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?
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?
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
India. I began trade union work among teachers and
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
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?
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
It used to publish a monthly journal in Kashmiri,
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
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
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
Vanya Karav Tajdari Chah
Amanech Ta Jamohorich
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.
composed the following:
Nadim Chhu Nafa
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
Kashmir related short stories at Writers meets. Rajbans Khanna's
house at Wazirbagh used to be venue for Cultural
In 1952 our group went to
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
KS: What was the impact of Progressive Cultural
Congress Movement on Kashmiri Literature?
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
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
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
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
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
KS: Can you elaborate?
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
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:
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?
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?
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?
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
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
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?
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?
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?
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
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
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
KS: Kuliyat Lala Lakhman is your another work.
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
KS: How good is verse of Lala Lakhyman?
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
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?
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?
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?
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
KS: You have worked on Rasul Mir also?
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
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?
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?
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?
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
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
KS: What are your observations on languages akin
to Kashmiri-Pogli, Siraji, Kishtwari?
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
KS: What about the impact of Kashmiri on Dogri?
One of my papers was published by
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?
70% of Kashmiri wordstock is impacted by Sanskrit.
KS: What is the future of Kashmiri Language? How
good is the readership of your work?
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?
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
KS: Do you originally hail from Zanapur?
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?
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?
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?
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
From 6th Class I joined
Govt Middle School, Raghu Nath Mandir,
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
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
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
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
School, Lal Chowk.
KS: Where did you stay during your years at MP School?
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?
I liked the city immensely. I alongwith my friends
would get up at
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
KS: What was the living standard of people those days?
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?
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
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.
University would allow these students to sit in MA
English later on.
KS: Did you have any contact with Arya Samaj in
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
KS: You had received an offer of 'Nazir' in court around the
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
KS: Pandit leader Kashyap Bandhu had also worked with Arya
What were his political views?
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?
I met Bandhuji first time in Vasanta School Chowk
office of Desh, near Kralkhud before going
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?
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?
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
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
Kashmir, different languages and cultures etc.
KS: Who were your contemporaries at the college?
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?
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
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
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?
Those days Hindi was called the language of ladies,
mainly English and Urdu were in vogue.
KS: What about the Library?
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
KS: What about the
Lahore of those days?
Milap, Partap and Zamindar, all dailies in Urdu were
published here. Times of
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
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
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?
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
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
2 AM in the night.
Tonga had been kept ready to take him to the
I remained in
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?
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
The Journey via
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
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
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
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
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.
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