Poet who excelled despite envy, disregard

Renowned Dogri poet Yash Sharma is a classical example how unjust our systems are to the talented souls of the Dograland and how nonchalant the society to the injustice done to the creative minds, especially the literate Dogras.
Here was a poet who ascended the ladder of poetic success and eminence in his early 20s, and sang his heart out to the cheering masses who gave him immense love and honour. His literary journey shows us in amplification how callous are the czars of literature to our own poets, musicians painters and the lot.
As we examine his life from close quarters, we come across a creative person of great significance who was made of solid steel and refused to bend before the forces of official negligence and political fiefdom of our literary zamindars.
Dear readers, as I opened my eyes on 9th February 2023 morning, I was greeted with a number of Facebook posts paying homage to Yash Sharma. It was his birthday. Lovers of the poetry of this great Dogra poet and his remarkable literary contributions. In due course of the day, his admirers even held poetic soirees in his memory, where his enthusiastic fans recited his poems.
One of these Facebook posts was put up by Dogri Sanstha, a leading organisation of Jammu, established in 1944 to promote Dogri literature, primarily. This post appeared to be a crow amongst the swans.
No doubt, it was seemingly a harmless and well meaning post, remembering a poet of substance on his birthday. But, such gestures made after the demise of an eminent poet are insignificant, especially when you have been unfair to him during his lifetime, and deliberately denied him the recognition he richly deserved.
It was a poor and delayed acknowledgement of exceptional talent and great literary contributions of Yash Sharma. It serves no purpose unless you are trying to clear your own conscience. It is like giving medicine to a dead corpse.
For most of his active literary career, Yash Sharma was conveniently cold-shouldered by this very body of literary politicians. The Sanstha did not show the grace of even extending him invitations to attend their meetings, seminars or poetic soirees ! At best, he was ignored, despite his literary eminence and popular literary connection with the Duggar masses.
Yet, when Yash left for his heavenly abode in the year 2010, this top ranking literary body of Dogri language wanted to hold a formal public meeting to condole his demise, pay him obeisance and, thus, add one more event to the annual calendar of its activities.
But, they had no courage to speak to his grieving wife who knew the animosity of this literary body towards her deceased husband. The Sanstha knew very well that the lady would not attend any such meeting they held in memory of her husband.
A top functionary of this very literary organisation, Dr Lalit Magotra, an old friend of mine, finally spoke to me, and after speaking to the wife of the deceased poet, I conveyed the assent that his daughter, famed singer Seema Anil Sehgal would represent the family.
The whole episode speaks volumes about the double standards in public life, literary animosity, and politics of presumed, and assumed, power structure in literature.
Here is the crème de la creme ! After his demise, the same literary body has published his picture and description of his achievements on a complete page of a calendar it printed eulogising literary greats of Dogri !! Not a bad show of respect, but, then, the poet himself is nowhere around to bask in his own glory.
This very poet was denied entry to Dogri Sanstha when he sought a membership, way back in the 50s, and again in the 60s. Refusing simple membership to a celebrated poet was no less than a sacrilege !
By that time, Yash Sharma had already attained ample recognition for his poetic prowess and had earned the unflinching love of the Duggar masses for his melodious renditions of his own songs !
Yash himself composed the tunes for his own songs. In fact, as a young man, he wanted to be a music director ! Streaks of his music genius are visible in the melodious tunes he composed for himself. The same trait his daughter, renowned composer and singer of the Dograland, Seema Anil Sehgal, has richly inherited from her meritorious father.
Yash Sharma is a victim of the famous Duggar psyche that makes them act like ” koop mandook” ( frogs in a well ). Thanks to the literary jealousies and unhealthy practices of running down fellow travellers of literary journeys, Yash suffered at every step of his career in literature.
But, kudos to him, despite all odds, Yash Sharma never wavered from his focus on producing some of the most cherished poems of Dogri literature, and earned the title of Dogri Geeten Da Rajkumar ( Prince of Dogri Songs ).
Besides being an acknowledged poet of great literary prowess, Yash was a broadcaster of eminence too. He was employed with the erstwhile Radio Kashmir Jammu ( present day Akashvani ) and wielded excellent command over Dogri, Punjabi, Hindi, Gojri, Pahari, Himachali and Urdu languages as a broadcaster.
