Author: Brij Premi
Publisher: Ruchna Publications Naseeb Nagar, Jammu-1992
Reviewer: Prof. R.N. Kaul, Chinore, Jammu
Paying a tribute to his friend and patron, Earl of Southampton, Shakespeare wrote in one of his sonnets:
So long as men can breathe, have eyes to see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
Though physically Brij Premi is no more with us, his soul still lives with us. This is due to his passionate and dedicated service to the cause and spread of Urdu in the J&K State. Urdu, being rich in subtle thought and possessing an equally rich vocabulary (especially in its poetry) it is bound to grow and prosper on the sub-continent of India and as such Brij Premi’s name shall always be associated with it.
Many an erudite scholar has written on the life and art of Brij Premi. These are Gulam Rasool Nazki, Qamar Jalalabadi, Rehman Rahi, Amin Kamil, Motilal Saqi, Nayeem Sidiqui (Pakistan) Shahid Budgami, Farida Kaul, Margoob Banahali and others. Possessing not even a smattering knowledge of Urdu, I am aware how audacious it is for me to attempt a review almost like the proverbial fool who rushes in where angels fear to tread. Yet I do let a wider public know about Urdu and about Brij Premi's contribution to it; two, Premi himself wrote many articles on Urdu in English; three—I share with Brij Premi love for natural beauty of the Happy Valley, love for its rich heritage in terms of culture and literature and above all love for Kashmiriat; four—I have been a proud teacher of Premi in the college.
Before I proceed, let me quote from "The place where I live' by Brij Premi:
"Where I live is known for centuries as the paradise-founded by Kashyap Rishi-where I live is the place which gave birth to mystics and poets like Lala Ded, Sheikh Noor-ul-Alam. Habba Khatoon, Rasul Mir, Paramanand, Mehjur....This is the place whose water and air flowed in the veins of Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr. Iqbal, Chakbast and Sadat Hassan Mantoo...'
But certainly Brij Premi loved Urdu and its literature more with a passion and dedication rarely found. Possessing the twin characteristics of creative artist and critic, he conducted research and study, so vast and detailed that in a short span of time he was able to present the remarkable book "Jammu-o-Kashmir main Urdu Adab Ki Nashu Numa", that is, evolution of Urdu inJammu and Kashmir. He covers the entire gamut right from the Dogra rule to the present day, thus not only making the common man familiar with the language and its rich literature but also provoking him to go to the originals. He gives evidence of a literary historian who approaches his subject with an objective, rational and scientific attitude. He surely was opposed to autarchic rule of the Dogra rulers, but he points out how grateful the lovers of Urdu in the state should be to Maharaja Ranbir Singh and Maharaja Pratap Singh who encouraged the growth and popularity of Urdu. Maharaja Ranbir Singh got Persian, Sanskrit and English classics and manuscripts translated into Urdu and without hesitation declared Urdu as the state language, of course, giving Kashmiri, Hindi and Dogri their due status. Brij Premi lauds the creative artists in Urdu but at the same time regrets that some of them made deliberate attempts to Persianize Urdu, thereby making it unintelligible for many readers.
No critical historian of any literature worth the name can be truly objective without relating the times to their creative products. That is what Brij Premi has done precisely. The times to which writers like Prem Chand Munshi and in our state like Prem Nath and Prem Nath Dhar and others younger to them belonged were indeed pre-independence and post-independence times-times exciting and stirring. Struggle for freedom from British imperialism in India and in the state of Jammu and Kashmir against the Dogra autocracy was in full swing. Epical in its quality the heroes and leaders of the freedom movement like Gandhi, Nehru, Abdul Gaffar Khan and Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah possessed epical dimensions. Naturally no young and sensitive artist could resist the impact of this struggle because for them it was the beginning of freedom from poverty and exploitation of the downtrodden:
Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive
But to be young was very heaven.
So sang young William Wordsworth about the French Revolution. And, so, as Brij Premi rightly points out, our short story writers mainly chose their themes to paint vividly the sufferings of the peasants and labourers of the state. It is clear how Premi connects the growth of Urdu short story to the social and political milieu of the times. And before we mention what critical remarks Brij Premi has made in detail about these writers it is important to know what role Urdu journalism played in the process. In fact, no literature has flourished especially in its infancy without the essential infrastructure of newspapers, journals and printing press. Maharaja Ranbir Singh provided the press while Mulk Raj Saraf gave the first Urdu newspaper Ranbir to the people of the state. In it and later on in Akhbari Aam, Vitasta, Martand, Hamdard etc. not only began the appearance of articles on political and social themes, but short stories and critical articles on literature made their appearance. The progressive movement and progressive literature began to be propagated through newspapers and in journals which soon followed the dailies and weeklies. Progressive cultural front was organised soon after attainment of independence. Brij Premi notes in the book under review that the short story in the state became the artistic mouthpiece for alleviating the sufferings of the exploited sections of the society.
In the field of the short story Brij Premi notes with gratitude the sources from which the writers who nourished this genre received their inspiration. Of Prem Chand, Sajad Hyder and then of the journalist-poet-scholar Munshi Mohammad-ud-Din Fouq he makes special mention. Naturally, Prem Nath Pardesi, and Prem Nath Dhar are discussed in greater detail. Pardesi's"Duniya Hamari", Dhar's "Kagaz Ka Vasudev" and "Nilie Aankhen" are specially mentioned. Naturally after partition, the themes of bloodshed and exodus received greater attention and Ramanand Sagar's "Insan Mar Gaya"became a national craze. Writing under the impact of the communist ideology, short story writers gave this art a new dimension as already said. On the literary firmament were seen new stars like Somnath Zutshi, Ali Mohammad Lone, Akhtar Mohi-ud-Din, Ved Rahi, Brij Premi, Hari Kishen Kaul and Gulam Rasool Santosh. This as Premi points out, the artistic and aesthetic side of the short story became subservient to what can be called a mission.
