Wednesday, December 17, 2014


                               ( wedding Procession if Maharaja Hari singh Of jammu )

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Padma Sachdev ( Born 1940 ) hardly needs any introduction. She has established herself as a frontline Dogri Poetess, novelist and writer . She is equally well known amongst Hindi readers for her poems and Novels . This book has been published by “ Bhartiya Gyanpeeth ” as a Hindi Novel . I was attracted and tempted to read entire Novel after going through some pages initially . Dedicated to Hindi writer late Kamleshwar , the book is spread over 218 pages .Padma Ji pays due tributes to late Dharmveer Bharti noted Hindi poet , who encouraged her to write this semi autobiographical novel. It is a story of Post partition evolution of Jammu city .
The author is careful about not touching any political personality except Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad. I believe this is due to some personal reasons and a sort of debt that was due to him from her side .
Padma ji considered late Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad as her guide and a fatherly figure . Bakshi felt highly impressed after he heard Padma ji at a Mushaira in Jammu where she recited her poem “Raaje diyaan Mandiyaan.” . It is a remarkable poem that voices the feelings of the oppressed and the exploited poor, symbolized by an old woman. It also expresses deep anguish against the inhumanity and insensitivity of the powerful and the ruling class. Bakshi later ensured that she got best medical treatment when she was admitted to Chest Diseases Hospital at Srinagar ( Droggjan Dalgate) for Tuberculosis . At that hospital, Padma Ji stayed for abut three years and during this period , she came very close to Kashmiri language ,culture and social customs. She also learnt to speak Kashmiri language .
Later , After her divorce / separation from Ved Pal Deep, modern Dogri poet and editor of the Urdu newspaper Sandesh , Padma ji decided to move to Delhi . It was again through Bakshi Ghulam Mohammd’s intervention  that she got herself transferred to AIR , Delhi. She was already working as announcer in Radio Kashmir Jammu.

