Arjan Dev Majboor

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   Kashmiri Poets

Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri



Arjan Dev Majboor - A Conversation

Shri Arjan Dev Majboor, a well known Kashmiri poet and a Researcher was born on 16th of August, 1924 at Zanapora, Pulwama (Kashmir). For over six decades he has been writing poetry and contributing to research on History and Culture of Kashmir. In a conversation with Kashmir Sentinel he talked at length about his life, Works and influences on his Art. In this thematic section we are reproducing excerpts of the conversation. The second part of the interview that pertains to the autobiographical details is being published separately.    --The Editor.

KS: How did your Literary Journey begin?

ADM: At Lahore one of my companions in hostel was a Punjabi student, Roshan Lal. He wrote good Urdu. It touched me. I started writing in Urdu and composed few poems. One of these was published in Milap. I was already exposed to Persian language and literature while still at school. My family had good collection of books in Persian and  Urdu, besides shrukhs of Nund Rishi, which was lost when our house was set on fire in 1992. In my school years I had the opportunity to go through Somadeva's Vaital Patisavi and Firdousi's Shahnama. I grew up in an ambience where Persian metaphors were better known than those in Kashmiri.

It was in 10th class when I happened to buy Mehjoor's book from a bookshop for one anna. A Punjabi singer used to sing his poems through a megaphone to boost up the sales of the book. This created interest in me for poetry.

KS: Marxist ideas have influenced you and your literature. How did it happen?

ADM: I remained associated with Left movement in Kashmir from 1947 to 1990. I worked mainly on Writers front and at Trade Union level among teachers.

During my Lahore days, I happened to buy a book 'Samyavad Hi Qiyon' (Why Socialism), authored by Rahul Sankrityan, in Amritsar. It brought about a drastic change in my ideology. I began to consider myself a marxist.

My actual political and literary work started when I joined DAV High School, Magarmal Bagh. This was the time when cataclysmic changes were taking place on the political landscape of Kashmir. The raiders were knocking at the doors of Srinagar. The Pandit population of the city was in panic and busy making preparations to flee the city for safety in plains of India. I began trade union work among teachers and organised All Kashmir Teachers' Federation. This subsequently became affiliate of Teachers' Federation of Jammu and Ladakh. I remained General Secretary of Kashmir Association for three long years. Though I was working in a Private School,yet I took up problems of Govt. teachers as well.

During the tribal raid days I happened to meet once Pt. Dina Nath Nadim, poet laureate of Kashmir at Ali Mohammad Booksellers' shop at Habbakadal. He was attired in turban, an achkan with worn out buttons and an old pant. On seeing me he exclaimed, "Majboor, I had different idea about you. My impression was you were an old man". Nadim Sahib invited me to attend the weekly (Friday) meetings of 'Kashmir Progressive Writers' Association', a branch of Cultural Congress. This organisation, alongwith its sister organisations among artists and theatre people had been allotted a barrack at Exhibition Grounds. This was the time when IPTA movement was at its zenith in India.

It is true my poetry developed in Cultural Congress but when I was exposed to Indian classical writers it became obvious to me that India had given much more to the world.

KS: Do you subscribe to the view that a writer should have social message as the main concern?

ADM: I do believe in art for life's sake but at the same time I dislike mannerism and sloganeering which was rampant among the litterateurs subscribing to leftwing ideology. In Kashmir during the Cultural Congress years there were times when politics overtook the poetry and other genres of literature, leaving little fun and literature in it. It turned into bland propaganda.

KS: What were the main activities of Cultural Congress?

ADM: It used to publish a monthly journal in Kashmiri, 'Kwongposh', organise Bazm-e-Kwongposh meetings in different areas and hold interactions with progressive writers outside J&K.

I was sub-editor of 'Kwongposh'. The journal ran for 25 issues or so. Two of my short stories 'Kolehwaan' and 'Soneh Vudar' were published in this journal. Main contributors to the journal included Dina Nath Nadim, Som Nath Zutshi, Noor Mohammad Roshan, Rehman Rahi, Amin Kamil, GN Firaq, Tej Bahadur Bhan, Gh. Nabi Ariz, Aziz Haroon, etc. Editorials were mostly written by Nadim Sahib and Som Nath Zutshi. I used to take editorials for approval to Sadiq Sahib. He had to okay, making sure that these did not violate the policy directions. Sadiq would rarely make alterations and was non-interfering. For running the journal he used to contribute from his pocket and would also raise donations from others. He hated sycophancy. Kwongposh sold a few hundred copies a month.

Every fortnight a day was fixed for holding Bazm-e-Kwongposh in mohallas where we had contacts. New songs were sung before the audience. We would explain the importance of Kwongposh. Gani Namthali was a star singer in those meets. Nadim Sahib, HN Durrani and PN Jalali would also join these functions. These functions were organised at Rainawari, Ganpatyar etc. There were over 25 writers who were associated with Cultural Congress Movement.

