Dr. Jitendera Udhampuri The pride of Duggar

Duggar is the land of warriors, writers, poets, scholars and intellectuals and many of her illustrious sons and daughters have brought laurels to their motherland and raised her glory to Himalyan heights. One among them is Dr. Jitendera Udhampuri who is a household name across Duggar region. He is one of the most decorated and highly qualified writers of J& K. His life is a saga of bitter struggle, strong will power, optimism, hard work, sacrifice and inspiration. Driven by hard circumstances, I have heard of elder sibling performing the role of father in a family but never have I heard of the eldest sibling except him taking over the tough role of the mother cooking food, washing clothes, combing hair of sisters ,tying it into plaits and sending them to school. He lost his mother when she was just 34, his father served too far and leaving his studies midway, he had to shoulder the arduous responsibility to bring up the young siblings- two brothers and two sisters. He himself married only after all of them had well settled and married happily. It is said that great events cast their shadows earlier and it proved true in case of Dr. Jitendera Even in his childhood, he was deeply interested in reading and writing. By the age of15 ,he had read the works of Urdu poets like Mirza Ghalib, Mir, Josh, Firaq, Sahir, Majaz Lakhnavi and also of Pant, Prasad, Maha Devi, Nirala and Dinkar in Hindi inschool itself. He also started writing and his works were published in reputed newspapers, like Pratap and Milap.
While performing his duty of the eldest sibling so responsibly, he also continued pursuing his studies as a private candidate and acquired the highest qualification and by dint of hard work, deservedly tasted enviable success in life. He worked as LDC in FOD,editor in the Academy of Art, Culture and Languages and finally as Producer of Educational Broadcasts in the then Radio Kashmir Jammu (now AIR) and retired as Deputy Director General in 2004. He has been a prolific writer having composed about 40 books in Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi and Dogri. His works have been appreciated by eminent writers such as Prof. Jagan Nath Azad (Professor Emeritus, University of Jammu),Col Shiv Nath, Dr. Siddeshwar Verma (Padam Bhushan) etc Besides, he has also composed some lyrics which have been sung by eminent singers such as Asha Singh Mastana, Surinder Kaur etc. He is one of the most qualified writers of J&K holding a postgraduate degree in Hindi, Urdu, History & Education (M.Ed).
In addition to Padamshree, he has received Sahitya Academy Award, National Literature Award, Best Book Awards to name a few. His success story tells us a lot about the bitter struggle, hardwork and sacrifice and thus, serve as a source of inspiration for those who don’t have the will power and perseverance to face the adverse circumstances which come their way and give up midway. Ashok Sharma, a poet in English, interviewed this literary and intellectual giant who is quite affable with pleasant disposition, at his residence. Here are the excerpts from the interview:
AS: You use surname ‘Udhampuri’ with your name. Does it show any connection of yours with Udhampur?
JU: Yes, I have a deep connection with Udhampur. I was born to Jagan Nath Gupta and Krishna Gupta at Udhampur. My father was a matriculate and served in Central Cooperative Bank at Banihal. My mother was Middle pass and was a housewife. We were five siblings-three brothers and two sisters and I was the eldest of them all. My father’s income was too meagre to support the family. It was divided into three parts-one part he kept with himself, the other part went to my grandmother and my aunt (Bua who was a child widow) both of whom lived at our ancestral village at Jaganoo and the third part was given to us as financial support for our sustenance. My mother used to sew clothes to supplement the family income.
AS:Where did you receive your early education?
JU:I was admitted directly to the second standard in Govt. City Primary School (Now City High School), Udhampur as I was a bright student and my handwriting was very good where I received my primary education. From 6th to 10th standard ,I received my education in Govt. High School (now Shaheed Inspector Kamal Singh Govt. Model Hr. Sec.School (Boys), Udhampur and passed matriculation at the age of 14.
AS: What about your College Education?
