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An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri



Premi-An Angel Not A Friend

By Moti Lal Saqi

When I heard the bad news about Dr. Brij Premi's death, I was shocked. He died unsung and unwept. No bells tolled for him because all those who knew and loved him were scattered and are still in disarray. Dr Premi's news of departure came as a bolt from the blue to all his friends. He never deserved such a treatment at the hands of nature, because he loved life.

Dr. Premi died a martyr - a martyr due to exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley. He was in deep love with his land and people but was made to say good to it. He suffered in exile not for want of money but simply for breathing space. In his heart he was agonised and succumbed to this agony. This fact shall go down in the annals of times to come that exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from Valley deprived them not only of valuables and belongings but also snatched away some brilliant souls from amongst them like Dr. Brij Premi. Had he not been compelled to leave his home and hearth he would have lived for many years more and could benefit us with his ripe experience and overflowing pen. What a tragedy, our official and non-official media remained tight-lipped about the untimely death of Dr. Premi so much so that even a condolence was not offered. This is nothing but the turn of events which speaks for itself. We had heard a lot about the fraternity of pen pushers but all this proved a false dream at least in the case of my angel friend, Dr. Premi who sacrificed his life at the altar of exodus.

Treatment meted out to this noble soul is the alarm of the events that have changed in course of our thinking and approach. All through his short span of life he showered flowers in the way of his friends, colleagues and writers but in turn he was forgotten as if he never existed. Time is the great judge. On the touch stone of time best and pure will show its worth and Dr. Premi will be given his due place in the cultural and literary history of Kashmir. He had carved out a niche for himself in the mansion of our cultural movement and there is none to deprive him of his place come what may? Because sands are sure to settle, glitter shall vanish and base is sure to be rejected.

To me Dr. Premi's death is not simply the death of a friend. It is the loss of a man who was close to my heart. It is the departure of a benevolent angel who was a source of solace and strength for me. For the last thirty five years our friendship stood the test of time and weathered all the storms which came our way..

I know it is not a loss to me alone, there are many people who will remember him for a long time. My personal loss is something greater, something that cannot be made up. His departure has crippled me. I feel my right arm has been cut and sooner or later I have to depart in my crippled state.

Health failed Dr. Premi for the last six or seven years. But his ill health never made him to shun his love and affection for me. He would off and on come from University campus for a chat or to discuss any problem relating to our personal or cultural matters. Though he was not physically fit even then he was full of life.

He was determined to accomplish something more, something novel, which could add to the knowledge of Kashmiriology. It was his earnest desire to complete history of Kashmiri literature in Urdu. He had done some preliminary work in this regard also but merciless jaws of death deprived him the opportunity to accomplish the job.

In his literary pursuits Premi was an infidel. In fifties Mantoo was a symbol of reactionary forces to progressive writers, who were in full command of the situation at that time. Premi on the other hand was all praise for him. He loved Mantoo’s diction, treatment and style of story telling. It was this infidelity which led him to select Mantoo and his writings, as the subject for his Ph.D thesis. His love for this great writer knew no bounds. After the completion and publication of his Ph.D thesis which won him a prize also, Premi wrote a series of articles which appeared in leading Urdu journals and periodicals. He was, of course one of the few scholars who have proved their mettle in the realm of 'Nutoiat'. What Premi thought and believed in fifties came true after seventies when Mantoo was declared undisupted master of short story in the sub-continent.

The sweet memories of the past are the only treasure now left with me. People of my hue and colour are departing one after another. How painful it is that I am left behind to lament and mourn the death of those who sprinkled honey dew on burning soul as and when it was needed. It is not possible at this juncture to recount all that which was shared and what transpired between us. It is the subject that I will tackle at proper time separately. The wound is fresh and pangs pinching. In this atmosphere at least allow me to control my tears, which of their own accord come into my eyes when I think or talk about my best friend. Our friendship was not the alliance of mutual bargaining or self interests, it was an amalgam of heart and thinking.

Dr. Premi appeared on the scene as a short story writer and ended his sojourn as a student and a scholar of History, cultural folk lore, personalities of J&K State. It was his research work which brought him honour and recognition. But this does not mean that he was lacking in any way in the art of short story writing. I remember it very well that his short story 'Sapnon Ki Sham' appeared in Biswin Sadi, it was praised by lot of people and the author received at least two hundred letters praising the treatment and art of short story writing.

Dr. Premi was miles away from self glory and hypocrisy. He was all grace and compassion for those who sought his help and sympathy. This short appraisal is nothing but simply the recollection of some of the things I knew about Premi. I only long to meet him again and enjoy his company for ever. I know my dream will not materialize here, but, I am sure, we will meet again where and when that is the question of destiny and time because I firmly believe in the transmigration of the soul.

*Born in 1936 at Badiyar Bala, Srinagar. Poet, Writer, Historian, Researcher, Translator, Editor and Author of many books in Kashmiri & Urdu languages. Sahitya Academy Award Winner. He was honoured with Padmashree for his overall contribution to literature.

Source: Vitasta



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