Tribute: Remembering Prof. D.N. Madan - My Mentor
By Tribhuwan N. Bhan
Sometimes on Sunday morning, I watch the programme 'Rangoli'
on TV presented by the vivacious and eternally elegant actress Hema Malini. I
like to watch this programme of songs and dances from old Hindi movies. Their
lyrics have meaningful words and are set to music by vetern music composers like
Naushad, Roshan, Shankar Jaikishen, C.Ramchandra and others. Lyricists and music
composers together created haunting melodies then. I go on a sentimental journey
down the memory lane while watching this programme, as most of the sequences
were shot in picturesque valley of Kashmir, the abode of my forefathers and my
Some weeks ago, I was engrossed in watching the sensuous
dance of Zeenat Aman, dancing to the words 'Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram' and to the
tunes of music directors Laxmikant Pyarelal. The dance sequence was from Raj
Kapoor's block-buster movie. These words made my mind travel back to the year
1956 when I was a student of Gandhi Memorial College, Srinagar. My mentor of
English Literature at this college was late Prof. D.N.Madan. He took to teaching
for the love of English language and literature. To pursue his love of this
language, he gave up his father's lucrative hardware business. After acquiring
Master's Degree in English from Lucknow University, he started to teach at
G.M.College. One of the founding fathers of this college was his father late Pt.
Incidently, his younger brother Dr. T.N.Madan followed in the
footsteps of his elder brother professionally. He obtained his Doctorate in
Anthropology from Australia. On returning to India, he was a luminary professor
at Delhi University till his retirement some years ago. As a student at
S.P.College, Srinagar, he was the distinguished student of my cousin Prof. Som
Nath Dhar. Together they edited the English section of the college magazine
those days. Their relationship as teacher and taught was really ideal and worth
During the very first class, Prof. D.N.Madan gave us a
lecture on Keat's poem 'Ode on a Grecian Urn'. My mentor's diction of English
language was flawless and impeccable which almost mesmerised us. When he recited
the lines "Heard melodies are sweet, Those unheard are sweeter",
he gave a simple and laconic explanation that the former represent 'worldy
pleasures' which are short-lived and the later signify 'happiness' which is
everlasting. One is finite and the other infinite. While I was glued to the
small screen, watching Zeenat Aman dancing, the words "Beauty is truth,
truth beauty - that is all; Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know"
reverberated in my mind, being synonymous with the words of lyricist Narendra
"Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram
Satya Hi Shiva Hai,
Shiva Hi Sunder Hai".
It took me quite sometime to retrack from past to present.
But the words of Keats side by side with words of the movie song echoed
endlessly and simultaneously.
In his book 'How to know God', the internationally acclaimed
author and celebrated spiritual thinker Dr. Deepak Chopra says, "God is the
source of every impulse of love. Beauty and truth are both children of this
God". This shows that intellectuals think alike. Be he a poet like Keats or
an author like Chopra.
During one of the last lectures of English Poetry at the
college, Prof. Madan took up the poem 'Solitary Reaper' by William Wordsworth.
In his own inimitable style, he gave us a memorable biographical description of
Wordsworth as a poet of nature and as a precocious child, who would roam about
the countryside and talk to the trees, birds, rainbows and all the other aspects
of nature, and the emotional parting of ways with his friend Coleridge.
In the words of Wordsworth "Poor Coleridge was in bad
spirits and had grown too much in love with his own dejection". After
taking a degree at Cambridge, followed by a brief stay in France, but due to the
cruelty following the Revolution, Wordsworth was disillusioned and he returned
to England to spend his life at the landscape of the Lake District. In 'Solitary
Reaper', the poet says,
"The music in my heart I bore
Long after it was heard no more".
These words of the poet are significant for me, as for nearly
half a century I have carried within my heart the sound of the sonorous voice of
my mentor, even though, death has stilled that voice few years ago. Not only was
his explanation of English Poetry absolute perfection, his teaching of English
prose was par-excellence. It was his explanatory narration that created our
interest in the historical biography of Queen Victoria authored by Lytton
Strachey. I still remember his exhaustive character sketch of Prince Albert.
He was well read in Urdu and Kashmiri poetry too. Quite often
he would recite a couplet or two from Ghalib who was his favourite Urdu poet, or
from Kashmiri poets like Rasool Mir, Habba Khatoon or Mehjoor. He would thus
make his explanation all the more lucid and down to earth. Thereby, we students
adored him indeed. My friend and batchmate late Chamanlal Koul later known as
Poet Chamanlal 'Chaman' turned out to be one of the most original and promising
poets of Kashmiri language, mainly because of the encouragement he got from
Prof. D.N.Madan and Prof. P.L.Handoo. Unfortunately all the three are no more
A connoisseur of the fine arts, Bakshi Ghulam Mohd., the
dynamic Prime Minister of J&K state (1953-1963) felt that the youth were
drifting away from Indian traditions and were drawn towards the western culture.
In order to revive our culture and tradition and to wean away the youth from the
western influence, he directed various social and cultural organisations to
arrange a festival of dance, drama, music and sports all over the State. The
mammoth festival held sometime in mid fifties was called 'Jashn-e-Kashmir'.
Students of G.M.College took part in this festival. They staged a drama 'Dhak
Ghar', an adaptation of Tagore's play and also a ballet. Prof. D.N.Madan along
with his colleagues Professors P.L.Handoo, H.L.Misri, M.K.Ogra, O.N.Bhan,
D.N.Kaw and others went out of their way to give the right direction, timely
advice and assistance to the participants. The efforts of students and the staff
of G.M.College were rewarded by acquiring a certificate of merit from the judges
headed by the State's eminent poet and author Shri Dinanath Nadim. The
contribution of Prof. Madan towards the success of the events was immense. It
was during this period that I realised that my professor not only excelled in
academics but was indeed versatile and had enviable knowledge of Kashmiri
literature, culture and traditions.
After day's work when in the solitude of home, my weary
eyelids fall on my eyes, I hear the cho of his resonant voice and I hum a tune
in unison. Not
only in solitude, but even while I travel in Mumbai's
jam-packed local trains, I see the vision of my 'Sir' who was one of the
most immaculately dressed persons of Srinagar. He carried himself with dignity
and commanded every one's respect particularly of his students. I was fortunate
to be one of them.
The memory of the time I spent as my mentor's student is
indeed very precious to me and the experience of his appearing in my dreams and
occupying my thoughts, is celestial experience for me, more valuable than any
worldly treasure. I shall guard the same jealously till I am with my mentor once
again up there.