JU: After passing Matriculation, I got admission in GGM Sc. College, Jammu and the whole family moved with me to Jammu. Sh. Ghan Shyam Sharma was the Principal of GGM Sc. College in those days.
AS: What were the challenges that you had to face following the untimely demise of your dear mother, Sir?
JU: With the demise of my mother, our life changed for the worse. My father, being in service at Banihal, the responsibility of bringing up my siblings fell on me. I left my studies at college and devoted myself fully to the arduous task of looking after my siblings. It was a life-defining phase in my life when I was just 16. Besides looking after my siblings, I would look for a suitable job but after visiting various offices almost everyday, would return home in the evening quite dejected and hopeless. However, after a few months, I got the job of LDC (Lower Division Clerk) in FOD (Field Ordinance Depot) at Rehmbal (Udhampur) in 1963 and I felt a bit relieved. Driven by the desire to pursue B. Ed, I quit my job of LDC and got admission for B. Ed. in Govt College of Education, Jammu. I started living in Vinayak Dharmshala below Gumat. After and before the college hours, I would act as tutor to teach College students and earned money to support myself and the whole family. Along with B. Ed. I pursued Shiromani and when the final result was declared , I got the second position whereas Narsingh Dev Jamwal got the first position. I also worked as a teacher in Jain Mahavir Hr. Sec.School, Jammu and SRML school Jammu for a few months. At SRML, I came in contact with famous academician and linguist, Tej Ram Khajuria Ji who used to be my Principal and Luxmi Dutt Shastri who was my colleague.
AS: What are the main awards that you have received during your literary journey ?
JU: I was the youngest recipient of Sahitya Academy Award in 1981 for my book ‘Ik Shehar Yaadein Da’. I have also been conferred with Best Book award by Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages 4 timesoverthe years. The first such award came in1985-86,for my Hindi book ‘Phool Uda sHai n’ which was soon followed next year with award inDogri for my epic in Dogri ‘Jitto’. The third award came in the year1990-91 for my Hindi work’ De Do Ek Vasant’while I got the4th award for my Dogri book’ Dil Dariya Khali Khali ‘in 2002-03. My Hindibook’ De Do Ek Vasant’was also awarded by Central Directorate of Hindi, Government of India in the year1990.I have been decorated with ‘Robe of Honour ‘in 1987 by Governor of J&K State. I have also been bestowed Hindi Rashtriya Samman in 2000, Man of the Year for 1998 and 2003, World Medal of Honour in 2004 by the American Biographical Institute USA, Dogra Sahitya Ratan Samman in 2004, Senior Fellowship by Union Ministry of Culture in 2007, and Dogra Ratan from Governor of J&K in 2007. I have also been awarded Varishth Hindi-Sevi Pratibha Samman and honoured by Benaras Hindu University, Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University and Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan.
I was awarded with Gold Medal and Certificate of Merit by J&K Government in 1993, State Government’s Republic Day Award, also known as State Award, for 2005. In recent years also, I was honoured once again by Sahitya Akademi when I was conferred its Prestigious National Translation Award in 2011 for Dogri translation of famous Urdu Novel ‘Do Gaz Zameen’. Jammu & Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture & Languages followed the suit and awarded this book in 2011. But I got the most important award of my life when Padmashree Award was conferred upon me in the year 2010. In the year 2015, I was the sole recipient of National Award of Literature by the then President of India, Pranab Mukherjee Ji.
AS:How many books have you written so far ?
JU: My first book,’Chanani’came out in 1972,marking the start of a new phase in Dogri Literature. In a journey that ensued there after, I have written 40 books in all, 28 in Dogri, 5 in Hindi ,4 in Urdu and 3 Punjabi. I have also translated some works of different languages while some of my works have also been translated in languages like English, Nepali and Czech. I have also composed about 100 lyrical songs which have been sung by famous singers such as Asha Singh Mastana, Surinder Kaur, Peenaaz Masani etc.
AS: You are a postgraduate in Hindi and Urdu, besides being a prolific writer of Dogri. In which language do you feel more comfortable?