During this period I recited and published one of my poems in Navyug, a journal edited by Pt. Lambodar Tikoo:

Nakhas Peth Levan hyeth

Assan Groos Ta Vuchh

Mazuras Dapan

Vanya Karav Tajdari Chah

Amanech Ta Jamohorich

Krakh Chohpori


Uthe Hain Mudatonh Ke Baad

Ik Saileh ravanh bankar

Jo Nakshe ayey Samneh

Usko mita Denge

These  were against autocracy and feudalism and were praised by Prof. Apurab Somnath, the great scholar of English. He used to attend our meetings and mushairas occasionally.

Poet Ariz composed the following:

Nadim Chhu Nafa

Gata Ariz

Mool Chhu Mehjoor

Majboor Pakan, Loor Dakhvith

Zar Ta Ranzoor

In 1955 when Russian leaders Nikita Khruschev and Bulganin visited Kashmir opera Bombar ta Yemberzal was staged in Nedous Hotel. It was written by Nadim and Noor Mohammad Roshan.

Veteran artists Rajbans Khanna, Shivdan Singh Chohan and Sheila Bhatia were deputed to Kashmir by IPTA to help the movement launched by Cultural Congress. They would attend all our meetings. There were other writers who came from outside - Ali Sardar Jafri, KA Abbas etc. The latter would read his Kashmir related short stories at Writers meets. Rajbans Khanna's house at Wazirbagh used to be venue for Cultural meets.

In 1952 our group went to Delhi to attend All India Progressive Writers' Association. It included Badri Nath Koul of Nishat Press, Rehman Rahi, Apurab Somnath, Somnath Zutshi, Aziz Haroon, besides myself. We had an opportunity to see Krishan Chander, Sahir Ludhiyanvi, Ismat Chugtai. I talked to Sahir and Majrooh Sultanpuri. We had lot of interaction with the great writers. I seconded a resolution, pertaining to peace. On the last day in the evening an open air Mushaira was held from 9 PM to 2 AM. The traffic stopped. Twenty thousand people listened with rapt attention and enjoyed the mehfil.

Rashid Bakshi had organised a Cultural Forum to counter Cultural Congress. Two well-known writers from Cultural Congress had defected to his side, but the Forum petered out within few months only.

KS: What was the impact of Progressive Cultural Congress Movement on Kashmiri Literature?

ADM: It was the best thing that could happen for Kashmiri language. It helped in the development of Kashmiri language. For the first time short story and prose was written. It started with Nadim's Jawabi Card and Som Nath Zutshi's 'Yeli Phuli Gash'

The short story was subsequently developed by Akhtar Mohiuddin, an Afsana Nigar of Calibre. Besides Nadim and Zutshi short stories were written by Tej Bahadur Bhan, Aziz Haroon and myself. Bhan wrote 'Vankha Pan', which was translated by me into Hindi. It received an award. He also wrote a novel 'Sailab Aur Katre'.

Opera was written first time by Nadim. Later, Moti Lal Saqi also wrote an opera. Before Cultural Congress there was no tradition of prose writing in Kashmiri. Som Nath Zutshi and myself contributed to this genre.

In the field of poetry-be it thought, subject or form, it got a new dimension. Nadim introduced free and blank verse besides Sonnet.

I translated many of Shivdan Singh Chohan's writings for Kwongposh. The movement also influenced Mehjoor.

Kashmiri language, hitherto the preserve of Sufiana singers, was brought closer to the masses, who began knowing its importance. There was focus on problems of common people, and on anti-imperialism in literature. By emphasizing these issues, there was de-emphasis on communal identities. Never before since Budshah's time a cultural movement with such sweep had hit Kashmir.

KS: What about your political work during these years?

ADM: 1947-1953 years were period of political uncertainty. Political discussions centred around how Kashmir would be resolved. People did not know what would ultimately happen. Poverty was rampant.

My trade union work took me to Tral, Anantnag and other Tehsil headquarters. I participated in Cultural Congress activities at Budgam, Handwara, Kulgam, Soibug, Kralpora, Lasjan, Zanapora, Khan Sahib and different mohallas of Srinagar. The Lasjan rally where Sheikh Abdullah announced Land to the Tiller was virtually a show staged by Left group in National Conference. Slogans 'Jameen Kiski-Kisan Ki' rented the air. I was present at the rally.

During my six years in Srinagar I came to know many people closely including such top leaders- NN Raina, ML Misri, Dhanwantri and Sadiq Sahib. Moti Lal Misri was a good orator. Sadiq Sahib would help the party cadres from his pocket whenever the cadres were in difficulties.

During the DNC period I was victimised by Bakshi regime.

KS: Can you elaborate?

ADM: Bakshi  resorted to victimisation of DNC cadres and sympathisers. I had attended a meeting of DNC at Zanapora, my home village. Sadiq Sahib and other top leaders had come to address it. They were out of power. Soon after I received transfer orders for Leh.

Dina Nath Parimoo, a teacher colleague of mine, tried to lure me to Bakshi’s side by offering inducements which I categorically refused inspite of the fact that my  family position was bad, father had died recently. Parimoo used to teach Bakshi's children at home and was a confidante of him. He was Basic Education officer. I remained under suspension for one year. DAV School Management, headed by Shri BD Nanda was sympathetic but expressed inability to help me out as there was no vacancy available in school. Party unit asked me to work in Mashal, the party mouth-piece. This assignment could hardly suffice my financial needs.

