Meet Padma Shri Mohan Singh

Mohan Singh is not only a writer but an activist also who has been working hard for promotion of mother tongue Dogri and cultural traditions of this region called Duggar Pradesh for the last so many years now. He was born on 8th February 1955 in the family of Thakur Saketter Singh Slathia and Shiv Devi at Mandi Udh Dargali, Gurah Slathia District Samba. He has more than 39 books to his credit that include 32 original works and rest of 7 are translations and edited/complied ones. He is an eminent actor and director also having proved his worthin numerous theatre productions, Aakashwani plays and television serials for different channels. He was awarded Sahitya Akademi’s prestigious award in 1991 for his widely acclaimed Dogri play’ APNI DAFLI APNA RAAG’. He has also been awarded translation award in 2001, State Akademi award in 1984 and several others. This year he has been conferred upon Padma Shri, fourth highest civilian award of Republic of India. Rajeshwar Singh ‘Raju’ had a candid talk with him on various issues related to mother tongue Dogri and cultural heritage.
Here are some excerpts of the same:
RAJESHWAR: Congratulations It’s a moment of pride for all of us, the inhabitants of this pious land Duggar Pradesh that a cultural crusader like you has been honoured with Padma Shri this year.
MOHAN SINGH: Thanks a lot from core of my heart for your well wishes. I take this opportunity to thank Daily Excelsior also for promoting Dogri language and cultural traditions not only through Sunday Magazine especially but through their portal also.
RAJESHWAR: When we cast a look at past, it is said that mother tongue Dogri was discarded by Dogras even. When others of your age group were writing in other languages like Urdu and Hindi, you started penning down your creative writing in your mother tongue Dogri, who inspired you for the same ? I am asking you this question because every litterateur aspires to get his works to have wider access, butit was not there at all.
MOHAN SINGH: I fail to understand why it is said quite often that Dogri was not given due regards in the past. There is confusion that should be eradicated from the forced memories of present generation. I may say with authority that all inhabitants of this region had great love for their language and everyone used to speak in Dogri unlike at present time, when the young generation is reluctant to interact in their mother tongue and we have to inspire Dogras to interact at least with fellow Dogras in Dogri. Yes, I admit that as far as literature is concerned, there was wider scope for other languages like Urdu and Hindiand local writers preferred to have wider access for their creative pursuits. But when the stalwarts like Kehri Singh Madhukar and Ved Pal Deep, who had already established in Hindi started writing in Dogri, it inspired others also to express their feelings in their own language. I was also one of their followers. After having written quite a few in other languages, I realized that I was much comfortable to express my innermost in my own language. It started, is still going on and wishthat it will go on till my last breathe.
RAJESHWAR: You received prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award for your widely acclaimed Dogri play ‘APNI DAFLI APNA RAAG’ which is regarded as a mile stone in Dogritheatre plays and has been performed not only as proscenium production but as street theatre also. The credit for introduction of street theatre in 1986 in Jammu region also goes to you, who took theatre to remotest areas of Duggar Pradesh under the banner of Duggar Manch. How do you access that effort in promoting language and cultural traditions ?
MOHAN SINGH: The theatre activists like Uttpal Dutt from Bengal and Amol Palekar in Maharashtra, who used to earn money by performing in movies for the sake of investing same money intheir theatre activities had inspired me a lot to contribute in theatre. We started performing street plays not only in the city but took it to remotest of areas. The focal point of such plays that became immensely popular and are still talked about, was to connect with masses. We made it a point that our Dogri plays should revolve around our own cultural traditions and folk should be an integral part of our productions. Perhaps it was the basic reason that still those productions are in everlasting memories of those who witnessed them. Of course, theatre promotes language and culture but only if honest efforts are made with creative inputs and without commercial angle.
RAJESHWAR: Inclusion of Dogri in 8th Schedule of Indian Constitution was a proud moment for all. During that movement everyone irrespective of to what organization one belonged had joined under one banner for a noble cause and it yielded the result also. Is there no cause now ? Have we achieved all our goals ? If not, then why the cultural organizations of region alienate from each other now on certain common issues and indulge in as per your own play ‘ Apni Dafli Apna Raag’. Shouldn’t we come out of the self-made shell and be united when the cause is same?
MOHAN SINGH: It can’t be said that we have achieved all and it’s all over now. It can’t be at all. How may we even imagine it ? There is so much to be accomplished and we need to raise the voice for our common causes jointly. But there may be self-concerns, what else may I speculate. When such situations arise that we have to come forward as a single voice, to get a noble cause stabled. We have to realize that we may run organizations as independent entities but for a common cause we have to shun away personal grievances against each other. Personal conflicts, if any, should be sidelined for a noble cause and positivity should prevail.
RAJESHWAR: Inclusion in 8th Schedule and then Dogri being included in one of the five official languages by Jammu & Kashmir Government may be regarded as an achievement. Is it merely on papers or you think that we have been benefited also ?
MOHAN SINGH: We had a long struggle to get our mother tongue included in 8th schedule of Indian constitution. After long 12 years we achieved what we had stood together under one banner ‘Dogri Sangarsh Morcha’ of which I was the convener. It was not a struggle for monetary benefits or personal gains, but was a struggle for self-pride of Dogras. I may exclaim with ecstasy now that I am a proud Dogra whose mother tongue is recognized by constitution of India. Some struggles are for inner satisfaction also, we have to realize it. However, it is also a fact the new vistas also open when you are recognized. The inclusion of Dogri in five official languages by Union Territory of J&K is also an achievement which means that official works will also be done in Dogri and even much more.
RAJESHWAR: You have been bestowed upon prestigious Padma Shri for your colossal contributions to Dogri literature and theatre. In fact it has been an honour of entire Dogra Community and Dogri speaking people. How do you look at your journey as a creative person and what are the future goals ?
MOHAN SINGH: I would like to continue contributing not only as a writer but as an activist also. Stagnation doesn’t yield happiness. I know basic mantra to keep myself satisfied and that is to pen down whatever innovative thoughts come to my mind and inspire me to convert same in poetry or play. I derive pleasure from my creative pursuits. I wish to enjoy that journey without any halt. The basic instinct inspires to work on another project after the completion of one. It’s a journey that I love to move on being escorted by my creative thoughts.
RAJESHWAR: It’s really a matter of concern that mother tongues all over the world are suffering from threat. The fact remains that it takes centuries for a language to evolve but doesn’t take much time to extinct. How much you rate this threat to our own sweet language Dogri ?
MOHAN SINGH: We should be positive. The way efforts are being made by Government to promote mother tongue right from primary classes, it shows that they are on the job. Only need is to show urgency and implement the strategies without further delay. The way youths are promoting language through different mediums of expression on social media is also a positive sign. We have rich literature and cultural heritage with solid roots. Let us stay grounded firmly and realize to preserve same for our own existence. It will serve the purpose otherwise get ready to face identity crisis.
RAJESHWAR: Awards bring a lot of responsibilities and expectation level also increases tremendously. I know you are like a devotee and believe in devotion to your work. Your dedication is a source of inspiration for others and you are a strong voice for mother tongue and cultural traditions. How do you look at your role as a creative person with tag of Padma Shri ?
MOHAN SINGH: Yes, I know that such a prestigious award carries responsibilities also. I will put in my best to come up to the expectations. I have derived inspiration from legends like Dinu Bhai Pant and Padma Sachdeva and am guided by my own heart that believes in being creative. I will love to continue serving my mother tongue with even more dedication and devotion.