Using Suggi ( a widow from a family of barbers to Dogra Maharajas ) as protagonist , Padma ji takes you on trip of Jammu city right from her childhood days till sometime around 1994-95 . In this journey , you visit Panjtirthi locality where Padma ji spent her childhood after her family shifted from Purmandal .You come across the steep foot paths ( Dakkis ) leading to river Tawi . These paths would become live everyday early in the morning darkness as men and women went to river Tawi for bathing . You visit the narrow lanes and clean mud houses with courtyards that were made dirt free using cow dung spread . Wonderfully descriptive scenes have been created around Suggi’s house ; tinkling of bells at Mahalakshmi Temple of Pucca Danga , Jangam Babas at Peer Kho Temple on Tawi bank , Daunthali Bazaar , Purani Mandi , Kachchi Chhawani , Maniyaari shops , warm kitchens with timber burnt for cooking food , the smoked utensils , Chapattis , Daal , Karhi Chaawal , Kachaaloo ,home made mango pickle , morning Desi tea with sugar and a pinch of salt , Khameer , eating juicy Kimbbs , elders with Hookah , Pateesa , Darbar Move , walnut tree bark used as Daatun and many more easily identifiable lifestyle images of Jammu city’s past .
Every morning Gujjar women ( with heavy silver anklets ) ,living in hills adjoining the city , walk through steep paths ( Dakkis in Local parlance ) to bring Milk to the city . They sit and gossip in a confident and carefree manner with the Shah ( shopkeeper ) . This scene is almost extinct now as milk is ferried to city by male Gujjars in motor vehicles through roads that connect their houses with Jammu city .
As you move through the pages , you find women in tight Churridaar Pyjamas ( Suthhan ) singing: ……..
Pal pal Beyi Jaana Ho Jindhe
Raati Reyi Jaana Ho Jindhe
( Love sit for a while over here too
Love stay for a night over here too )
Women prefer to sit in groups after they finish their work . While sitting , each women is busy in some kind of work that could be knitting or needle work . Away from their mothers in law , young women giggle when some married girl joins to say:
“ Breikurr gilli bii Balley
Suss gareeban be larre “
(The Breikurr shrub burns even if it is wet ,
And the mother in law quarrels even if she is poor )
After they finish the kitchen work , women busy themselves with Charkhaa and keep singing in low tone …
Ladli na Rakh Baawala
Teri Ladali De Din Thhoday
Laadli Me Iyaan Rakhii Ye
Jiyaan kaagdhe De Vich sunna
“ Father don’t pamper your daughter
She has a brief stay in your house “
“ I have kept my darling daughter
Like we keep precious gold inside paper ”
“ Chambe diye Daahladiye Moiye Bindh Duaas ni ho
Kal Unney aayii Ponaa Khirri Khirri Banii Banii Po ”
“ O You like a branch laden with Champa flowers , Do not turn to sorrow,
Dress up and Sit like a blooming flower , Tomorrow he shall be arriving .”
Suggi is witness to the painful events of 1947 and the arrival of refugees from Mirpur , Rajouri , Bhimber and other adjoining areas to Jammu city . Her memory is stored with many tragic events of 1947 when man turned a beast . She also narrates with pride as to how some persons still retained sanity when people behaved as lunatics . For her ,Pakistan was created out of pain and suffering resulting from killing of many innocent people across both sides of the border . She misses Sialkot where some of her childhood friends and neighbours migrated . She is sympathetic to refugees who arrived from POK and also misses her Muslim neighbours who left for Pakistan.
Unfortunately , Padma Sachdev also lost her father , Sanskrit scholar, professor Jai Dev Barru in the communal frenzy of 1947.
Pandit Sansar chand Baru ( painter ), Poet Kishen Smailpuri , Poet Dinu Bhai Pant, Malika Pukhraj,Maharaja Partap Singh , Maharaja Hari Singh and Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad as prime Minister also find mention in the novel. In fact Suggi goes to the official residence of Bakshi Ghulam amma in Jammu when she is driven out from a custodian house by government officials . She motivates Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad to come to her house in a jeep and take on the spot decision . While Bakshi drives the jeep personally , Suggi sits in the front seat smilingly . To the surprise of her foes , Bakshi does justice in his own style to poor Suggi . He allots a custodian House to her during this visit .People gather to see the prime minister coming to meet a poor destitute woman. While Bakshi delivers justice , a person amongst the onlookers keeps singing:
“Bhaley Bhaley Ki sidhaa kardaa
Aey Bakshi Da Dandaa “
“ Who is there who has not been set right
By Bakshi ‘s hand held stick ?“
Other characters of this novel that are worth mentioning are , Nainto ,Raano, Pant ji , Soma Panditaayan , Sainti, Laajo and Shardul Singh ( servant from the Wazir family ) . Shardul Singh is a liquor addict. Shardul Singh’s Sahib from the Wazir family is fond of Kalaaris made from milk and he prefers to have them with his daily quota of liquor .With this Wazir family , Suggi goes on a pilgrimage to Pashupati Nath Temple of Nepal.
Soma Panditaayan is her childhood friend . Her husband , Pandt Dev Datt is a respected Brahmin who is always busy performing marriages , Mundans , Yagneopavit functions , Shradaas and other religious rituals for various families in Jammu city. Soma fondly calls him Pant ji ( Pandit ji ). Pant ji never misses his early morning bath even during intense winter season when he uses a Kangri to warm up his body. Without fail, Pant ji does his morning Thakurdwara ( Pooja room or Thokur Kuth in kashmiri ) Pooja before starting his daily routine work. He must also have his glass of milk everyday after his Thakurdwara Pooja . Soma puts three or four water soaked almond kernels in this milk .Pandit Dev Datt is a Shaivite who worships Parthav Shiva with milk , water and Bheil patter . The husband and wife live a happy and contended life. Suggi is a frequent visitor to Pandit Dev Datt's house .
And then Suggi remembers how she would join Bhaakkaan singers from adjoining hills of Jammu city who flocked to Amar Palace on Maharaja Hari Singh’s birthday . These women would squat in groups in the outer lawns for their day long singing of Pahaari songs . Gifts and food would be distributed to them by the members of the royal family . They sang so many songs like:
‘Chunn Maahrra Chadeyaa te pahaarraa aahli Kingri
Sajjane Ki Pyaar denaa Nuthh karrey Khingri
Milnaa Zaroor Meri jaan ho ”
“ My Moon faced beloved has gone up a mountain top ,
Keeping my Nose ring aside ,
I shall offer him my love
My love! I shall meet you for sure . “
How painful for Suggi to know that Maharaja was an exile who lived in Mumbai with his ADC Capt. Diwan singh and some trusted Servants .The royal status of Wazir and Katoch families of Jammu had also declined with the departure of Maharaja Hari Singh . Some one makes her believe that even during Maharaja’s rule , Dogras were poor and unemployed as Maharaja Partap Singh and even Maharaja Hari Singh preferred outsiders to fill various posts in administration. A woman quotes Poet Dinu Bhai Pant to support this point of view..
Lok Mheene Maardhey Dogre da Raaj Ho
Dogre da Bhaag Dikho Jurrdaa Ni Saag Ho
( People comment satirically that Dogras rule the state
And look how unlucky Dogras can’t even afford green vegetables )
And Jammu kept changing . People who were satisfied with Daal ,Chappati , Achaar , Lassi , Madra , Kachori ,Annardaana, Rajmaah shifted to Cold Drinks , Lipton Tea, Chicken, Ice creams, sweets , kitty parties and LPG cylinders in their kitchens . With development and newer employment avenues , People from many towns start pouring in and settling in Jammu city . Jammu gets ample connectivity and expands in all directions . With new concrete residential buildings ,newer colonies and people pouring in regularly , the city feels pressure on its resources . Suggi is privy to these rapid changes .
And then in 1990 ,Suggi witnesses once more something like 1947 events . Terrorized by armed militants, Kashmiri Pandits run for safety and arrive in Jammu city. They take shelter in temples , vacant semi finished buildings , tents and anywhere and everywhere they find a cover for their hapless families . Young children , women and elders crowd in a single room , face many odds and to survive , men from the community take up any offer of employment that comes their way .They live in hell but keep dreaming of the heaven they left behind.