I approached Sadiq Sahib for help. My wife was very sick.

After a year Nadim Sahib helped me out. He approached Sansar Chand, the court singer of Bakshi who played Sitar. Every evening he used to regale Bakshi with his music. Bakshi was quite fond of Koshur Mosiqi. Sansar Chand asked Nadim to meet Bakshi in his presence. Bakshi was in great mood as he listened to Sansar Chand's number:

'Khoj Mehmood Chu Nawab

Samrood Toiti Samay

Chamaya Jami Jamay'

When it was over, Nadim intervened to say to Bakshi, "You have put a family to trouble. This is spoiling your image. Majboor's wife is in hospital. His economic condition is not good. It takes 7-8 days to reach Leh. He is willing to go to Uri". Bakshi feigned ignorance about the whole affair. Soon after this my transfer orders were cancelled. I was posted to Govt. School Dooru.

KS: Why did left movement fail in Kashmir? What has been its impact?

ADM: The movement played positive impact prior to 1960. After that it lost its sheen, turned sectarian and got splintered with each group remaining a paper outfit. Many workers joined the government. There were structural problems also accounting for failure of the Left Movement. Lines were imposed from above without taking cognisance of the ground realities or the assessment of lower-level cadres.

The leaders and senior cadres had obsession with ideology, theoretical issues and organisational matters and had little sensitivity to aspirations of common people. The party unit in Kashmir did not take decisions on its own but toed the line of central CPI leadership. Frequent changing of party line and splits left cadres confused. Attacks on religion also isolated cadres. In Kashmir senior leaders harboured jealousy against lower-level cadres, which brought in disillusionment in the latter. After 1960 the Kashmir left hardly played any meaningful role.

KS: Your early poems have been in Urdu. How did you switch over to Kashmiri?

ADM: It was due to my association with Kwongposh and Cultural Congress Movement. After writing a few poems in Kashmiri I shifted to short story. Then I again turned to poetry. It developed in Cultural Congress. My early poems were published in Kwongposh. Then my poems were also carried in Sunday Literary edition of Khidmat.

KS: You have five collections of your poems. Do these have political message as the theme?

ADM: I have not included my poems of Kwongposh in later anthologies. Only 'Aman Ta Zindagi' (Peace and Life) carries these. This book has six poems with themes- US intervention in Korea and Kashmir, Peace and Humanism etc. Poems in Dazvain Kosam (1987) deal with Namibia and depict human miseries, drought etc. One of my, fiery poem of early years is 'Jagirdara Thahar'.

I have written in Paband as well as Free/Blank verse, Radeef- Qafia metric style.

Subsequently, I left mannerism because stereotyping compromised beauty. In 1964 I wrote a poem with new diction and word beauty. Its title is "Shongan Yeli Raath Balan Shand Thavith" (When the night sleeps on the hills). It was liked by Nadim and others and later published as first poem in the year book of Kashmir - Son Adab. Though I started paying more attention to style and the craft of poetry I did not ignore the social role of a writer. My poems 'Shongian Yeli Raath." and Baharyin Zindagi Barabar, Zahar Chhu Aabe Hayat Chhavan, Cheh Racha Ta Masti Gulaib Royas, Mey Zahari Qatil Chhu Azmavan reflect protest against governance.

Dashhaar (1983) carries poems written between 1973-1983. These are short poems, number of Ghazals is less. The poems are written in free verse and poetic beauty has increased. Leaves of Chinar (1975), which includes six poems, has been translated by RK Bharti from Kashmiri into English. A Malayali friend has translated these into Malayalam.

KS: What are your experiences in Poetry?

ADM: During the past 15 years there has been tremendous change in diction, theme, style, poetic usage, technique etc. Though I have stressed on poetry, theme and vocabulary remain quite relevant. Every poet lives in present and is influenced by the society and the environment he lives in. So poetry has to change and adopt new artistic techniques and changing themes. My poetry is optimistic, where there is abundance of nature, humanism, hope, struggle in life etc.

I am basically a nazm poet, where ghazals are less. I have two experiences in poetry - Short poems and Longer poems. Prof. Amar Malmohi has reviewed my shorter poems in a 24-page essay in a thematic issue of Alav. Short poems of 22 writers were focused in the issue. My poetry has been recently rendered into music.

KS: What inspired you to write longer poems? Which is your best poem?

ADM: I was motivated to write longer poems by translation of Persian masnavis. Through these poems I wanted to communicate many things about Kashmir, terrorism, present situation which I could not do otherwise through short poems or ghazals. My longer poems are - Tyol (Pangs), Padi-Samayikh (Footprints of time), Wavasqun (Toward Wind). Tyol is my best poem.

KS: Have you been influenced by Nadim?

ADM: Not me alone but every Kashmiri writer since 1947 owes debt of gratitude to Nadim for adoption of form. But content, diction and dealing in my poetry is distinctively my own.

KS: What have been your experiences in Translation Work?

