ph.D and 9 MA/M.Phil students.
In his literary career, Dr. Premi remained
associated with leading journals—Ustad, Hamara Ustad, Desh, Gaash Augur,
Bazyaft, Sadaf all published from Srinagar) and Sohale (Gaya).
He also remained involved with many literary and cultural organisations. His
last assignment was 'History of Kashmiri Literature-Trends and Traditions
Dr. Premi was intoxicated in his love for
Kashmir. About Kashmir he says, "The place, my place, the place I live in,
has its mornings and evenings known for its poetic grandeur, more subtle and
sweeter than those of say Benaras, Ayodhya...Where I live is a city through
which flows the Vitasta, another form and expression of Parvati, Shiva's
consort. This city was so to say brought into being by Shiva for sins to be
washed off and ushering in peace and tranquillity". He used to listen for
hours the Sufiana Kalam on rabab. He liked Shams Faqir and the Vakhs of Lal Ded.
His two published works in Kashmiri
include Vechanai' (1999) and Varasat' (2003),
besides the translation of Moti Lal Saqi's monograph on Samad Mir. 'Vechnai'
carries foreword by M.Amin Kamil and Bansi Nirdosh seperately. It was
reviewed by Moti Lal Saqi and Akhtar Mohiuddin. 'Varasat' includes
afsana—Saya Geit and Vudai, translations of Manto's
stories-Toba Tekh Singh, Sher aur Gadriya, Kali Kali, Islah,
allegories on unkept promises, Tuition work etc. It was reviewed by Prof. RL
Dr Brij Premi's work is slowly gaining
recognition. A student of
University, Dr. Chaman Lal completed dissertation study on 'Brij Premi Aur
Unki Adabi Khidmat', under the guidance of Dr. Shoaib Inayat Malik, in 1999.
Due to Dr. Premi's premature death in 1990
(he was an old patient of Diabetes), many of his works remained unpublished. His
illustrious son, Dr. Premi Romani, himself a noted Urdu scholar, has rendered
great service to Urdu lovers by retrieving and publishing his works. Presently,
he is engaged in rendering his Urdu writings into English, to make these reach a
wider audience. We need to know Dr. Brij Premi. He has been a greater stylist
of Urdu language. His writings form part of
*(The author is a Keen Researcher, his
field of study includes Oral History, Kashmiri Literature and Folk-Lore.
Presently, he is engaged in study of Kashmiri Writers in Diaspora and has worked
on ancestry of Allama Iqbal.