Monday, October 12, 2020



                                                            (DINA NATH NADIM)
                                                             ( RAVINDER KAUL )



 Ravinder Kaul writes :

 “I met Dina Nath ‘Nadim’ on a wintry day in 1987 for the first and the last time at his son’s residence in Jammu. The sky was overcast and rain seemed imminent. My friend P.K. Raina, who had been instrumental in fixing up the appointment for me, accompanied me. I was carrying an awkwardly big tape recorder with me. It was a Sunday and we were received by the entire family in the living room. After having tea and exchanging pleasantries they left us alone with Nadim and his wife, who stayed back in the room with us. I switched on the tape recorder and the formal interview began. We were talking in Kashmiri. Since I had done my homework, it was easy to ask some pertinent questions. It was also a happy occasion as the Sahitya Akademi award for Nadim had been announced sometime back and the award ceremony was to take place in New Delhi after a few days. I could sense that at his age and with his stature, the Award hardly carried any meaning for Nadim. He talked freely about his past, his achievements and his contemporaries.

Although prior to the interview I had tried to gather as much information as I could about Nadim and his contribution to Kashmiri literature, I was not really aware of the fact that he had inspired many of his peers. I got an idea of this much later when I was interviewing Rehman Rahi, one of the finest Kashmiri poets of our times, for a TV programme at his residence in Vichar Nag. Rahi said that whenever a poet was invited to participate in a Mushaira in which Nadim was also to recite his poems, everyone would make special preparations and choose one’s finest work in order to leave an impression on Nadim as well as the audience. Yet, despite all these preparations, when finally Nadim would start reciting his poems, their plight appeared to be similar to that of punctured balloons. They would only sigh and wonder if a day would dawn when their poetry would come anywhere close to the poetry of Nadim.

After the interview was over, it took me many weeks to transcribe and translate it into English. After completing the task I handed over the typewritten pages to Shri Ved Pal ‘Deep’, an eminent Dogri poet who looked after the literary and cultural contributions at the Kashmir Times. He somehow misplaced the pages and every time I would remind him about the interview, he would promise me that he would find the pages and publish the same soon. In the meanwhile Nadim passed away on April 8, 1988. I once again went to Kashmir Times office to ask Deep Saheb to look for my interview with Nadim. This time he surprised me by saying that he had found my interview and that it would be published the coming Sunday in the Magazine Section. He very thoughtfully added an Editor’s Note to the interview, which was published in its entirety, without editing, and covered three-fourth space on the last page of the newspaper on 10 April 1988. Here are the excerpts:"

( Ravinder Kaul had interviewed Mr. Dina Nath Nadim for ‘Kashmir Times’ a few days before he left to receive the Sahitya Akademi Award. But due to oversight it could not be published earlier. We had planned to publish it this Sunday but before that the pale hands of death removed Nadim from our amidst. This is now being published as our homage to the departed poet....Editor)



Ravinder Kaul: Tell us something about your childhood.


Dina Nath ‘Nadim’: I was born in 1916. I still remember many incidents of my childhood. I would sometimes imagine seeing strange people. I would talk to imaginary characters. Hallucinations, maybe? My parents used to be worried about me. They would sometimes wonder if I was mentally retarded or an idiot perhaps. When I was 7 years old my father died and we were only two people left in the family; me and my mother.


R.K.: You were the only child?

D.N.N.: No, I also had a sister, elder to me by six years. But our relatives had pooled some money and married her off in the very year of my father’s death because we had no money and they wanted to relieve my mother of the responsibility.


R.K.: What did your father do for a living?

D.N.N.: He was a clerk in the customs department. I distinctly remember that we had only one and a half rupees in our home when he died. Even his last rites were performed with the help of a social organisation. When I was 9 or 10 years old and studying in 6th standard, I began teaching a student of 1st standard. I would be paid two rupees as tuition fee. My mother used to spin thread on Charkha and thus earn a few rupees. I would sit beside her and listen to Lal Vaakh (Verses of Lal Ded) which she would sing while working. I have been a great admirer of Lal Ded’s poetry since that time. I always had to read from the second hand books given to me by my relatives. I remember when I had to appear in the Matriculation examination, my teacher paid my fees.