ADM: In 1973 I translated Kali Das's Meghdut into Kashmiri, giving it the title 'obre Shech'. This was a difficult job in the sense one had to be a good Sanskrit scholar and I had to give Kashmiri names for flowers. My friend Pushkar Nath Zadoo of Ganpatyar helped me in Sanskrit. He was himself engaged in translating Iqbal's poetry into Sanskrit. He was Shastri in Sanskrit. I helped him in Urdu.

For Rajtarangini translation I relied on RS Pandit's translation. He knew English well and was a better scholar of Sanskrit than Sir Aurel Stein. The latter's translation is important because Stein visited all the places mentioned by Kalhana.

I also translated monograph on Rahul Sankrityan. The author, unfortunately had not used much material available on Sankrityan. Besides, 12 famous short stories were translated by me from Kashmiri into Hindi. These were later published in Samkalin Bhartiya Sahitya (Sahitya Academy Journal) after 1963.

KS: Kuliyat Lala Lakhman is your another work.

ADM: In 1981 J&K Cultural Academy started a project on 'Lost Poets'. I was asked to work on compiling verses of Lala Lakhyman. The Kulliyat-i-Lala Lakhyman was published in 1982. My research starts from this project. Subsequently, I wrote a monograph in Hindi on Krishan Joo Razdan for Sahitya Academy. I translated some of his best poems from Kashmiri into Hindi. He bears strong Shaivite influence. I had already collected good material on him. Iqbal Nath of Vanpoh and other acquaintances of mine helped me to collect his date of birth and other necessary details. In exile I published a monograph of Arnimal, which set at rest raked up controversies on her historicity.

KS: How good is verse of Lala Lakhyman?

ADM: Lala Lakhyman's poems have poetic beauty, its form is excellent. In his characteristic style he resorts to lampooning (Tassana Chatun). Lala has written Leela poetry also.

KS:  It must have been a difficult job collecting his Kalam.

ADM: Lala did not keep a diary. He had terrific memory. His poetry was quite popular. People in Kulgam and adjoining areas would recite his complete poems without any fail.

 I had to work very hard. I was helped by Ramchand, son of Lala's sister particularly in gathering Leelas. Mrs. Damodar Koul (Shobawati) of Bijbehara, a relation of mine helped me in compiling two of his poems - Mirhama Sal and some other poem. Somebody had compiled 50-60 verses of Lala on uneven marriages. This was not available to me. I collected his poems from people particularly from ladies . Bapar Mandal, Tota Gudrin Chaya, Gada Dyagul were narrated by Muslims.

KS: Lala's Kalam has Pandit society as its focus. Have you been able to collect his entire Kalam?

ADM: It is true that his poems dealing with society are specific to Pandit social milieu, but he has also written powerful satire against the administration. Some of his Kalam may have been lost for good.

KS: What was people's response to your effort?

ADM: People knew me in the area. They were quite cooperative and appreciated the job. Common people enjoyed his qalam, but sections of feudal elite hated him. There was class and gender basis for appreciation of poetry.

KS: At places you have left names blank, Why so?

ADM: My friend ML Goja asked me to delete certain names mentioned in certain poems, critical of their families. He argued that this would embarrass their children, who were quite important officials. One of the persons told me his family who lived at Niu has been referred to in 'Gada Diygol’.

KS: You have worked on Rasul Mir also?

ADM: I collected 10 new ghazals of Rasul Mir from various singers of Dooru Shahbad. These were published first time by Amin Kamil 15 years later.

KS: What have been your other activities besides poetry?

ADM: I have been writing short stories, essays on history and prehistoric Kashmir, besides conducting research on some of the famous poets - Lal Ded, Nadim, Arnimal, Mehjoor, Azad etc. My article on Lal Ded's birth-place Devar-Frastpur, near Panthachowk was published in Shiraza. Presently, I am working on birth-places of Nagarjun and Abhinav Gupta. I believe Nagarjun belonged to a place called Nageypur, near Dachigam Sanctuary. I once happened to read an article by a Delhi scholar, who had said Abhinav Gupta lived in east in some place called Nagaard. I wrote him back if Gudar in Kulgam could be this place, supporting it with local folklore. He replied that it could not be ruled out.

KS: Have you ever attempted a novel?

ADM: When I was in Udhampur in 2000 I had completed my historical novel--Vanvas (exile). After writing 12 chapters I found it became too heavy. I wanted to re-write it. Due to my neck injury I haven't able to pursue it further.

KS: In what way is Exile reflect in it?

ADM: I have tried to analyse rise of terrorism in a historical perspective in Vanvas. Besides this I have tried to depict nostalgia of  Kashmiri Pandits living abroad and the natural beauty and ethos of Kashmir. Then there are human forces who have come in the way of terrorists - ladies who saved many innocent people from the militants and others who had to flee. In refugee camps Pandit exiles continue to eke out a sub-human life. All this forms backdrop of my novel. The Novel is written in Nastalik Kashmiri.

KS: Who are your favourite authors?

ADM: Kalidas in Sanskrit, Ghalib in Urdu, Shakespeare and TS Eliot in English, Nagarjun, HR Bachan, Sumitra Nandan Pant in Hindi, Lal Ded, Krishnjoo Razdan and Abdul Ahad Azad in Kashmiri, Saidi, Rumi, Hafiz in Persian. Among Russians my pet authors have been Chekhov, Mayakovsky, Gorky and Sholokov.

