Desh Bandhu Dogra ‘Nutan’, a well known name in academic and literary circles in J& K and outside,is a multi-talented personality having been a novelist,dramatist,linguist, historian, short story writer, columnist, teacher and philosopher all in one. He has a wonderful command over English,Urdu, Hindi and Punjabi and can speak and write in all these languages with equal ease and proficiency.He is,in fact,the walking encyclopedia of History and Literature.Mention any topic of History and Literature and he will offer his detailed commentary on it.Desh Bandhu ji is the recipient of prestigious Awards including Sahitya Akademi Award (though he returned the award on spot after taking and bowing before the President,Sahitaya Akademi in due respect) and from J& K Academy of Art,Culture and Languages,,Directorate of Hindi,Govt. of India,Dogri Sanstha,Jammu,Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University, Katra, Jammu Kashmir Rashtriya Bhasha Prachaar Samiti, Jammu and many other literary and social organisations of J&K and outside. His life has been full of struggle but it is his strong will power and perseverance which helped him tide over all obstacles in life and face life bravely as it unfolded. Though an octogenarian, he is quite healthy and agile.Here are the excerpts of his interview.
AS:Sir, tell the readers about your early life.
DB: I was born to Mansa Ram Sharma and Smt Saraswati on November 4,1939 in the foothills of the Himalayas in the North of Upper Shivaliks.From the lap of my mother, I did behold with surprise the snow capped peaks talking to blue sky and in the South the Shivaliks clad in silvery snow move towards north east parallel to the Himalayas. My father had studied and completed ‘Shastri’ in Sanskrit in 1913 from the then newly established DAV College Lahore.He was a voracious reader and even at the time of death,he had a book lying by his side on the bed.He was an Aryasamaji while my mother was a staunch Brahmin. She was always inculcating Brahaminic Sansakaras in me and exhorted me to learn Vedic hymns by heart, Sanskrit Shalokas of Stotras like Charpat Manjree of Shankracharya. Even in childhood, a notion was emerging in my mind that I was surrounded by the universe and I was alone.
AS: Where did you receive your education?
DB : I was admitted in the First Standard in 1944 in the Govt High School Ramnagar ( now Govt. Model Hr Sec School Ramnagar) and studied in this school upto 8th class.I passed Middle Standard Examination through Middle Standard Board of J& K in 1953 and then moved to Punjab where I did my graduation from Punjab University in 1960-61 and post graduation in History from Aligarh Muslim University in 1965. In addition to this, I obtained B. Ed. Degree from Jammu campus of Jammu & Kashmir University
AS: What influenced you to write ?
DB: During the agitation of 1952-53, I was arrested even when I was a student and kept in the police lock up for two days. So after my Board exams of 8th standard, I was sent to Amritsar to live with my elder brother and study there. Prior to my admission there, I used to spend a lot of time in Moti Lal Nehru library to study Hindi and Punjabi literature. There were many literary activities in the parks of Amritsar and eminent Punjabi writers would gather. Asha Singh Mastana would sing songs and I too desired to sing songs. One day Surinder Kaur sang two songs in Chinese, I too thought of learning Chinese. Shanta Kumar Sharma, former CM of Himachal Pradesh was my class fellow and we used to discuss Sanskrit literature.A Dogra refugee teacher influenced me a lot and he gave me the surname ‘Dogra’. One day I delivered a speech on French Revolution in the mass meeting of Zero period in the school compound mentioning the role of Rousseau, Voltaire, Diderot, Napolean.Our Headmaster was astonished and so were the teachers. They encouraged me in the musical concerts and dramas.My article was published in the weekly column of ‘ Ek Din ki Baat’ of Dharamyug and my teachers and school mates were surprised. I was given the title ‘Nutan ‘ which I kept for future.
AS: How many books have you published so far?
