Three blunders of Yog Rahi Gupta

Squadron Leader Anil Sehgal
Those of you born after the sixties will not know who is Yog Rahi Gupta ; those born before the 60s, may know him. Therefore, let me tell you who he is. Well, he is a Dogra. He is a Jammuite. Gupta is his surname and Rahi is his “takhallus” that poets usually adopt as a nickname. Yog is a poet and a journalist.
I met Yog sometime in 1967. He was a friend of my cousin Suminder Anand who was more of a friend to me than a relation. We three were fond of collecting postal stamps from different countries. That is what brought us together.
Those days, I was writing a weekly column called college notes in The Kashmir Times, an English daily newspaper. Yog too was fascinated by journalism and contributed to several journals. Urdu was his forte.

Jammu Jotting

I will call him a fearless youth who observed the world around him very minutely, with the sensitivity of a poet who cries at the sight of a flower being trampled underfoot on the road. He aspired to banish the inequalities in the society. He did have the courage to put his wishes into action.
Yog Gupta was born into a family where every sibling and relative was unlike him. Everyone accepted the world around him as it were, without any questioning. They will not react even if an injustice was done to them. Acceptance was writ large on their faces.
Yog, on the other hand, was a born rebel. He will accept no injustice. He had the courage to register his protest. Also, he will strive hard to find ways to make the wrongs right.
He found two routes to protest against inequality and injustice. One was poetry and the other was journalism.
He started writing poems and soon shared the dias with poets of great renown. He also started off as an associate editor of Humjoli magazine followed by a full fledged editorship of Vadi-e-gulnar, which was published simultaneously in Dogri, Gojri, Hindi and Urdu. Only the Urdu version was a weekly, the rest were monthly. Yog edited this Urdu weekly.
In the early 70s, a love-jihad kind of scandal surfaced in Jammu, which became the talk of the town. An upper caste boy named Ram was in love with a lower caste girl called Seeta. Her father was a sign board painter. called Ami Chand.
This relationship was not an acceptable alliance for the caste-ridden orthodox society of Jammu. Soon, the boy ran away with the girl leaving the entire city in social and religious turmoil.
Yog published the story in his Urdu weekly. He ran the story under the heading : Rxx Sxxxx Ko Lekar Faraar !
The heading of the news created a furore. The Hindus and the local bodies like Hindu Mahasabha, rose in unison against the weekly. Complaints were lodged with the police and warrants of arrest were issued against the publisher, printer and the editor.
Yog Rahi tasted the first morsel of his inadvertent adventure in journalism. He was detained in the City Chowk police station of Jammu for two weeks to protect him from threatened attacks by the religious groups. I will call this incident the first blunder of Yog Rahi Gupta.
His second blunder was more serious than the first. In another incident, a certain Professor Sahni caught a Sikh boy copying in an examination. He was so furious with the boy that he abused him calling : Sxxxxx hote hi Hain ullu ke patthe. Well, at least, that was the allegation made by the errant student caught copying in the examination.
Yog Rahi Gupta published this unfortunate incident in the form of a poster and gave it the headline : kya sxxxxx ullu ke patthe hote hain ? This poster, in Urdu, was plastered in all prominent places across the city. It was published under the aegis of Jammu & Kashmir Students Welfare Association. Yog Gupta was the president of this group.
As they say, the poster put the city on fire. The sikhs’ associations were furious. In a swift action, the police arrested the publisher and the printer. Once again, Yog Rahi was behind the bars. This time, the arrest was under Defence of India Rules.
Senior journalists and thinkers like Balraj Puri and Om Saraf intervened to secure hus release from the police custody. They approached the authorities and assured them that it was an inadvertent act of an inexperienced youth who never intended to hurt any community. They succeeded in securing his release from the custody.
The third blunder was committed when Yog published a story of an indulgent IAS officer who was the deputy commissioner of the city. His alleged close liaison with a young and beautiful girl from Akhnoor was being talked about in the social and political circles in the subdued tones.
Yog published the story in his paper under the headline : Log Kehte Hain To Sach Hee Hoga. The deputy commissioner was more than furious. Once again, he was behind the bars and was later released on bail. He was in and out of the jails pretty often in a short span of time. Fifty years later, sipping his sugarless coffee with me, recently in Jammu, Yog Gupta today regrets all the three misadventures : I was young, blunt, fearless and clueless too. I failed to foresee the reactions from the religious groups.
” I did not realise that the sensational headlines might hurt sentiments of the religious communities. You may call it immaturity arising out of inexperience. As far as the case of the deputy commissioner is concerned, I failed to cross check my facts and rushed to publish what others were scared to even mention”, he says.
