Sanjeev K. Sharma
The three day grand cultural event ‘Tawi Art Festival’ (TAF) from February 25 to 27 this year at royal Amar Mahal of Jammu, inaugurated by Dr Karan Singh, son of the last Hindu monarch Maharaja Hari Singh of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir State, remained a big success. The fest was organized by none else than Dr Jyotsana Singh, Director Amar Mahal Museum and Library and daughter of Dr Karan Singh.
Big literary personalities marked their presence in the fest which was perhaps organized for the first time by the royals of J&K at their palace itself to highlight the art, culture and traditions of the Dogra land.
Though some of the people visiting the cultural jamboree and those close to the royal family were familiar with Dr. Jyotsana, but for others, especially from the younger generation, she was new as she rarely remained in public and media limelight unlike her two younger brothers-Vikramaditya Singh and Ajatshatru Singh.
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Interaction with granddaughter of Maharaja Hari Singh after successful ‘Tawi Art Fest’
Out of curiosity to know more and more about Jyotsana, there began murmurs among those who knew little or nothing about her and such people started asking each other things like: “Aap Ne Dekha Hai Rajkumari Ko, Kaisi Dikhti Hain Wo, Kaise Baat Karti Hain (have you seen the Princess, how she looks, how she talks)” along with many more such queries till a lady, between, 55-60, well dressed in simple Indian dress appeared on the stage to address the gathering in a mix of Dogri, Hindi and English and all the eyes were fixed on Dr. Jyotsana, keenly listening to every word coming out of her mouth and interestingly noting how she left the mike, how she walked and how she watched the cultural items being displayed in the cultural fest afterwards.
The ever eager reporters, especially the new entrants in the profession, appeared jubilant after their requests before the granddaughter of Maharaja Hari Singh for bytes were accepted and enthusiasm found no limits when such scribes exclusively talked to the “Princess” and her father Dr. Karan Singh-an intellectual par excellence.
It was the last day of the fest when we managed to get few minutes from Dr. Jyotsana who initially refused to give her time saying that she was too tired due to her hectic role in the fest but ultimately agreed for an exclusive interaction with the Excelsior during which we made best efforts to know more about her.
Excerpts of Interview
Q: What motivated you to go for Tawi Art Festival?
Jyotsana Singh (JS): Our motivation actually was that it was a team of us which worked together. So it was not only my efforts as many people have put in their efforts for the success of Tawi Art Festival. People in their own fields like artists, art critics, writers etc have put together the idea of this composite art festival. The idea was that we may not take only one aspect but make this fest a combination of different things which may have something for all to see, feel and experience. With that idea we came forward to make it an inclusive festival in every aspect inviting creative people in it and also keeping the tradition in mind like our past which has rich heritage and present also to make it interesting for the present generation too.
Q: Any future programme like this. I mean to say will there be some follow-up for TAF?
JS: Yes. Of course we hope so. At the moment we are just getting over this first festival but because of the response we have found, and in any case, our idea was to make it into a kind of series. This is the first TAF and we hope that it will continue every year and we will bring more different aspects together. So, perhaps next time there may be emphasis on environment. There is so much in the Himalayan region that has to do with the environment. This time we took miniature paintings. The flora in miniature paintings like plants and trees of this place we may highlight. We may introduce Jammu. This time Literary Festival Director of Times of India visited us and she was surprised to see literature and writers of Jammu. Earlier she was having no idea of such richness here. If such people come here they will see whatever is here. Artists are here, Basholi paintings are here, we have organized an exhibition of contemporary art and we have excellent and world class contemporary artists here. There is a lot to present.
Q: Was the outcome of this TAF as per your expectations?
JS: The outcome of TAF was far and much beyond my expectations. When you put something together on paper you want to see how it will come. Of course one or two people, whom we had hoped would come, could not come due to certain circumstances, but still we continued. So the idea was not to become dramatic about it because it was a small start. People should feel that they are really part of it. Not like that one thing is happening in one room and another in other and the people have to run from one place to other. It was a beautiful, relaxed and wonderful experience.