Kalidas' style, similes, vocabulary and description of nature have impressed me. Ghalib appeals to me because of his language-choice of words and their usage, liberal ideas, theme of ghazals, style, depth of poetry. Kalidas and Ghalib are greater poets than Iqbal. Lal Ded has used powerful similes to explain the philosophy of Shaivism. Her Vaakh style is crisp and can be remembered easily. Krishna Joo Razdan has great artistic beauty. His leelas carry sweet words. He was a shaivite and Leela poet of great calibre. He knew Sanskrit, Urdu and Persian. Azad's poetry was based on social realism. Saidi, Rumi, Hafiz-all had sweetness of language. They had depth in their poetry; nature, beauty, love are abundant in their poetry. They were liberal, had good human feelings.

KS: What are your observations on languages akin to Kashmiri-Pogli, Siraji, Kishtwari?

ADM: Due to big influx of Kashmiri migrants in Doda region, their mother tongue got mixed up with local languages. The latter are versions of this hybridisation.

KS: What about the impact of Kashmiri on Dogri?

ADM: One of my papers was published by Kurukhetra University in which I highlighted certain proverbs, words common to two languages. Two factors are responsible for it - Geographical contiguity and migration of Kashmiri people to Jammu region.

KS: What is the impact of Sanskrit on Kashmir?

ADM: 70% of Kashmiri wordstock is impacted by Sanskrit.

KS: What is the future of Kashmiri Language? How good is the readership of your work?

ADM: I cannot predict the future of Kashmiri Language at the level of people among Displaced Kashmiris. The writers and those who want to keep the language alive are doing a marvellous job, bringing out many journals which carry articles/poems in Kashmiri. There are websites which promote Kashmiri language and literature.

Then there are problems which are not specific to Displaced Kashmiris only. The audience in general remains limited. 'Reading Kashmiri will not fetch jobs for our children' is the standard reply we hear. Script is also difficult. Even then we have produced good stuff in short story, poetry, novel writing. The problem is that it does not reach people, the readership continues to remain small. This is true of my works as well. My writings which have been translated into English have received good reviews.

KS: What is the controversy about the script? What are your personal views?

ADM: In Devnagri Kashmiri can be written well. Nastaliq script has been in use for quite good time, many books have been published in this script. Roman script is little difficult for writing Kashmiri, mistakes galore while writing in this script. Reviving Sarda, the original script of Kashmiri requires huge effort. Mehjoor was an advocate of Sarda script, while Amin Kamil favoured Roman script for use. I personally hold the view that there should no restrictions for use of any script for writing Kashmiri.

KS: Do you originally hail from Zanapur?

ADM: We originally belong to Kawadara, in downtown Srinagar. Pt. Govind Koul, my grandfather dealt in cloth business. He used to bring his merchandise to Zanapur for sale, and would stay at Pt. Reshi Bhat's house.  Subsequently, he married Reshi Bhat's sister, Zoon and settled at Zanapura. He had five sons, Kailash Koul my father was the youngest. My grandmother was a brave lady, who could get hold of a hundred sheep and then put salt ball into their mouth.

KS: How did Majboor get associated with you?

ADM: My actual name is Arjun Nath Koul. It was changed to Arjun Dev by authorities at Dayanand Mahavidalaya, Lahore. Once in Srinagar  I happened to see a movie, Majboor. It befitted the conditions of the time and my life. I adopted it, despite advice to the contrary by my well-wishers.

KS: Zanapur of your childhood and adolescent years must have been quite backward?

ADM: It was quite backward, with a vast impoverished peasantry. There were just 2-3 shops, and same number of government employees, doing small jobs as Patwari or in Education department. Pt. Dina Nath Raina alias Tar was first matriculate of the village. I was the second one. There was stark poverty both among Muslims as well as Pandits. The occasion for taking meat was Shivratri festival or when a guest would drop in. The milk was not for sale, neighbours would share it freely. Barter system was in vogue. The people were full of compassion, love and brotherhood. Poverty did not stand in the way of hospitality.

KS: Where did you have your schooling?

ADM: I had my primary education in Zanapur. The school was housed in a shanty house, its mud floor would emit stink. We had teachers from both communities - Pandits as well as Moulvis. A teacher who stayed at our house used to give me free tuitions in the evening.

From 6th Class I joined Govt Middle School, Raghu Nath Mandir, Srinagar. Sh S.L.  Labroo was the Head Master. He used rod quite liberally. English was taught from 6th standard. I stayed at Bohri Kadal. As my health deteriorated I was put in Govt. Middle School (Anglovernacular), Shopian. My school was 6 miles away from Jamnagri, where I was putting up. In summers I would get up at 5 AM and reach school by 7 O'Clock. The school would close at 1 PM. I would take food on the way by the side of a stream. My father was posted in Shopian Court. I passed 8th in 1937. It was during this time I happened to see first time a Kashmiri Pandit who had done his Masters in Arts.