R.K.: Do you remember some of your teachers?

D.N.N.: They were all very good. Although they would beat us up at times but that too would be for our benefit. There was Shiva Kaul ‘Middle’, Dina Nath Fotedar, Radha Krishan Pandit, Jamna Dass, Karam Chand and Bhagat Ram. I got a 1st Division in Matriculation examination. My mother wanted me to take up a job but I wanted to study further and I joined college against her wishes. I was also regularly doing tuitions at that time. One of my students was Arjun Nath Thussu, who later rose to the rank of a Chief Engineer. His parents would pay me ten rupees as tuition fee.


R.K.: Your relatives did not help you?

D.N.N.: No, they did not. Probably, because we were very egoistic. (His wife, who sat on a sofa all through the interview, interrupts to add. “His mother was a very proud woman, she would not accept charity”). We would at times go without food but we used to live with self-respect and dignity. It was around this time, i.e. 1932, that I joined Kashmiri Pandit agitation. I was greatly influenced by Bhagat Singh. When he was executed, we did not eat anything for days together, in grief. So, I wrote Lenin on a piece of paper and a few lines extolling him and put that paper into a bottle-bomb. We kept that bottle bomb outside the Library of S.P. College. There were a few students there. Among them were Nabh Ji and Aziz Kashmiri, who later became an editor in Pakistan. When they saw the bomb, they shouted loudly “beware there is a bomb here”. Although it did not explode, it created a sensation. Mr. Mcdermutt, the Principal, called the Police and they defused the bomb. The incident was reported in Daily Milap the next day. We were four of us involved in this incident including Jagan Nath Sosan, Balbadher Zutshi and Prem Nath Das. All of them have since expired. We were also greatly influenced by Chakbast’s poetry at that time. It was during these days that within a span of 10 years, my sister, her husband and her three sons expired one after the other. I was so grief stricken that I started writing poetry in Urdu. I also wrote ‘Devdas Ka Ek Din’ in Hindi.


R.K.: Did you get your poems corrected (Islah) by someone?

D.N.N.: No. Maulana Mohd. Sayeed Masoodi alone has corrected one of my poems ‘Mazdoor Ka Khwab’. During the times of (Gopalaswami) Iyenger (the then Prime Minister), Sheikh Abdullah raised me in his arms in a public meeting and told the gathering that ‘Look, here is our poet and he has nothing to eat’. It was the day when Muslim Conference was converted into National Conference. Then came the demand for responsible government and I joined that agitation. I was arrested and my house was searched. They could not find anything incriminating in my house. There were only books of Urdu poetry. I was released by the Court on the third day. At that time there used to be dictators of the agitation. First dictator, second dictator, third dictator and so on. Among these was Mohiuddin Karra, Moti Lal Zutshi, Sadaruddin Mujahid. I was also among them. When I was released, I left Srinagar and came to Jammu. I did a few tuitions here and during this time I felt why should not I write in my own language and I wrote my first poem in Kashmiri ‘Jagat Janani Bhawani Maaj Paniney’ on the lines of Vande Maatram.


R.K.: How did this transition from Urdu to Kashmiri take place?

D.N.N.: I had an Ustad, and well wisher Ahsan Bin Danish in Lahore. He had come to Srinagar to participate in a Mushaira and we met. It was at his insistence that I started writing in Kashmiri. Then there was Arif Sahib (Mirza G.M. Arif Beg) who was my class mate. He also told me in 1945 that I should write in Kashmiri and I wrote ‘Macharawi Bar Tu Dari Wesiye Sont Hai Sal Aaw’. It was spring. In the meantime I had started teaching in Hindu School, of which I was one of the founders. I also got married after this at the insistence of my mother in 1941. One of my early poems was ‘Wathi Bag-ch Kukli Koo Koo Kar’.


R.K.: How did you adopt the nom-de-plume ‘Nadim’?