JU: Obviously Dogri which is my mother tongue too. I love my mother tongue so much I think everybody must have profound love for their mother tongue. During my literary career, I have written many more books in Dogri than in the other languages.
My book titled ‘Sailaab’ (written in Urdu) is based on 2014 Kashmir floods, titled ‘Taveel Nazam’ a continuous poem from beginning to the end, has been appreciated by one and all, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi. My books in Punjabi-‘Sajda’and’Dil Hoya Darvesh’-both are based on Sufi Culture & thought and not many poets have have tried it.
AS: What was your experience while serving in J&K Academy of Arts, Culture and Languages?
JU: It was in 1970 that I was appointed as Editor, Dogri Dictionary in Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages. I had the privilege to work with legends like Prof. Ram Nath Shastri Ji, K.S Madhukar, Narinder Khajuria, Tara Smailpuri, Shiv Ram Deep etc. I worked in the Academy for about six years and during this period participated in many mushairas and other events along with Shastri Ji and other poets. I learnt a lot from these intellectual and literary giants and my thirst for Dogri literature grew with each passing day.
AS: You have devoted about three decades to Radio Kashmir Jammu (now AIR).How has radio’s role changed over the decades?
JU: Radio Kashmir Jammu was started in 1947 from SRML School Jammu to counter the false propaganda by Pakistan & the first address on the radio was given by His Excellency Maharaja Hari Singh Ji on December 01,1947. It was later shifted to its present location. The years that followed witnessed huge craze for radio. In those days owning a transistor was a matter of prestige. People, especially the youth were seen holding their transistors close to their ears when one dayers and test matches in cricket were played. People would listen to various radio adapted plays, songs and of course Educational Broadcasts. They would eagerly wait for Gojri, Dogri and Urdu news Bulletins as also for programmes for farmers and the soldiers. I had the honour to work and interact with intellectuals of the calibre of Vishnu Bhardwaj, Bodh Raj Sharma, Yash Sharma, C.Parwana, Deedar Singh, Arsh Sehbai, Maikash Kashmiri etc. Our programmes were so popular that we would also receive hundred of appreciation letters from across the borders for our programmes. Though, with time focus has been shifted to TV these days, the importance of radio cannot be underestimated. Radio has access to those regions where TV doesn’t have. As for me, my day begins with listening to radio and ends with listening to it.
AS: What is the future of creative writing in J&K in the years to come?
JU: I think the future of creative writing in J & K is bright. We have a number of writers and poets adding to the literature in various languages like Dogri, Hindi, Urdu and even in English. J&K is rich in talent and I can foresee high quality literature in J&K in the times to come.
AS: What, in your view, is the cause of declining trend in reading habit in the people today?
JU: Mainly it is the impact of social media. The children and the youth are always busy in texting and browsing on the social sites. They have little time to read books. Gone are the days when people used to take books on rent, read them quickly and return to the book seller. Now a days, the youth prefer to play games on electronic gadgets rather than devoting time to physical games and books. Instead of using social media for their benefit, they often misuse it.
AS:You have served briefly as a teacher in the reputed institutions such as SRML school, Jammu. What are your views about online teaching?
JU: Online teaching, proved to be an effective method of teaching during the tough time of Covid-19.Yet it cannot replace the classroom teaching. With the breakthroughs in information technology, we can have access to knowledge at the click of a button. We can search everything on google. So remaining online can both be useful and harmful. While you can search for everything, excessive use of mobile phone in playing online games, watching porn sites etc is equally harmful. So mobile phones must be used with due care & caution under the proper guidance of parents.
AS: What is your message to the young budding writers?
JU: The young writers should endeavour to highlight their mother tongue, their culture & their heritage in their works. They ought to read a lot and follow the footsteps of great legends. Now that Dogri has been included in the 8th Schedule in our Indian Constitution, I expect the writers to add literature of high standard in their mother tongue.