Another incident worth recalling is when Inspector Schools Mehndi Ratta visited our school. Boys used to wear Pagri. He reached out to a boy, who looked quite shabby in his Pagri and Coat. The Inspector asked him the reason for his uncleanliness. Without battling an eyelid, the boy replied: "Sir, I am poor". It was the standard excuse those days. Pt Dina Nath Hanjura was a teacher in National High School, Shopian. He was quite renowned for excellent teaching.

Since Mission School, Anantnag was only a Middle School, I was sent back to Srinagar and enrolled in MP School, Dilawar Khan in 9th Class. This school was located in idyllic surroundings, near the Mangleshwar Bhairav. In late 1980s when I visited the area I was dismayed to find that neither the marsh nor the house where I stayed existed any more. The marsh used to look so beautiful. The school had an excellent ambience, with majestic Chinars abounding in its compound and a playfield in its periphery.

My Form teacher was Sh. BN Chattoo. He had fancy to talk in English. Two of the Head Masters of MP School had earned nicknames due to their peculiar mannerism. Pt. Radhakrishan Koul was called Meem, an English lady, for his attire. He was smartly dressed with a neck tie and a well-fashioned turban. The other teacher, Gh. Rasool was nicknamed 'Tabardar'. He resorted to corporal punishment too often. We had a student from an affluent family of shawls. His excellent dress singled him out in the school. I took my Matriculation Examination at Mission School, Lal Chowk.

KS: Where did you stay during your years at MP School?

ADM: I stayed with my pufi Zai Ded, married to Pt. Aftab Joo Gadroo of Bohri Kadal. After the death of my pufi, the brothers of her husband-Ved Lal, Ishar Dass and Sudarshan looked after me well. Ved Lal Ji was a draftsman and lived in style. He used to host a musical fiesta on his birthdays. The celebrated singer Sham Lal Kutwal would be the singer on the occasion. Kutwal would be served whisky before dinner. This would help him entertain the audience by churning out melodious gazals, Leelas and folk songs throughout the night. Till then I had no idea about what Whisky was. I presumed Kutwal was given water from Chashmashahi spring to clear his throat. The bazar of Bohri Kadal, with its famous Gada Kocha (Fish Market) is still fresh in my memory.

KS: What are your experiences of Srinagar of that time?

ADM: I liked the city immensely. I alongwith my friends would get up at 4 AM and often go for 'pratikhana' (circumambulation) of Hari Parbat. Tulmulla was a popular shrine frequented by Pandits. The Pandit ladies would go to Hari Parbat in wee hours without any fear. The charming Dal Lake and White Wooden Horse at Residency Road fascinated me. Watching Dussehra was quite popular, people would throng to the venue in tongas. A tonga would charge one anna as fare from Zanakdal to Lal Chowk. Cars were rare.

Daily Martand and Khidmat were popular papers. The former, priced at one anna, came early and was delivered at home. I had not seen a ten rupee currency note till I passed matriculation. Bus service to suburbs was not regular. For going to Srinagar we had to foot the distance to Bijbehara and wait endlessly for the bus to come from Anantnag. At times the bus would play truant and come the next day. The fare to Srinagar was six annas.

KS: What was the living standard of people those days?

ADM: The people lived below poverty line. Pandits used to take Kehwa in the morning. Bread would sell for one paisa a loaf, Kulcha for ½ a paisa. Kids were served 1/4th or ½ the loaf, yet they would not grumble. Pocket money was unthinkable. Commodities were cheaper, money was even scarcer. The rates were: Saag - 16 packs a paisa, meat-4 annas a pav, nadru-two seers for 4 annas etc.

KS: What did you do after passing Matriculation?

ADM: I worked on a leave vacancy in the State Cooperative Department for six months at Karan Nagar, there was a cooperative Training School. Students were taught about the Cooperative Movement there. Abdul Aziz, a lecturer was quite pleased with my performance here. For a while I worked as an apprentice in the court. This did not appeal to me. Meanwhile, I applied for admission in 'Dayanand Mahavidalaya', Lahore. Veteran Broadcaster Pt. Shamboo Nath Bhat Haleem belonged to my area and was an active Arya Samaj worker. He was already a student of the institution and had asked me to apply for admission. I was selected for Sahitya Ratan, a 4-year course in Sanskrit. Punjab University would allow these students to sit in MA English later on.

KS: Did you have any contact with Arya Samaj in Kashmir?

ADM: Not much. I knew activists like Prem Nath Bira, Dina Nath Bamchuntoo etc. Patriotic and social reform elements in Arya Samaj would appeal to me. I was also impressed by Satyarth Prakash of Swami Dayanand.

KS: You had received an offer of 'Nazir' in court around the same time.

ADM: Only few days after I landed at Lahore I received two telegrams from my father. He had asked me to return to Srinagar without any delay to join as 'Nazir' in the court. As I did not respond, he himself came some days later. I left it to Shamboo Nath Bhat Haleem, my senior in the institution, to explain to him the advantages of my continuing education here. Father left with great reluctance.

KS: Pandit leader Kashyap Bandhu had also worked with Arya Samaj in Lahore. What were his political views?