Yash Sharma was never dependent on his literary stature for earning a livelihood. He had a permanent job with the radio and that is where the money for bread and butter was sourced from.
He wrote poetry, dramas for the stage, radio plays, talks and prose with admirable verve and poise. Celebratory and pensive depiction of the sunset and the plight of Dogra women find detailed and in-depth treatment in his poetry. He was blessed with a melodious voice and invariably sang his own poems bringing much cheer and delight to his listeners.
Besides, he anchored immensely popular radio programmes. To top it up, he was an actor too, last seen talking, on the silver screen, to the great actor Raaj Kumar in his last film “God & Gun” !
In the fifties he was an integral part of “Phattu Kochwaan”, a radio program devised to counter the Pakistani media propaganda. This hugely popular serial program was written by Muztar Hashmi. Speaking chaste Urdu in his inimitable style, Yash played the role of an educated and suave Mirza while the role of Phattu was played by Kedar Sharma.
In the words of well known writer, critic and literary historian Shivanath : ” Yash Sharma is known for the haunting melodic quality of his geets and poems rendered in kavi sammelans in a rich, resonant voice.
“A singer of Dogra womanhood, he has given voice to her love and beauty, her suffering, pain and deprivation, her playful laughter and helplessness.”
This handsome Prince of Dogri Songs was an integral and melodious part of the famous trimurti ( trio ) of Dogri poetry : Kehri Singh Madhukar, Ved Pal Deep and Yash Sharma. This trio regaled the listeners of urban and rural Dograland alike with their poems continuously for about three decades.
Each member of the trio has his own tales of woes, though. Their background, social status and financial pressures were different too. And so were their interpersonal relations.
Like many other states in the country, Jammu & Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages gives a lump sum amount as a subsidy to poets and writers of various State languages it considers worthy, to self publish their books.
Whenever Yash Sharma applied for this financial assistance, his application was rejected, despite the eminence he enjoyed all through his literary career. Why ? Just because he belonged to none of the groups of literary or political allegiance !
Thanks to the literary animosity and political interference in literature, Yash Sharma list any desire of publishing his poems in the form of a book. He was a literary recluse who was happy with his immense popularity with his elite readers and the masses alike. He preferred to stay away from the politics of literature and management of awards.
Can you imagine, the first book of his poetry was finally published only after he retired from the government service, nearly forty years after he gained prominence through his poems !
And, lo and behold, his very first publication of poems, “Jo Tere Man Chit Laggi Ja” , in 1990, at age 61, brought him the coveted Sahitya Akademi Award in literature ! The poet finally got the poetic justice, though pretty late !
Yash Sharma has the unique honour of being translated into English. A selection from his poetry has been rendered into the English language. It is titled “Tale of A Virgin River”.
The book comes with a music CD ( compact disc ) of his songs, composed and sung by his illustrious daughter, internationally renowned singer and composer, Seema Anil Sehgal. Dr Karan Singh has written the foreword to the book, translated by Squadron Leader Anil Sehgal. His translated poems have been published on the pages of Poetry International too.
It may be interesting to know that this celebrated Dogri poet was being considered for Jnanpith Award, the highest literary award of the country, but, the fate intervened, and his untimely demise sabotaged the process. Jnanpith Award is not given posthumously.
This story about Yash Sharma is just one example that I know of literary jealousies, injustice, and withholding of well deserved recognition. Surely, there will be many more such tales of organised apathy, neglect and deliberate rejection that persons of perceptible literary calibre may still be suffering in the Dograland.
Writers, poets, thinkers bring joy to our living. They add the third dimension to our lives. They, most certainly, tell us how to give meaning to our otherwise mundane existence.
We must, therefore, be sensitive to such insensitivities, our systems, our society and the Dogras show to our creative fellow beings. Our sensitivity to such issues of utmost importance itself will garner the storm that will bring a revolution in our thinking. Let us remember that only the thinking minds bring meaningful changes in a society, my friends.
I would like to narrate to you a couplet by Raaz Allahabadi, which I have attempted to put in a rough translation :
*yahi bahut hai ki tum dekhte ho sahil se /
safina duub raha hai to koi baat nahin //*
Grateful, you, at least, behold from the shores
No worry, even if the ship is drowning !