His misadventures may have earned him the tag of being a fearless journalist in Jammu, but, nevertheless, they were his misadventures only. Those days, this 22 years old young man certainly had fire in his belly. He wielded a pen that sprayed only vitriol whenever he decided to use it.
He upset many social and religious sentiments even when he did not mean it. Complaints were lodged against him, which resulted in police action. He was put behind bars a few times.
It dearly cost him his mother’s love. She did not comprehend what was happening to her dear son. Arrests of her son were great mental tormentations to this simple lady who never finished her schooling. She was not capable of differentiating a political arrest from criminal custody. For her, it was a bolt from the blue that her son was arrested. That too, not once, but several times !
Yog loved her mother dearly. He understood she was worried about the safety of her son who was in and out of jails like he was in and out of their home ! What will ever be the future of such a son, was her main concern.
He could not see suffering in her eyes and decided to relieve her of her mental agonies. He got an offer to work as a public relations officer for the Zambian government. Zambia was at war those days. Mother refused him permission to go to a country, which was at war.
Two elder brothers of Yog were already working in Canada. Mother told him to go to Canada so that he could be away from facing the court cases for his journalistic misadventures.
Finally, to put an end to the agony suffered by his darling mother and to avoid further arrests, he did something he never wanted to do. He went over to Canada to his elder brother, a mathematician of great repute.
It was altogether a different life in Canada. He had to perform many roles in the new country to earn a respectable living. It included working for a reputed company, running a small business , doing community service, journalism, and so on.
In the recession of 1986, he started the first of its kind East Indian Ethnic speciality food business in Winnipeg, Canada. This created an opportunity to bring Indian culture and roots back to the community in Canada and spread diversity awareness to the greater Canadian Community.
He served as a radio host for 23 years with Radio CKJS-810 AM in Winnipeg. Last year, along with other like minded partners, he launched a radio and television channel called Friends Of India to promote unity and diversity through the media.
Currently, he is serving as a President of Winnipeg’s Multicultural Resource Centre. This organization was built by and for immigrants and refugee families who dared to dream of inclusive , equitable and intercultural Manitoba.
His master’s degree in journalism, a long journalistic career, and active involvement in the community service, provided him great opportunities to interact with several prominent figures. He uses his close contacts with celebrities to safeguard community welfare and promote inter faith goodwill.
Yog Rahi recently spent five months in India, his longest spell in India, in the last five decades. He spent most of this time in Jammu. He interacted with good old pals from the fifties, sixties and the seventies.
He deeply regrets missing his Jammu of the yore : like the other places in the world, Jammu too has turned materialistic. By hook or crook, people here have amassed large amounts of money, which they like to show off. Culturally and morally it is almost a defunct city.
They buy big cars, which choke the narrow lanes of the city. They live in palatial homes that can accommodate 20 people, but where just two or three persons reside. A friend paid 23 thousand rupees to host a small dinner for six of us in a well known restaurant. He kept boasting about it for several days thereafter, Yog laughs it off !
Inter personal relations have suffered the worst stroke. Social gatherings are merely booze sessions with non vegetarian fare, so he laments.
In olden days, people met often over a simple platter of food with no strings attached. Now, people meet just for business or in the organized kitties that is an all consuming modern urban fad, he adds.
During his recent stay, Yog Rahi released his book of poetry titled Shikast-e-arzoo at the press club of Jammu. The well attended release ceremony was efficiently organised by Qalamkar group of Udhampur under the able leadership of poetess Anu Atri Yaad. It was a dream come true for Yog when internationally renowned ghazal exponent of the country, Seema Anil Sehgal, sang one of his ghazals at the book release ceremony.
Likewise, Yog moved to Canada about forty five years ago. But, Jammu, Dogri and everything Duggar continue to live close to his heart. He is so full of Jammu and the memories associated with the city ; his schooling in the city, his old pals, and the places that dwell in his memory.
He often speaks to me over the phone, recalls his days in Jammu, his friends and acquaintances alike. Under the uncontrollable torrents of emotions, he repeats the same thing many times over. And, each time, he starts crying, as he speaks of his motherland Jammu, her people and the Dogra culture.