Saturday, March 25, 2023



                                                              ( Raj Begum..Photo Credit...Internet )




I have known her since 1979. She would come for banking-related work at our bank only. She gave enormous respect to my immediate boss and a saintly person Shamboo Nath Kaul ( from Bandipore, Kashmir ) with whom she confided almost every financial secret of her family. And this pious man never shared anything with any person. I could always feel that she was not on a strong footing financially. She also asked for a loan once. And one-day Shamboo Nath Ji told me this:-


“ If I am not in the bank and Raj Begum comes for any work, treat her like my sister and help her. Saraswati resides in her throat. ” I did follow late Shamboo Nath Ji’s words. 


In 2008, during my posting as Chief, of Retail Banking Hub, Kashmir valley, I was happy to see that Raj Begum had her pension account with our bank only. I met her three or four times later as and when she would come to withdraw her pension. During this second interaction with her ( which started in 2008 ), I never told her anything about late Shamboo Nath Kaul or her old dealings with the bank. She also appeared to be a little withdrawn.


Raj Begum was born in a poor family of Maisuma ( more specifically near Gawa-Kadal ), Srinagar, on March 27, 1927. To supplement the family income, she started singing in her childhood. As she grew up, she started singing in marriages ( Mehndiraat functions ) of Pandit and Muslim families in the  Kashmir valley .  In a way ,she dared to break the social stigma of women singing in public. In 1950, the well-folk singer, Ghulam Qadir Langoo introduced her to Radio Kashmir Srinagar as a casual artist. Finally, she became a permanent employee of Radio Kashmir, Srinagar wherefrom she retired in 1986. 


Her unique voice and delivery of songs drew the attention of music lovers right away, especially her rendering of the famous love tale Gulrez. She went on to sing at Radio Kashmir till 1986. She has sung in most of genres of singing: folk, religious, Ghazals, romantic, light, etc. Some people familiar with the Kashmiri music scene estimate that she has sung around two thousand songs. Some songs sung by her touched new heights of popularity. These songs could be listed as under:-


1 Vyasiye gulan aavuy bahar

 2 Subuh phul bulbulav tul shore-googa( From Masanavi Gulrez)

 3 Rum ghayam sheeshas byegur gov baana 

myon( duet )

 4 Wal az vyesiye dokh sukh mashrith sheraw lolik khwwab

 5 Kyah roze pardan zchhaaye zchaaye soz e jigar myon

6 Mashraavthas jaanan tse kar yaad

7 Rang Tsatti na myani Jawaani 

8 Kyah Kyah vanaai aey dost tse 

9 Husnas tse pholwun roozinai gulzaar ithaai-kaen

10 Hazrat Nabiyas laghos naavas ( Naat )

11 Bahaar aav Bahaar

12 Damma roz katha boz

13 Bomburo bomburo sham rang bomburo( lead voice in the group song)

14 Karaai gath ba aendh aendh tse 

15 Beyi pheur sontuk vaav bahaar aav bahaar aav ( duet )

16 valo vaavo vanaai

17 Poshe maeti laalo chhaav achhaposh ( duet)



 Raj Begum had the distinction of having rendered her playback voice to the feature film “ Mehjoor ”. Some lovers of her singing called her Asha Bhosle of Kashmir. Many were tempted to call her Reshma of Kashmir. Begum Akhtar also had an appreciation for her high-pitch, haunting, deep and pulsating voice. This voice gave her a special aura among the singers of Kashmir. Begum Akhtar had suggested her to sing only Gazals. 

She was honoured with Sangeet Natak Akademi Award and India's fourth highest civilian award the Padma Shri in 2002. The Films Division, Ministry of Information And Broadcasting created a biographical documentary on the life of Raj Begum. The documentary film, named, “Her Theme of Freedom – Raj Begum – The Melody Queen of Kashmir” was broadcasted at many locations. About the new generation of singers in Kashmir, she once said this:-


“I am happy to see them around as some of them are quite talented and sing well. Some of them have excellent voices and have worked hard also. I am a little pained to find that a good number of these singers from the young generation have little knowledge of good Kashmiri poetry and traditional Kashmiri music and the accompanying instruments .”