DB: I have published thirteen novels in Dogri and seven novels in Hindi. Besides, I have also written short stories in Dogri, Hindi,Urdu and English numbering more than 300 and books based on my research work titled ‘Dogri Bhasha Te Vyakarana’ (Ekk Tihasik Parchol) ‘Dogri Bhasha Te Adab Di Tihasik Parchole’ (five volumes), The History of Trade Union Movement in J& K (Abridged Hindi (Vastvikta Ke Darpan mein ) and Urdu (Haqeeqat ke Aayne mein ), ‘Jammu Kshetra Aur Kashmir Kshetra, Bhed Aur Matbhed’.In addition to this, I have published four Dramas in Dogri and research papers, articles, essays and satires in different languages. I have also published my work on political philosophy titled ‘On the Doctrine of Socialism in one country’ and ‘India and its Revolutions’. ‘Duggar Dharti Te Mera Jeevan’ (my Autobiography) and ‘Jangali Loke Full’ (a Novel in Dogri) are in the press waiting for publication.
AS: You have been a prolific writer and your contribution to literature is,indeed great,Sir. Have your works been translated into other languages ?
DB: Yes, of course! My award winning novel in Dogri titled ‘ Qaidi ‘ has been got translated into urdu by Sahitaya Akademi, Delhi. I have also translated this novel into Hindi. Besides, many of my short stories, articles & research papers have been translated into Hindi, English, Urdu and other Indian languages.
AS: I have heard that you have conducted a lot of research on Dogri Grammar and on the origin of the word ‘ Duggar ”Dogra’ and ‘Dogri’. Couldyou throw some light on this discovery, Sir?
DB:Dogra scholars remained confused over the origin of these important words for many years. In All India Dogri Writers Conference in March 1980, great Sanskrit scholar, Dr.Bal Krishan Shastri, evolved a new formula supposing to create Dugaddh copying Dvigart but Dr.Ved Kumari Ghai, HOD, Jammu University , opposed it saying that it would lead to further confusion.But Dr B. K. Shastri was adamant on his theory of NIKAS & VIKAS of Dogri language.In All India Dogri Writers Conference in 1985, I refuted the theory of Nikas- Vikas and proved that Dogri language was influenced by old Persion of Iran. King Darius1st of Iran had captured all this region upto river Beas in 520 BC. I spent 35 years in my research on Dogri Vyakarana (Grammar) and discovered that ancient ‘ Munda’ language had influenced our Dogri Grammar, particularly our ‘infix’. Later I discovered the word ‘Dogra’ (Kavach, Defender) in a Branch of Munda and started research work on Dogra, Duggar and Dogri. Later, I discovered a ‘ Munda Goddess ”Tattee Devi’ in Shivalik as matriarch of Munda tribe. Moreover, an archaeologist from Udhampur, Anil Paba has recently discovered a matriarch of Munda in an idol of Sandstone at Beli, near Salmerhi (Udhampur). This idol seems to be older than the supposed idol of Pashupati Nath of Nepal. (the idol of Munda Matriarch could be seen on the fb page of Anil Paba)
AS: Your views on the trend of declining reading habit, especially in the youth.
DD: We are governed by imperialism and there is surging trend of commercialisation. The aim of education too has changed and everybody is in the race for making money. Nobody wants to study literature or go for creative arts such as painting, writing and other creative activities which sublimate our instincts. In other words , society is ‘psychologically sick ‘ with the people failing to exercise proper control over their instincts. This is an unhealthy trend and reading voraciously is must for creative writing .
AS: Your advice to the budding writers.
DD: Only one advice. Study the society thoroughly whether you are a poet,dramatist or novelist and write as you see and find the things in an impersonal manner.
AS: What, in your opinion, is the future of creative writing in J& K?
DB : Creative writing, it seems, has a bright future in J& K. But more than Jammu, it is in Kashmir that creative write has flourished a lot. Kashmir has produced a Gianpeeth Awardee while Jammu hasn’t. So, we need to encourage the young writers for focussing on high standard of creative writing. It is the quality of a literary work and not the quantity that matters.