Friday, February 5, 2016





Devendra Satyarthi was a renowned Punjabi scholar , writer, translator and a poet who also wrote in Urdu, Hindi and English . He belonged to the generation of, and was friends with, Saadat Hasan Manto, Krishna Sobti, Gurbaksh Singh Preetlari, Mohan Singh, Ismat Chugtai, Rajinder Singh Bedi, and Nanak Singh.

A folklorist , Satyarthi earned many friends in literary circles of Jammu and Kashmir . Though a family man , he lived a roaming and carefree life , collecting folklores and folk songs for his write ups and books.

                                                              ( With Kamleshwar )


(Devendra Satyarthi with friends inside the office of 'Aaj Kal ' , a govt of India publication.You can see Sahir, Jagan Nath Azad, Josh Malihabaadi, Balwant Singh, Majaz and Jaan Nisar Akhtar )

Once  he  wrote :

‘ Money means nothing to me .I have travelled all over India mostly on foot and sometimes in trains without ticket as I look like a Sadhu.I have managed to survive. In this process, I have collected about 2.5 lakh folk songs . Some people call me a poet and some call me a folk song collector . My wife calls me a vagabond and a gypsy . And to that extent , she is right . My 75 books are based on translations of folk songs of the country.’

He also worked on Kashmiri folklore and songs . Impressed by the language , lyrical strength and imagery of Mehjoor’s poetry , he carried these poems to Gurudev Rabindra Nath Tagore who in turn was equally impressed . In fact Satyarthi is the person who exposed Mehjoor to the world outside Peer-Panjal hills.

About Mehjoor, Satyarthi wrote :

‘ Mehjooor’s poetry is full of life’s passion, brotherhood, love and hope for the oppressed. Mehjoor has  a broad vision of life.’

Classified as an Important archival  document, the manuscript of his work "Kashmir Literature and Folk Songs" is in the safe custody of British Library, UK in its Asian and African section of manuscripts.

Satyarthi was a lover of Kashmir’s natural beauty but its poverty pained him. This aspect is reflected in some stories, essays and poems composed by him. About him, his friends wrote that he never bothered about money or status in life. He even refused to receive any royalty for his radio talks, books or work. A detachment from Money and  comforts  was the hallmark of his simple  life style. He was ignorant about how many books, essays and stories he wrote.

He kept meeting the humblest of Indians, middle-class people, petty traders, poor farmers, tribals and the influential too in various fields. In this process, he befriended so many. He also earned the friendship of some great men like Gurudev Rabindra Nath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi. Gurudev Advised him to write in Punjabi only.

In his later years, he had a regret for not being responsible towards his family while his wife earned for the family's survival through a sewing machine.He told his close friends:
‘I wasn't there when my daughter Kavita was born, and I wasn't there when she died. It is a burden that will lighten only with my death, but when you are afflicted with a Junoon, this is what happens.’

In 1977, the Government of India awarded him with a Padma Shri. He was loved by numerous friends and admirers across the border.
Pancham, a monthly magazine published from Lahore, brought out a 300-page special issue on him in April 2003.His life has been documented in a biography, Satyarthi – Ik Dant-Katha, written by Nirmal Arpan. A small tribute to his monumental work on Punjabi folklore.

( Avtar Mota )


 In his comments  to  my Facebook Post on Devendra Satyarthi  , Amir Saulat Jafri write

“ Ijaz Batalvi writer/lawyer wrote that once he and his brother , somewhere in late 1930s at Laxmi chowk lahore looking for a tonga to go to Mela chiraghan . They saw a young man who was stopping people and asking for something. Soon, he came to them also and said to them if they could answer one question of his, and that it is so important that his life depended upon it's answer. If that question was not answered that day , to his satisfaction, he would commit suicide. He looked disturbed and disheveled. They wanted to help him, so they forgot their Mela chraghaan and tried to figure out what to do about such a question. The question was " What is the meaning of Life?" Finally they thought it would be best to take him to Allama Iqbal, who then lived near about there. Allama's house was always open for everybody. They went and took this young man with them. Allama sahib said to him that it would be okay  to go along with the suicide if only the young man could convince him that it would benefit him. Then he asked what was his belief system about life after death, to which the man said it was reincarnation. So Allama sahib said that there were three  possibilities. Either his life would be a better one than the present, worse, or about the same as then. Was the young man, Allama sahib asked, absolutely sure if his next life would be better. The young man said he was not sure at all. Then Allama sahib said that it would be a total waste for him to end his life. This convinced the man. That young man was Davinder Satyaarthi................. .. Manto's Afsaana ,( short story), "Tarraqui Pasand" is also based on Satyaarthi's visit to Rajinder Singh Bedi"s tiny two bed room  govt. house and his stay there , which affected RSB's family life when DS stayed there. DS bored RSB ad Nausem, day in and day out by reading out stories he had written”

( Autar Mota )
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