About Raj Begum and her co-singers ,Quaiser Qalandhar writes this:-


 “Raj begum’s first song was again Maqbool Shah Kralwari’s ghazal…’ Wesiye Gulon Aawye Bahar’…with better diction and pronunciation. You would recall the rendering of Rasa Javidani’s ghazal…Mushravthas Janane…Tse Kar Yaad Peymeeay Ba…besides many of her popular performances of her under my direction and with my composition of music. Both Raj Begum and Naseem Akhtar have innumerable songs to their credit composed by me. Mirza Aarif’s lyric…Rumm Gayam Sheshas Begurr Ghom Bana Meyoun…is one of the many outstanding presentations. Both these ladies also presented compositions of Mohan Lal Aima and Verinder Mohan during the first decade of Radio Kashmir Srinagar. "


 About Raj Begum, noted singer Arti Tiku Kaul wrote this on my Facebook post:-


 “ She is an artist who touched millions of hearts with her deep, resonating voice. With minimum/no training in music, she had an amazing talent to sing words with utmost depth and emotion. I also remember that she did not read and write any of the songs but relied upon a fellow artist to say the words in her ear, just before she got the signal to sing her part. I used to watch her in awe, when she sang many feet away from the mike, while other artists had to stay as close as possible and still managed to get her voice heard better than the others. Yes, she does remind us of Reshma who relied only on the depth of her voice with a touch of right emotion. She also is a very warm and motherly person and would always shower me with blessings..”


She sang many duets or group songs with old time singers like Tara Begum, Zoon Begum, Naseem Akhtar, Ghulam Mohammad Bhat, Ghulam Mohammad Rah, Ali Mohammad Sheikh, Mohan Lal Aima, Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din Balpuri, Ghulam Qadir Langoo, Ali Mohammad Nashtar and many more. She also worked with noted musicians and composers like Pandit Uma Dutt Sharma ( father of Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma ), Qaisar Qalander, Virendra Mohan, Nassar-ullah Khan, Mohan Lal Aima and many more. The then Prime Minister of Kashmir Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad remained an ardent admirer of her singing.

Raj Begum was a witness to the period when well-known Sufiana singers and musicians like Ustaad Sidda Joo, Ustaad Ramzan Joo, Ustaad Mohammad Abdullah Tibetbaqal, Ustaad Amir Joo, Ustaad Ghulam Mohammad Qalinbaaf, Ghulam Qadir Mujavir, Mohammad Sultan Mir, Peer Nizamuddin and some Hafiza artists also performed for the Radio Kashmir, Srinagar. This could be a period of training and learning for her.In 2008, I asked her about Kashmiri musician Mohan Lal Aima and she said this:-


“ Tamiss aassin swarguss manz Jaai. Gaash ta bahaar aissinas taati . Tyoothh zaanavol katie anon. Khuda zaanie katie anoakh tim swargvaasi ? ”(Let his abode be in the Swarga ( Heaven )! Let there be light and spring season in that Swarga( Heaven )! Where can we get learned men like him? God knows where from we shall get men like him now .)  Saying so she wiped tears from her eyes and asked for a glass of water. She was not well. I also noticed that she was on some medicines.


 Survived by two sons, a daughter and grandchildren, Raj Begum died in 2016. At the time of her death, Raj Begum was putting up with her daughter who lives in the Chaanpora locality of Srinagar city.


 I end this write-up with lines from a Kashmiri Gazal of poet Rasa Javidani sung soulfully by Raj Begum…


“Masharaavthuss janaana tse kar yaad peymoy baa,

Chhukh az wafaa begaana tse kar yaad peymoy baa.

Raadhaaiy jigras kaan taarith baal maarith guv,

Goopaal krishen kanhaa tse kar yaad peymoy baa.” …..( Rasa javidaani )



(Love! Willfully, you forgot me,

when shall you remember me?

You, who plays stranger to my love,

when shall you remember me?

Piercing arrow in Radha’s tender heart,

you move playfully away.

O Gopala! O Krishna! O Kanha!

when shall you remember me ?)



 ( Avtar Mota )

Creative Commons License CHINAR SHADE by Autarmota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.
Based on a work at http:\\\.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023




  “Hasti ke mat fareb mein aa jaaiyo ‘assad’
 Aalam tamaam halqaa-e-daam-e-khayaal hai”………
( Ghalib )
 Meaning …….
 ( Get not trapped by the deception of this existence O ! “Assad “,
This visible world in its entirety, 
 belongs to the realm of imagination only.)
 " Brahman satyam jagat mithya, jivo brahmaiva naparah”.
( Adi Sankara from Vivekachudamani )


  (Brahman( the ultimate unchanging reality ) is the only truth, the world is not real, and in the end, there is no difference between Brahman and   Atman ( individual  self ).  ) ”

According to Adi  Sankara, ' Maya is the mistaken tendency to regard appearance as reality. The unconscious tendency to perceive the world of appearances as the world of ultimate reality provides an illusory form of knowledge ' .