ADM: He used to be at Virjanand Ashram. The ashram management gave him his new name. He came to Kashmir after the events of July 1931. I have already published a 40-page biographical essay on him in Urdu. He used to send me 'Desh', both at Zanapora and at Lahore. This would keep me abreast of latest political situation at home. In the years he was active in the anti-autocratic movement he supported socialism. In fact, he, wrote an editorial in Desh: 'Samajvad Hi Qiyon", explaining the virtues of socialism. In his later years when I was posted in his home village Geru I found him changed. He would use a peculiar epithet to describe communists. Bandhu Ji once told me that his religious identity marred his political career when he had  all the potential to emerge as foremost leader of Kashmiris

KS: When did you see Bandhuji first time?

ADM: I met Bandhuji first time in Vasanta School Chowk office of Desh, near Kralkhud before going to Lahore. His matamal was in Zanapora. At Geru where I was posted in later years I would meet him every Friday. This provided me the material for writing an exhaustive essay on him. He had good diction and wrote literary Urdu. His journalistic talent was superb. Bandhuji kept a good library.

KS: Did you get any stipend at Dayanand Mahavidalaya?

ADM: Rs 40 per month was given as stipend. It was quite sufficient to meet our expenses. One Pt. Raghav Ram Bhat of Badsargam, who was an Arya Samaj worker and served in Army, used to send me Rs 10 per month. After becoming an Arya Samaj worker, he changed his name to Mahasha Raghav Ram.

KS: How was the atmosphere at the institution Hostel?

ADM: Lahore was a historic city, but quite hot in summer. There was no dearth of water in the hostel. The hostel had spacious accommodation. We had to wash clothes ourselves. Classes would start at 7 AM and finish at 1 PM. A glass of milk was served at 9 AM. There was no tea nor could we go to watch films. The hostel looked like a mini-India with students from different regions studying here. We came to know about each other's culture. It was a very cordial atmosphere. We discussed politics, Kashmir, different languages and cultures etc.

KS: Who were your contemporaries at the college?

ADM: We had students from all parts of India - Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Garhwal, Karnataka etc. One Narayanan went on to become Professor of English at JNU. Satyavarta of Garhwal became a painter of repute. Shamboo Nath Bhat Haleem became a famous broadcaster. He has developed Kashmiri section of Koshur Samachar. Haleem Sahib rejuvenated Kashmiri news of AIR, introducing innovative Kashmiri words and bringing life in news.

KS: Something about the teachers who taught here?

ADM: Prof. Ishwar Chandra taught philosophy and was a giant among scholars. A nice human being he was an agnostic. He loved to take classes in hat and knickers (shorts). Professor Chandra was liberal to the core. He always wore a smile on his face, anger was alien to his nature. Students had free access to him. He spoke fluent Sanskrit. At times his lectures looked too terse. He would often take us to Sanskrit Goshties which were held once a week in DAV College. Leading luminaries of Sanskrit would take part in these literary gatherings. Prof. Chandra's presentations would be flawless, he would not pause while making delivery of presentations.

Swami Vedanand Tirath was the Principal of Daya Nand Mahavidalaya. A profound Vedic scholar, he had complete mastery over Urdu, Arabic, Sanskrit and English. He was a true 'Sanyasi'. His meals were frugal. At times it would be my honour to fetch his meals from Krishna Nagar. He invariably took 4 phulkas and a Katori of Dal. His simple big residential room used to be stuffed with hundreds of books, covered nicely in ochre-coloured cloth. His mastery over Vedas made him a legend in his lifetime. He had authored a number of books on Vedic research. Swamiji was a virtuoso in the art of translation. He could effortlessly translate from one language to the other-be it Urdu, Sanskrit, Arabic or English.

Prof. Shiv Dutt was another great teacher who taught Arabic. This was my optional subject.

KS: You haven't mentioned anything about Hindi. What was its status in those days?

ADM: Those days Hindi was called the language of ladies, mainly English and Urdu were in vogue.

KS: What about the Library?

ADM: The institution had a big library and a fine reading room. It was here I got the opportunity to go through the works of Munshi Prem Chand. The 'Mangal Sutra', his last novel was not available. It remains my regret that even upto this time I haven't been able to get hold of this book. The library used to get all the newspapers and journals available in Lahore.

KS: What about the Lahore of those days?

ADM: Milap, Partap and Zamindar, all dailies in Urdu were published here. Times of India, Vishal Bharat, Illustrated weekly of India were freely available. I had the privilege to see Khushal Chand Khurasand, the editor and owner of Milap in his editorial office. A staunch Arya Samaji, he turned into a Sanyasi adopting the name as Anand Swami. Mahasha Krishen was editor of Partap. He used to wear dhoti and would dictate daily editorial to a clerk while enjoying a walk in his garden. Thakur Dutt, the proprietor of Amritdhara used to entertain students with good dishes.

Allama Iqbal had passed away. His Kothi was at Majang Road. Shalamar garden had an artificial hillock. It was full of fountains and Jamun trees. Generally, we visited places like Wachoowali, Shah Alami Gate, Anarkali Bazar, Mall Road etc. The main city - Wachoowali quarter had narrow lanes, where houses had no windows. Light pierced through the roof. It was true of even Punjab Assembly building, which was otherwise an architectural marvel. Its roof was covered with glass.

