Taking Dogri to the children

Suman K Sharma
The high-street of Dogri literature is  abuzz these days with poets, novelists, short story authors and essayists – writers of all sorts.  One would not be surprised  if the count of Dogri publications touches hundreds a year. Dogri readers are spoilt for choice indeed.
When the young and the old have a surfeit of books they are given to read(mostly, free of cost!), would children be denied the privilege?  Though it may seem a trickle when compared to the barrage of books published for adults, the volume of Dogri writings for children is not altogether insignificant in content.
In the year 2013, the Dogri Sanstha, Jammu, in collaboration with Amar Chitra Katha, started to bring out Dogri comics.  This was at the behest – and financial support – of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, particularly Governor NN Vohra, who is ex-officio the Board’s Chairman.The first number was Pakkhruen diyan K’haniyan(The Tales of Birds).  The Sanstha declared its intention to publish comics under six categories: stories from the Purana canon, Indian classics, humour and ethics, heroic deeds of Indian warriors, inspirational stories of our sages and contemporary classics.  Two years later, in 2015, the Sanstha and the Shrine Board published, on their own, a comic strip on the life and deeds of the Duggar hero, Baba Jitto.  It was a milestone of sorts.  The text, unlike the translations of the Amar Chitra Katha series, was scripted by Chhattrapal and edited by Prof Lalit Magotra, both acclaimed authors of Dogri.The graphics too were by Subhash Anand, a local artist.  And what is more, the book was printed in Jammu itself!
But, all said and done, comics are comics.  Where is it in them the rhyme and rhythm of poetry; the magic and pull of a grandma’s story; or the humour and altruistic message of a Panchtantra tale?  A comic strip with all its pictures and rudimentary text is rather like a bag of potato chips.  The child would be happy to have it.  But the mother knows it just won’t stand for her son or daughter’s proper nourishment.
My discovery of Dogri literature for children was serendipitous.  On one of my frequent visits to Jammu, I was invited to a goshthi of Dogri Sanstha.  It was there that Dr Nirmal Vinod, a school-time friend, gave me his anthology of verses, Aapun Sher(Me, a Lion).  Gianeshwar ji, another reputed Dogri author, whose beguiling humility is matched only by his versatile achievements, also gifted me two of his books, Phlouhniyan (Riddles) and F’hi keh hoa? (What happened then?).  The three little books turned out to be worth a good reading by a child of any age.
Dr Nirmal Vinod’s Aapun Sher was published in 1990.  Its stark looks remind one of the ration card we used to have in the century bygone.  But once you begin reciting the ditties that it has, you are captivated by the magic spell that they cast on you. Close observation of the world around, gentle wit and common sense are the hall-mark of Dr Vinod’s verses. Sample this one:
B’aa chaldi –
Gh’aa h’ssey –
Budde boote khinja de
Pattar jhrde

The wind blows-
Laughs the grass –
The old trees are cross –
Their leaves fall

Or, the title poem of the anthology:

Sherai ki kun ditta raj?
Sirai sajaanda kun e taj?
Jo himmat karda so raja
Jas ga usda sara smaaj.

Who gave the lion permission to reign?
Who adorned his head with a crown?
A king is he who dares
The world sings his praise.

Gyaneshwar’s Phlouhniyanagaincan be fun unlimited.  Imagine a leisurely monsoon day when the entire family sits together with this book of riddles to test each one’s wits!Here are two of them:
Pakkhru’r naan par jeev nein
Phang lage par jeeb nein
Douni banne paindi maar
Bindak ‘raam nasseb nein

A bird only in name, no life in me,
Wings do I have, but no tongue in me.
I get pummelled on both the sides –
Not a moment of respite for me!

Thudda maro bolan taan
Doun latten par rirda jaan
S’nja ratin akkhin khohlan
Shidken uppar lo bachhan

Kick me hard and then I’ll speak,
On both my legs I’ll speed,
My eyes are open day and night,
On the dark roads I spread light!

Yes, you have guessed aright.  The answers are ‘fan’ and ‘scooter’ in the order the riddles appear above.  What is remarkable about the riddles is their potential to show an object from a perspective that is quite different from the one most commonly held.
Gianeshwar’s other book for children,F’hi keh hoa?,is a 56-page novella about a little girl Cheenu, who eggs on her father with the question ‘what happened then?’ to go on with the story of Nandu, a bus-driver’s son and the boy’s pet, Sunder, an orphaned monkey.Within this framework, the author skilfully knits together an absorbing tale of despoliation of forests, man’s invasion on the natural habitat of animals like monkeys and the grave consequences poor beasts have to suffer because of the mindless rapacity of man.  With such heavy stuff dished out tastefully,if Gianeshwar says you cannot put down the book without finishing it, his is not an idle boast.
Dr Nirmal Vinod and Gianeshwar are not alone in their efforts to bring Dogri within the grasp of the children.  Dogra Sanstha, to which they belong, is doing a mighty job of it.  Prof Lalit Magotra, Prof Shashi Pathania and Chhattrapal have penned the script of numerous comics.  Dr Om Goswami too has contributed significantly to Dogri literature for children.  PL Parihar is another name that comes to mind in the context.  The poet has to his credit a collection of Dogri poems, Pehliyan Kasootadiyan (The First Crawlings) written for children.
But why should we be bothered about writing for children? Because, that is how we can reach them, in the quietude of a reading session, away from the noise and din of the world.