D.N.N.: It is an interesting story. Prem Nath Shala was one of my elders and he was friendly towards me. He once said that I will give you a new Takhallus (nom-de-plume). I used to write Makhmoor till then, and he gave me the new name ‘Nadim’, and I accepted it gratefully. I had no idea that there already existed another ‘Nadim’ at that time, Abdul Ahad ‘Nadim’ of Bandipur. Then I joined the Cultural Front.


R.K.: What was the background of Cultural Front?

D.N.N.: It was a communist organisation, covert and underground communist organisation. It also had Pran Kishore, Shahabuddin Ahmed, Peer Abdul Ahad, Ghulam Rasool as its members. During these days I also recited a poem in Mujahid Manzil in the presence of Sheikh Sahib. I requested Som Nath Zutshi, Shyam Lal Saraf and Mohiuddin Karra that I wanted to recite a poem but they said that it was not possible to get time as the schedule was very tight. Ultimately Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad spotted me and called me on to the dais and gave me two minutes. I recited two poems and became a celebrity overnight. My mother had expired in 1944 and she became the alter-image of my Kashmiri language and I began to decorate her with everything I had in my repertoire.


R.K.: What were your other influences?

D.N.N.: Mayakovsky had become my ideologue because I had become Secretary of Progressive Writers Forum. I became Editor of Kong Posh and during this time I wrote Operas, Harisaat, Sonnets, Free Verse. In 1959 I wrote Nabad Tyethwani. It is the first modern poem (Jadid) in Kashmiri. ‘Bijli Batti andi andi Mah Jorah’. Before this – I had written ‘Thahar Lai-e-Bronh Ma pakh’ and ‘Bu Gyava na az’.


R.K.: In 1953 you have written ‘Tomul Hai Shirin Hai’. What was the background in which you wrote this poem?

D.N.N.: I used to buy rice for my home from a ration shop. During the month of Magh I went to fetch rice and a Muslim woman also had come to buy rice along with her young son. She asked for one manut of rice. But the shopkeeper said that she had already taken her quota of rice for the month and she would not get any more. I requested the shopkeeper to give her rice but he declined to oblige. At about the same time the son of the woman picked up a handful of rice and the labourer (Hamal) of the shopkeeper put his nail studded shoe on the hand of the child. The child cried in agony and so did I. I asked the shopkeeper to give a manut of rice from my quota of ration to the woman and went home and wrote ‘Dedi Tomul Hai, Shirin Hai, Mishir Hai’. It is a dramatic dialogue.


R.K.: Did you have any contact with progressive writers of other languages living in other parts of the country?

D.N.N.: There was Krishan Chander, Rajinder Singh Bedi, Sajjad Zaheer, Ali Sardar Jafri, Sahir. They were all my friends. I used to live in Magharmal Bagh and they used to come to see me whenever they would come to Srinagar.


R.K.: What about other writers in Kashmiri like Mahjoor.

D.N.N.: I used to call Mahjoor my maternal uncle. He once asked me about my place of origin. I told him that my mother hailed from the village Murran and that I had lived there. Then he said that since he also belonged to the same area (Trigam), he was as good as my mother’s brother and thus my maternal uncle. He said about me once that I was the future of Kashmiri Language. He has also corrected some of my poems. I have a photograph with him and Master Zinda Kaul.


R.K.: When and how did you go to China?

D.N.N.: I went to China in 1952. I was Secretary of Peace Committee and I represented Kashmir in the delegation.


R.K.: Tell us something about your experiences in China?

D.N.N.: It is a beautiful country but one thing that I protested against in China was that they did not agree with the accession of Kashmir with India. Secretary of the Communist Party Gopalan also protested along with me. Chinese wanted to appease the Pakistani delegation. I also saw an opera there titled ‘Grey Haired Girl’ and I wrote an opera ‘Bombur Ta Yamberzal’ immediately after returning from China. It was later translated into Russian. Another achievement of my literary career is writing of Harisaat.


R.K.: What kind of form is Harisaat and what are it contents?