   ( Padma Sachdev sitting with Chitra Singh , Others in the picture are Poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz , Alys Faiz ,Ali Sardar Jafri, Lata Mangeshkar , Rajinder Singh Bedi )

The protagonist of the novel is amazed at the resilience of this community and feels that no curse is bigger than leaving one’s motherland .
Suggi tells Soma Panditayan:
“ Look Soma , Women may pass time in banishment as they get busy with other household affairs but men suffer too much while living in exile . These Pandits used to spread education all over . Now look how these poor fellows do all type of odd jobs. I curse this government . Bring two families over here . Those two rooms are locked since long in our locality . I shall break open the locks. Let two Pandit families stay over here .Bring Sarvanand Koul’s family here . If nothing is possible , I shall share one room in this custodian house with that family . One room is sufficient for me ."
Unable to come to terms with rapid changes taking place around her , Just before her death , Suggi tells Rano :
“This city does not reflect the Dogra culture any more . People neither speak Dogri language nor eat Dogra food. No one dresses like a Dogra any more .The potter who made Suraahi type pitchers is dead .No women wears a Suthhan ( a long but tight salwar worn by ladies ). When parents do not speak Dogri , how can children speak Rano Ji . Dogras think that they have come from England . They feel proud in teaching English to their children as a language of communication within their families and homes ."
On her death bed , Suggi tells Parsino , her daughter in law :
" Look Parsino , river Tawi is more sacred than Ganga or Yamuna .Let me have a bath in Tawi before I die . Can't Nathi ( Parsino's husband ) carry me on his back ? I want to see hills of Mata Vaishno Devi . I shall send my Pranaams to Mata Rani. Parsino , Listen carefully , Soma is my childhood friend . Respect her in my absence .During my death rituals , ensure that all women wear Dogra Dress. you should wear a Suthhan . I shall be watching everything from the sky over your head. I may become a ghost if you do not act on my words ."

And inspite of her love for Dogra culture and language , Suggi is open towards accepting changes that are sweeping her Jammu . In fact she has learnt and adopted many things after her personal interaction with Punjabis , Mirpuris and Kashmiris living in Jammu city . She likes Kashmiri Kahwa tea and crisp Baakir-khaanis . She has a Kashmiri Raffal Dussa that she uses sparingly.

And Jammu finally turns a crucible of many cultures and civilization ;A true symbol of Unity in diversity …..

I conclude this post with a couplet of Poet Firaq …

Sar Zameen e Hind pe aqwaame aalum ke Firaq
Kaafile bastay Gaye hindustaan Banataa Gayaa”

I recommend this book to every lover of literature . culture and tradition.
( Avtar Mota

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