Arjan Dev Majboor

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Arjan Dev Majboor

by Trilokinath Raina 

Arjan Dev Majboor (real name Arjan Nath Koul) of Zainapura in Pulwama District (b.1924) saw many vicissitudes in his early life. His calm exterior, which Moti Lal Saqi has called deceptive, belies the turmoil his heart has passed through. He has had a chequered career. Orphaned very early, his life was a courageous and determined struggle against want. Having to keep the kitchen fire alive when he matriculated, he worked for some time in a co-operative bank, then got a job in the court but the experience wasn't very encouraging. In desperation he left for Lahore, where he gained in two ways; he started learning Sanskrit, and meetings with Rahul Sankritayan gave him a knowledge of Marxism, and both these stood him in good stead. He appeared on the literary scene in a turbulent time when a new age was being born, an age which all the writers hailed as the promised millennium. The consequent change it fathered was visible in poetry not only in the mental attitude but also in form and techniques. The ghazal was being dropped and some western forms were ushered in. In fact it looked like Kashmiri literature was casting off the slough of old, ossified decadent traditions of thought and technique and acquiring a resurgence of life it had never known before. Not that great poets and writers never existed in the happy valley. In fact the history of our literature starts with a poet who has always remained and will perhaps ever remain unmatched for all time, i.e., Lal Ded. What I mean is that never before did the whole community of writers and all artists, collectively, have a rejuvenating bath at a new helicon, a new fountain of the muses. It is this atmosphere that Majboor found himself in and was led most powerfully into the vortex. True, from Rahul Sankritayan he had acquired a knowledge of how matter shapes mind, but a knowledge of dialectical materialism is not enough to make you a poet. In the new environment he found himself very powerfully influenced by the creators of the new age-Mahjoor, Nadim and the other writers of the new community of progressive writers, and he also plunged in. On his return from Lahore he worked in Prem Nath Bazaz's standard till it closed down and unemployment greeted him again till he equipped himself with a teaching degree and was absorbed in the Education Department.

But despite joining the Progressive movement in fact he also worked as an assistant editor of its journal Kwong Posh for some time-he never actually belonged to the movement as a committed progressive writer like Nadim, Roshan, Zutshi, etc. but was like most followers of the movement, drawn in but always outside the ring of political commitments, though his firm belief was that literature cannot be divorced from society. His involvement with the problem of the workers and the peasants was unquestionable and always remained, but not in the sloganeering manner. The sighs of the poor and the beauty of nature-forests, rivers, meadows, mountain peaks - are blended in his poems.

His poems, short stories and critical essays have been published in the various journals in Kashmir and outside. He has translated Kalidasa's Meghadootam into Kashmiri (Obra Shechh), published monographs on Krishna Razdan and Rahul Sankiritayan (Sahitya Akademi), to mention only the most notable of his compositions. He is not only a poet but also a seasoned scholar and writer who has a number of published material- books and critical articles- to his credit.

"The publication of Waves bears testimony to Majboor's serious concern as a scholarly poet for the projection of Kashmir' literary works across the globe. The present volume is a laudable effort specially to serve the objective of reaching a wider readership across the country and abroad. This gives an access to the cultural content of the original poems. (A.N. Dhar). This is what any poet writing in a language with limited readership would invariably desire. But before focussing on the poems presented in this selection, it would be appropriate to have a look at all his poems from the day he wrote his first anthologized poem Shongaan Yeli Raat to the present day and how he has evolved as an artist during the last half century.

He has experimented with various forms, and emerged as an essentially nazam writer. And he is most certainly a nature poet. His deep rooted love for the sights and sounds of this Paradise on Earth (which bewitched Jahangir once and continues to leave lesser mortals too spellbound) is easily understood. I find it necessary to mention it right in the beginning to emphasise the fact that it forms the basic theme of whatever he wrote. It remains the backdrop even when he is talking about something else.

His first collection of poems Kalaam-e-Majboor was published in 1955. This was followed by Dashahaar in 1983, Dazavuny Kosam in 1987, Pady Samayik in 1993 and Tyol in 1995. His creative talent did not confine itself to the field of poetry alone but ranged form short stories to literary criticism, his most notable set of essays being Tehqeeq. However, at present we are concentrating on his evolution as a poet. It was a long journey from Kalam-e-Majboor (1955) to Dashahaar (1983), in which we find Majboor having matured as an artist and having developed a liking for the short poem, which the great poets like Nadim and Rahi had already inaugurated in Kashmir. You find in this collection, simplicity of ideas combined with technical dexterity. One of the significant poems in this series is Tamaashaa (presented as A Juggler's Trick in English translation in Waves). The juggler comes with the usual tabor and entertains the spectators with what is essentially an illusion. The poet wants to convey that life itself is an illusion, a grand show compeered by a master juggler.

The poems [in Waves] translated by Arvind Gigoo bear 'eye-catching and appropriate titles' and have been selected from the various publications of Majboor. Prof. A.N. Dhar says that "the translations capture both the essence and broad details of the original pieces. Happily the author of the poems and the translator complement each other. As a final fine product, Waves not only reflects the rich content of the originals, but also reproduces the free verse form of most Kashmiri lyrics."


Excerpts from: Waves




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