Q: How do you take regional discrimination throughout years with Jammu and how art has suffered due to that?
JS: I don’t speak in terms of discrimination only. As one of the young speakers in the fest has said, let’s look at similarities and not the differences. At the end of the day we are all ‘Khuda K Bande’. If we take all such things, we only will look at what connects us and will forget our differences. If we go taking our wishes, aspirations and hopes, then I feel we will be more positive.
Q: How do you see contributions of the royal family of J&K towards its people?
JS: Between Maharaja Gulab Singh and Maharaja Hari Singh, if we talk of the work done in 100 years, many institutions were raised here and caste system was abolished much before Maharaja Hari Singh. Era of writing history and collecting of manuscripts started along with the making of magnificent temples and mosques and Muslims were honoured. If you go to Peer Baba you will mostly find Hindu ladies there for seeking blessings. So why not look at that aspect of things. People have faith and that thing is very interesting for me. This is a region which has a very unique culture. You go to any bazaar of Jammu you will find Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus along with Christians also. Once I was sitting at a restaurant and as I looked outside I saw that it was Easter and a procession was moving with tableau of Christ carrying Cross on his back and a group of people walking behind that and beautiful singing going on. Where else can such beautiful things happen?
Q: How do you take crime against women and discrimination with girls even today?
JS: This is a very sad thing of course. But I also see that a kind of awareness is growing now. There is awareness among women at present. Women are in every field and I don’t think that women have to compete with men to become equal, women are equal. I am going to become a grandmother soon. My daughter is going to have a child and that is a miracle of life that only women can bring humans to this wonderful world. This kind of miraculous sense of being a women, if we have it, then I don’t think you have to look at just the secular part of the world where we are. Of course, there are terrible things that happen and we have to fight against that but I think the richness of the feminine psyche is something to be celebrated also.
Q: How do you take Beti Bachao Beti Padao campaign of PM Modi and how you feel success is coming in this direction?
JS: I would like to say that anything like that whether it is a political campaign or social campaign or anything else, it should be ‘Ghar Ghar Ki Baat’. I am the eldest in my family and I was born after seven years of marriage of my parents and people say some elders in the family that time got fainted that a girl was born. But at the end of the day I am following footsteps of my father and I am proud to be a daughter. So, as the time changes, thinking of people change and today one should treat daughters at par with sons in all aspects like property distribution etc. Everyone has to see that daughters are equal and you have exactly to give the same thing to your daughter what you give to your son. Not many people are prepared to do it but that’s the way it should really be.
Q: Unlike your brothers, you remained very less in limelight. Why?
JS: Yes, because I was not in political life and I am not a political person. I have lived a very private life and I am very happy to remain like that and do whatever I can in the cultural field with my father’s guidance of course.
Q: Do you plan to reach out to the women and girls of Jammu region especially those from remote and far flung areas so that they may get motivation from your love towards art and social works?
JS: In fact my sister-in-law Ritu Singh is doing very many activities in that direction. She is with Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) FICCI Ladies Organisation (FLO), social self help groups and actively works for skill development etc among women. But that is really not my area. What young people-both men and women can get from here is great richness of traditions we have and how to take it forward. For instance Asha Kesar’s Bhak, there are very few people with such type of singing talent. There was one Mukteshi Sharma who sang here (at TAF) and she has voice of an angel and she is a world class singer who should get that reputation and she deserves to be known across the country. I would make all efforts to bring such people to front and showcase what we are having.
Q: You are dressed up in a simple and traditional manner while presently we see the fashion of torn jeans among youth. Have you message for such youth to hold strong bonds with culture?
JS with laugh: I’m well dressed for this occasion. I also wear jeans and t-shirts but for torn clothes, I feel it is a type of rebellion to show what we wear is only to show our outer looks but what we are from inside really matters.