( Avtar Mota )
Creative Commons License
CHINAR SHADE by Autarmota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.
Based on a work at http:\\\.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023







FAUJI HEART ( A Collection of Short Stories ) by Neerja Kalia 

Publishers … Notion Press ..Available on Amazon India 

Price Rs 350/=


 I had only known Padam-shri Pran Kishore Kaul’s wife Shanta Ji as the other talented person in his immediate family. In September 2022, I joined a function held in New Delhi for the release of Pran Ji’s book, “ Zoon Of The Saffron Field” and came to know about his highly talented daughter, Neerja Kaul Kalia. Neerja Kalia is a writer, painter and social worker who remains busy with her work without caring for any publicity or what is known as media attention. She keeps a low profile yet her pen and brush create something comparable to some established names in the world of art and literature.


A student of Presentation Convent, Srinagar, Neerja has learnt much from her father Padam-shri Pran Kishore Kaul. This learning appears to have shaped her skills in writing and the deft handling of the brush on canvas. In her studio, one finds beautiful paintings, most of them presenting hills, trees cottages, brooks and changing colours with the change in seasons. One can discern vivid  nostalgia for Kashmir in her art although it may not appear explicit. These paintings were also exhibited by her in ‘My Home My Land ‘,a solo art exhibition featuring oil paintings held at The Art Gallery, Epicenter, Gurugram sometime in February 2015. Neerja Kalia has selected a beautiful label titled ‘Under The Cherry Tree’ for her painting work.

Married to Col NK Kalia, Neerja is a writer, painter, film producer, teacher, and social worker apart from discharging other familial roles. Having moved to various locations with her husband, Neerja Kalia’s sensitivity and observations are sharp and diverse respectively. She has enough to tell through her stories about‘ Fauji’ life in barracks and borders. A life full of adventure, risk, courage and camaraderie yet full of values that the ‘Civilian Life’ upholds. The stories make the reader travel to the length and breadth of the country. One moves through sandy dunes, snowfields, high altitudes of Ladakh, hills of Arunachal, hot and dusty towns, snow-clad meadows and majestic Chinars of Kashmir. The reader also moves through barracks, messes, military hospitals, drill parades and other army-related locations and activities. One experiences a spectrum of situations and locations through these stories built around Jawans and officers drawn from every corner of the country. The book,’ Fauji Heart ‘ has a wonderful introductory dedication that is quite impressive and moving. Apart from dedicating the book to Naren, her friend, soul-mate and husband, Neerja dedicates the book to the soldiers of the Indian army and their families. In her dedication, she writes this:-


“ In the unique Fauji world, one learned to enjoy the moment. One also learned to live with the ever-present threat of imminent separation either by death or by transfer orders. If life is tough for the soldiers, it is still tougher for their families .”


The book has 164 pages for 14 short stories that are set in a period between the early 70s to early 90s of the last century. This is a period when neither mobile nor internet connectivity had arrived. Although all the 14 lively and riveting stories are based on army life, the skill of the author has brought human values to the surface and made these stories universal. Out of the fourteen stories, three stories namely, Sabziwalli, SOP 303 and Nessa have been penned by Col N K Kalia fondly known as Naren. Sabziwalli was published in the Illustrated Weekly of India.

The book begins with a beautiful story,’ Angel Without Wings ‘. It revolves around a Pakistani army Havaldar Rajab Ali Khan and the Pakistani misadventure on high hills along the border . Rajab Ali Khan is posted at a high altitude post when his bunker is suddenly attacked by Indian Army Jawans led by a daring young officer. Amidst gunfire and hostility, the humanism of high standard is displayed by the young Indian Army officer atop the high hills even when his toes are frostbitten. Rajab Ali Khan is obliged to pray for the welfare of this daring Indian army officer whose conduct not only saved his life but also made it possible for him to spend Eid with his family.