D.N.N.: (Recites an example) ‘Buta Khora Akh, Wati pyeth Pyomut’.

R.K.: It seems to contain somewhat surrealistic imagery?

D.N.N.: It is surrealistic imagery all right but its basis is Lal Wakh. There are small things, very small things in the world which we generally ignore and I wanted to probe those things. I can’t write now because I am ailing and invalid but my brain is still very alive and I wish to express myself in Harisaat.


R.K.: You have also written a poem on Nehru.

D.N.N.: Not one but many poems, because Nehru was a leader who was very dear to the people.


R.K.: You claim to be a fan of Nehru and you also profess allegiance to communist ideology. Don’t you think there is an ideological contradiction in this?

D.N.N.: I am not the fan of Nehru the administrator or ruler, I am the fan of Nehru the scholar. I also like Nehru because I am an agnostic and he too was an agnostic.


R.K.: It appears that during your career as a writer you have stepped on many toes. You seem to have antagonised many people. Was it because of ego clashes?

D.N.N.: There were no ego clashes. It was plain and simple professional envy. Many people resented my success. They gave me respect also but at the same time many of them were antagonised as well. I wrote the first story in Kashmiri ‘Jawabi Card’. I wrote the first critical Essay ‘Magar Karvan Sone Bronh Pakan Gaw’. This was the reason. They used to hate me for my success and my achievements.

R.K.: Why have you published so little work in book form?

D.N.N.: Because I was very busy in teachers’ movement.


R.K.: You also sat in the Legislative Council for one term. How was that experience?

D.N.N.: I became ideologically perfect with that experience


R.K.: What was your role in the Council?

D.N.N.: My role was critical of the policies of the government affecting the teachers. I wanted not only higher salary for the teachers but also a system that could convert the teachers into ‘real’ teachers. That is why I affiliated the teacher’s movement with CPM. When the Low Paid Employees’ Federation was formed, I became its President and I tried to bring that body also nearer to the progressive movement.


R.K.: With your kind of ideology how did you find a place in the Council in the first place?

D.N.N.: I did not find a place because of certain people but I found a place because of my devotion towards the cause of teachers.


R.K.: How do you feel on receiving the Sahitya Akademi Award?

D.N.N.: I’ll tell you a short tale. There was a lion who had somehow got entangled in a strong net and he was struggling to free himself. A small squirrel came to lion’s rescue and freed him after cutting the net loose. The lion promised to reward the squirrel with a gift of nuts. But before the promise could be fulfilled, the lion got involved in some other work and forgot the promise only to remember it a few years later. When finally he went to the squirrel with the gift of nuts he found that the squirrel had lost all its teeth and thus could not enjoy the gift.


R.K.: You have also received the Soviet Land Nehru Award and visited Russia in that connection. Tell us something about that.

D.N.N.: In Russia I visited Minsk. Everybody had been slaughtered in that city during the World War-II, and I was very moved by the sight of that city. I found a huge white-collared-bureaucracy existing in that country and I hated it. There is no freedom there.


R.K.: We have an Academy of Art, Culture and Languages in our State. Tell us something about its functioning and its role in our State.

D.N.N.: It has a very great role. But there should be no government interference in such organisations. There used to be a person called B.P.L. Bedi in Srinagar. He was a member of the Communist Party. He used to say that such bodies should be free from all government control and we tried to do it. We tried to form our own forum on these lines but because of lack of funds and space we could not run it for long.


R.K.: Do you have any unfulfilled desires?

D.N.N.: I would very much like to reveal myself in Harisaat. That is the best I have written so far. Not free verse, blank verse or sonnets.


R.K.: Do you have any message for the new generation of writers?

D.N.N.: They should be sincere towards themselves, towards their work and towards their language. They should not Persianise the Kashmiri language to the extent it is being done now. I shall conclude now. Vitasta that I have written is my eternal song and I want to be like Vitasta. It is my earnest desire that when I die I should be singing the song of Vitasta.



( Read R.K. for Ravinder Kaul and D. N. N.  for Dina Nath Nadim..)



( Avtar Mota )



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