Arjan Dev Majboor

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My Acquaintance with the noted poet, Arjan Dev 'Majboor'

By A.N. Dhar

On my retirement from the University of Kashmir, I shifted to Jammu in early 1990 as a displaced Kashmiri. Majboor Sahib was a much talked-about poet in Srinagar. Having read just a few of his Kashmiri poems by then, I had somehow felt an urge to see this man of achievement in person. I recall with pleasure my first meeting with him at the University of Jammu on the 25th of October, 1998 when I casually stepped into a hall in one of the buildings on the campus. It happened to be the venue of a two-week workshop of Kashmiri writers sponsored and organised by the Central Institute of Indian Languages, Mysore. The participants were involved in the production of some teaching materials meant for our learners. A chance meeting brought Arjan Dev Ji and me together. Thus began a fruitful friendship between us, which I believe has endured and will grow further, God willing. It was at this memorable meeting that Majboor Sahib gifted to me a copy of his book of poems titled Padyi Samyik (foot-prints of time) that earned him an award from the J&K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages in the year 1994; this volume was adjudged as the "best book in Kashmiri".

Ever since our meeting, with the passage of years, we have got to know each other well through our mutual contact at literary seminars and socio-cultural functions held periodically on various occasions at Jammu. On the basis of what I have by now read of this versatile  writer-poet, critic and translator, well-versed in several languages and literatures-I can say with confidence: "here is a man of achievement in the field of letters". A productive and prolific writer, it is as a Kashmiri poet that he stands pre-eminent.

As a creative writer, Arjan Dev Ji has not only excelled in producing fine Kashmiri lyrics - both short and long - but he has also done reasonably well as a short-story writer in the Kashmiri language. What is also noteworthy about him is his accomplishment as a researcher and critic. He has also earned distinction as a translator, having command over several languages including Kashmiri, Hindi and Urdu besides having a fairly good knowledge of the two classical languages, Persian and Sanskrit. Being conversant with different languages and literatures, it seems he was cut out for attaining proficiency in the area of comparative literature. It is a field which involves a scholar's deep interest in the theory and practice of literary translation from one language into another-across regions and countries. The translator has to be both bilingual and bicultural having command over the two languages involved and at the same time being conversant with the related literatures. Many of Arjan Dev's published papers and articles bear testimony to his aptitude for cross-cultural studies.

With the publication of the book titled Waves in the year 1999, Arjan Dev 'Majboor' shot into prominence across the country, especially in the northern region. A younger scholar and talented English writer from our community, Prof. Arvind Gigoo, had felt attracted towards Majboor Sahib's Kashmiri poems; it was as good friends and neighbours living at Udhampur that the two litterateurs got close to each other and collaborated in a literary undertaking. Gigoo Sahib's English translation of Arjan Dev's Kashmiri lyrics in the first edition of the Waves brought the translator into the limelight and the original poet got an award from the Poet's Foundation, Calcutta in December, 1999. The book immediately caught the attention of scholars and critics; the result was an upsurge in the shape of a large number of favourable review articles in English on the translated poems from writers largely based in Jammu, some living elsewhere in the country and abroad. I myself hailed the book as a landmark: a fine piece of translation. Encouraged by the warm response from discerning readers, Majboor Sahib planned a larger volume of his translated poems in collaboration with the competent translator, Gigoo Sahib who now chose to provide also his seminal note on the theory and practice of literary translation bearing on the work undertaken by him. The enlarged edition has an excellent and illuminative forward from the celebrated writer, Professor TN Raina. I am happy to mention here that in this foreword (to the enlarged volume of the Waves brought out in the year 2000), Prof. Raina has quoted lavishly from my published review on the first volume. Later, a spate of fresh reviews from enthusiastic writers prompted Dr. RL Bhat, writer and social activist to collect the whole critical material on the two editions of the Waves and edit it properly. He brought out an anthology of critical reviews (on Arjan Dev's poems translated by Prof. Gigoo) under the title Arjan Dev Majboor in January 2003.

From what Prof. TN Raina and Dr RL Bhat have said about Majboor Sahib in their forewords the account they have given of his growth and development as a well-known personality, accomplished in the field of letters, I have every reason to feel elated over my decade-long literary association with the veteran poet and scholar at Jammu. I admire his fortitude, determination and perservance in sustaining his versatile interests as a writer. I am specially impressed by his eagerness to see his creative writing in Kashmiri projected globally through English translation. As a budding scholar and writer in his early years he had to face immense hardships, but he has managed to come up the hard way-which has been the mark of many ambitious men who rose to eminence. Even in his eighties now, Arjan Dev leaves nothing undone to see that he maintains the tempo of his writing despite his physical handicap in wearing a collar round his stiff neck. Author of a large number of books and a man of significant achievement as a writer, he is every inch a gentleman, exuding affection, having all the humility of a genuine scholar. In view of these qualities, he continues to be a source of inspiration to his friends and admirers. May he live long!

*The author was formerly Head of the Department of English and Director, ELT Centre, University of Kashmir. He has also authored Mysticism Across Cultures.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel




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