Sabziwalli is again a wonderful story that displays sharp observations and the riveting style of Col Naren Kalia. The story reveals how truthful and simple human behaviour beats everything even the security issues believed to have been created by a charming Sabziwali who keeps visiting the battalion lines of an army unit. She grabs the attention and mind space of one and all. The Jawans, the adjutant and finally the CO are unable to deal with a simple and poor Sabziwali who sells vegetables and moves with confidence inside the battalion lines. The story has been presented in a style through which every reader immediately identifies with the characters and their emotions.


Sara is another moving story penned by Neerja Kalia that removes the curtain from the ugly face of Jihadi elements engaged in senseless killings and destruction. An eight-year-old girl is strapped with bombs and pushed as Fidayeen towards an Indian army unit by these terrorists. Her parents are tied with ropes and the innocent girl is asked to press a button and play the fatal game which she can’t comprehend. Sara, a happy-go little girl is unaware of the real mission that she has agreed to undertake to get her parents released from the grip of the terrorists who were invited to her house by Raheem Chacha, a family acquaintance.  The girl is saved by Capt Vinod Rawat and Sepoy Dilawar of the unit where she is sent to create death and destruction. The strapped bombs are removed carefully from her body .Unfortunately, Sara’s parents are shot dead by the terrorists and Sara is orphaned. She is  adopted by Capt Vinod Rawat and his wife. They are her new Ammi and Baba. The Pakistan  trained  terrorists also indulged in this type of heartless  activity in the Kashmir Valley.


Another moving story that I need to comment on is titled, ‘Dawn To Dusk ‘. In this story, Biren and Anjali serve as officers in the Indian army. Biren is with the artillery regiment of Ladakh Scouts and posted at Kargil while Anjali is a doctor posted at Military Hospital, Srinagar. This was a love marriage; a first-sight attraction that took place in Gulmarg where Biren had been undergoing high altitude warfare course while Anjali, who studied medicine at Medical College, Srinagar, had come for a skiing course. They got happily married and life seemed like a fairytale. They set up their residence in Srinagar. From Kargil, Biren would come for a day or two after two months to be with his wife and newborn daughter Megha. They had planned to join together for holidays in December for which both had been sanctioned leave. Biren was supposed to join his family for a long vacation on 3rd December 1971 when suddenly war breaks out with Pakistan. Due to war, Anjali is called back for her duties. Injured and critically wounded soldiers airlifted from Kargil and all other fronts, keep arriving in helicopters at Military Hospital, Badami Bagh, Srinagar. Anjali keeps looking for Biren. There is no news about his whereabouts. After hectic enquiries, Anjali comes to know that Biren was last seen in combat but went missing thereafter. Even when two sides swapped lists of Prisoners of War (POWs), Anjali could not trace her Biren. The author ends the story with a moving note, “ The 1971 war is but a foggy remembrance in the collective memory of the nation. But Anjali is still living from dawn to dusk waiting with firm faith and hope for the dawn, whose dusk will bring her warrior home. Who knows how many Anjalis are waiting for their warriors even today?” The story goes in tandem with the theme of Sahir Ludhianavi’s powerful poem Parchhaiyaan( Shadows) which presents stories of human tragedies created by war.


There are many other riveting stories like SOP 303, Balle Balle. Nessa, Fauji Shan Baan, Dancing Dunes and Eastern Tunes, When Death Came Calling, Who Started 1971 War, The Lawn Mower, Olive Green Heart and ‘Then He Jumped off The Cliff ’. These stories have a perfect balance of  characters, plots, settings, and tensions that puts the creativity of Neerja Kalia and Col Kalia at a high pedestal.

I  would sincerely like people to read these riveting stories drawn from barracks and battalions . These are stories of professionalism . valour, integrity  and commitment to the nation. These  are stories of service , sacrifice and human empathy. 

The book concludes with a beautiful poem titled, ‘Moonlight Is Shining On My Grave’. I conclude this review with some lines from this poem:-


“ In the folds of her arm, she held tightly

All my ribbons and medals,

Wrapped in the tricolour flag that

 they had used to cover my casket.

Her one hand touched the swelling belly

 that she bore with so much grace,

Her eyes melted but for an instant,

Then her chin went up and her tears rolled back,

After all. it is not every maiden’s honour to be 

a soldier’s bride and a martyr’s widow.

Moonlight is shining on my grave

 while I sit under this cherry tree,

Waiting to see her one last time,

When she comes in the morning with a marble plate,

Engraved on it in gold will be my name .”



( Avtar Mota )


 Creative Commons LicenseCHINAR SHADE by Autarmota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.
Based on a work at http:\\\.