In Shah Alami Darwaza, the old city area, the gate carried beautiful life-size frescoes-which depicted (Nightingale) bulbul resting on a tree. Model Town, a new colony had come up. Houses were better ventilated here, roads too were wider. In the Anarkali area big houses and shops used to brim with bright light. It had a big bazar, to which British customers would throng. We had heard about Hira Mandi also. On the Mall Road Britishers used to enjoy  tea  under big Chhatris at roadside stalls.

We did not engage in any political activity while at college, but often went to hear speeches of political leaders. I once heard Raja Gazanfar Ali's speech in Assembly. He would roar like a lion. The other leaders whose speeches I had the opportunity to listen to were-Jinnah, Nehru, BPL Bedi, Nawab Ali Yavar Jung. Maharaja Hari Singh also came once. On another occasion Yavar Jung held the audience spell-bound by speaking for over 2½ hours.

Kashmiri labourers used to work in Rice and Flour Mills of Lahore. They would feel happy on meeting us and would narrate their tales of woe.

KS: What were your experiences with Arya Samaj here?

ADM: From Lahore I once went to attend Hindu Mahasabha conference at Amritsar. There was a cane charge, which left Late Shyama Prasad Mukerjee injured. During this trip I also learnt how wealthy people were misusing religious organisations to promote their business. Baba Gurmukh Singh would give Rs 1 lakh for Vedic Prachar but extract Rs 7 lakh in return. This made me disillusioned with Arya Samaj. In Amritsar Conference one lakh people had attended the Mahasabha Conference.

KS: When did you and Haleem Sahib leave Lahore?

ADM: SN Bhat Haleem wanted to do Prabhakar at Jammu but the institution authorities did not allow him to go. My friends Nachiketa (of Kerala) and Narayanan made Haleem Sahib flee from the Vidyalaya at 2 AM in the night. Tonga had been kept ready to take him to the station.

I remained in Lahore for three years. When riots broke out in July 1946 in Model Town I came to Srinagar for vacation and did not go back. British had instigated the communal riots. My course remained unfinished. I did MA in Hindi from Kashmir University in 1961.

KS: How people used to travel to Lahore those days?

ADM: I went to Lahore first time via Sialkot. In Jammu Parade used to be the bus stand. Railway Station was just across the Tawi bridge. Jammu was a small city with just seventy thousand souls living in it. Tonga would charge 4 annas from Parade to Railway Station. We would leave Jammu at 5.30 AM, take Frontier Mail from Wazirabad Junction and reach Lahore by 2 PM.

The Journey via Rawalpindi was through a picturesque landscape. Two tunnels had to be crossed in railway journey from Lahore to Rawalpindi. The latter was a busy town, where Kashmiri apples were sold. The merchandise from Rawalpindi to Kashmir was carried in bullock carts and the road was named Jehlum Valley Cart Road. Rs 1 used to be paid for stay per night as per  Sir Younghusband those days while in transit. It was one day journey by bus from Rawalpindi to Srinagar. 'Allied Charag Din and Sons', ran about ten buses on this road. Its Srinagar office was located at Neelam Hotel area in Lal Chowk. The fare was Rs 10 from Rawalpindi to Lahore and Rs 2 from Srinagar to Jammu.

KS: What did you do after coming from Lahore?

ADM: I joined Daily Hamdard as an Advertising Manager, with monthly remuneration of Rs 30. The office used to be where present CPI office was located. The Editor-owner Prem Nath Bazaz had a separate room in the office. Sh. Nand Lal Wattal was Asstt. Editor. Besides Makhan Lal Mhow, a mazahiya (humourist) poet and clerk Somnath there were eight people on the staff. Bazaz for some time edited Vitasta also.


It was at Hamdard office I first saw poet Abdul Ahad Azad. He would come once a week to meet Bazaz, the two would remain engrossed in discussions for hours together. Azad's poems were published regularly in Hamdard. He used to wear white turban, Coat and Shelwar. The Editorials were usually written by Shri NL Wattal, but important editorials were penned down by Sh. Bazaz himself. Bazaz wrote the famous editorial "Door Basat Hai Desh Sunehra" (Situation will change for good) on Dyalagam Kisan Conference. I also attended this conference held at Fatehpur Vudar. The gathering comprised mostly middle peasantry, but surprisingly Bazaz had also invited Arwani landlord Makru. Mhow recited his poems at the conference.

Hamdard work began to take toll of my health. I used to have frequent bouts of Dysentery. We were living in a joint accommodation. I complained to Bazaz that remuneration was quite insufficient to meet my needs. He said to me that "Na Nav Man Tel Hoga Na Radha Nachegi". Bazaz was not warm in his personal dealings. I resigned from Hamdard in March 1947. Then after working for six months at Arya Girls High School at Hazuri Bagh, Srinagar I joined DAV High School at Magarmal Bagh. I served here till 1954 when I was appointed as Government teacher in a school at Utterso, Achabal.


Source: Kashmir Sentinel




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