Premi notes, however, that after 1965, the content and technique of the short story in the state underwent a change. Impact of science and technology was felt and the writers went into themes psychological; the inner mind of man began to be explored; conflicts were discussed through the characters and man-woman relationship too received attention. Mention is made of a new generation of writers in the genre under discussion, prominent among them being Omar Majid, Kishori Manchanda, Shams-ud-Din Shamim, Virendra Patwari and others. Brij Premi pursues the study to the latest times. The evolution of Urdu literature and its forte the short story in our state, continued its march with yet a fresher content and a novel technique. Anand Lehar, Anis Hamdani, Somnath Dogra, Jan Mohd. Azad, Ashraf Ansari with others have blazed yet another trail.
Brij Premi succeeds in his purpose of critically outlining the evolution of the short story in the J&K State. Though aware of the limitations of space he nevertheless give a fairly adequate information about his subject. He talks about the political and social contexts, the role of newspapers and journals and educational institutions and especially of the J&K Cultural Academy in helping Urdu blossom into a noble and effective medium to satisfy the aesthetic tastes of the people in general. He creates interest for the original works by giving glimpses of personal lives of writers, their privations, their joys and sorrows and above all their love for Kashmiris and Kashmiriat, not ignoring the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Ladakh.
The novel in Urdu did not progress so well as the short story. Brij Premi attributes it to lack of newspapers prepared to publish novels in serials. He, however, fails to point out another reason: during the period of fast social and political changes, people would have no patience to sit long over a novel. Yet at a later stage, the craft of fiction started evolving itself to mature art, especially after 1960 where Pardesi's aborted novel "Poti" and Ramanand Sagar's classic "Insan Mar Gaye" provided the lead, the novel was to grow in the hands of Narsinghdas Nargis, Thakur Punchi, Sofi Mohi-ud-Din, Faroq Renzu, Jan Mohd. Azad etc. It however failed to attract attention because it focussed only on social problems, seldom going deep into human psychology.
Since drama in Urdu made a late appearance, having its origin in wandering groups of entertainers, Brij Premi does not justifiably devote too much space to its evolution. Though some troupes did perform in the state and dramas of Aga Hashar Kashmiri, Betab Benarasi, Talib Banarasi created interest in writing of drama, it were Mohd. Umar Noor Illahi and Dina Nath Warikoo who proved pioneers in the field. Finally the impetus to this genre came through Radio Stations in Srinagar and Jammu. The radio plays by Prem Nath Pardesi, Akhtar Mohi-ud-Din, Som Nath Zutshi, Ali Mohd. Lone. Thakur Punchi and Shabnam Qayum were well-written and equally well-presented. The coming of the TV too has helped the growth of drama in Urdu.
Naturally the growth of criticism in Urdu receives detailed attention of Brij Premi. This genre of literature helps the growth of a language and its literature in a country. It is critics who are the propagators of literature. In the columns of newspapers and journals and in the form of books critics offer appreciations of the works of art, thus making the wider public familiar with these; they offer guidelines for enjoying a piece of literary art. And when a critic happens to be a creative artist at the same time, criticism becomes much more helpful. Though rarely so in the western world, in the J&K state the two have co-alesced. In our state the pioneers in this field were Mohi-ud-Din Fouq, Mohd. Umer Noor-Illahi, Abdul Ahad Azad, Nandlal Talib, Prem Nath Bazaz etc. Yet critics like Salamullah, Shamim Ahmed Shamim, Dr. Aziz Ahmed Qureshi, Dr. Hamidi, Ali Mohd. Lone and a host of others have done equally well in making Urdu Literature read and enjoyed by a wider public.
In Jammu especially pioneering work was done by Dr. Shyam Lal Kalra by presenting to the people his book "Angrezi Rehjanat" outlining the influence of English criticism on Urdu criticism. Brij Premi also mentions and rightly so, the critical works on Urdu literature by eminent critics like Prithvi Nath Pushp, Mohi-ud-Din Qazi, Gulam Rasool Nazki, Moti Lal Saqi, Asad-Ullah Wani, Premi Romani, Yosuf Salim, Majid Mazmar etc.
Moti Lal Saqi in his brief foreword to the book under review notes that before this one on the evolution of Urdu in the J&K State, one by Dr Abdul Qadir Sarwari had already appeared. He writes, "The book written by Dr. Sarwari cannot be overlooked. But very few people will be acquainted with the truth that Premi rendered great help to Dr. Sarwari in preparation of the book and this help is creditable....I can speak on personal knowledge that Premi deserves appreciation for his dedicated and sympathetic care with which he collected material for Dr. Sarwari's book".
I need not repeat that Brij Premi has rendered a yeoman's service to the cause of Urdu in the state. Let me conclude by quoting from Prof. Ale Ahmed Saroor:
"The remarkable work that Dr. Brij Premi has done for Urdu literature and Urdu criticism is creditable".
*The author was Professor of English and also served as Controller Examinations, University of Kashmir. His published works include—Sheikh Abdullah, Lal Ded. He has also been involved in Literary Criticism.
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