Meet Kusum Lata ‘Antra’, a poetess from Udhampur whose work has been making a sensation in Hindi Literature fraternity in past one year.
It was on 21st of February last year, when Captain Tushar Mahajan of the Army’s 10 Para special forces breathed his last, two days after fighting three-to-five holed up terrorists at Pampore. As the news broke, the emotions came out in the entire of the country, more so in his hometown Udhampur, a place where winters make their presence felt longer than usual. That days are shorter in winters, didn’t help at all, making the time coming to a halt for almost everyone, those who knew him and those didn’t, alike. There was anguish, heartbreak and a flow of emotions, which found their way rolling down almost every pair of eyes that day.
Kusum Lata was one among thousands whose life was impacted with the outcome of this event. Her eyes watered just like everyone else. Her heart broke just like others. She was as helpless as anyone else out there. When Tushar was a student of 6th Standard in Little Flower Convent School in Udhampur where he studied up to Class 10th, Kusum Lata taught him Hindi. The Kid, as she remembers was special even at that age and she was sure of him making it big in life. She turned out to be right, just that his Big was great than any other Big, we all could ever do. As she sank further in her chair, the numbness triggered an explosion like she had never felt within her. The diary on the side table was the first witness of that explosion and the emotions that came out as the result thereof. That her tears streamed down to erase first few letters on diary was a secret she kept only for so long so as other got to read it.
Kusum Lata or ‘Antra’ as she is popularly known as among her readers always had an inclination towards artistic expression in the form of poetry, songs or stories, mainly because of innumerable listening to songs on her father’s radio set. “I would often get lost in the beauty of the lyrics of the songs the radio played. The emotions and feelings woven in them always touched me. The magic of words would take me to another world altogether,” she recalls.
Being the youngest among siblings, Kusum was always showered with immense love and care, moulding her into this light hearted and lively woman she is, as reflected in her writings. Observing versatile situations let it be the joys of a wedding, the struggles of a family, various customs, traditions, feelings and in short almost all aspects of life, good or bad. All these experiences started becoming a living tale when Kusum penned these down in her dairy.
Though Antra began writing from an early age, things got even better after her marriage as her husband ‘turned out to be a blessing’ for her. Not only he motivated her to pursue further studies (B.Ed , M.A HINDI , M.Ed) to hone her knowledge, especially that of Hindi Literature but also supported her in every possible way. During this phase, she studied about the work and lives of many great poets and authors, helping her gain a wider perspective of this sphere. Her in-laws had a lot to share in terms of experiences and struggles during the Indo- Pak partition and how they tackled with its aftermath and moved forward towards a stable life, which helped her immensely. In no time, her works began getting published in newspapers and magazines.
The love for literature saw her make a foray in teaching. With an experience spanning over 17 years, Antra has taught in all the major schools of Udhampur besides serving as a principal in one of them, before taking up the government job in education sector. “Teaching is the best way to learn something. You not only read what has been written by the legends but also get to experience raw and fresh views and reactions of the students. All these years of experience have helped me gain a deeper insight into the subject,” she says.
Antra’s first popular poem in public sphere was during her tenure as a teacher at APS Udhampur. “It was during the celebration week of ‘Hindi Diwas’ that I realized the importance of promoting and protecting the glory of Hindi language. I wrote my first notable poem “Rashtra Bhasha Hindi” which got published in many esteemed daily newspapers. This one was followed by poems like “Akathniya Marm Tha Unka”, “Mai Kedarnath”, “Rituraj Basant” and “Jammu Kashmir Ka Dard” which got hugely popular, getting published in various newspaper articles and magazines.
Life was going smooth as always for Antra, shuttling between Family, Work and her Passion. She wrote in leisure time and same was appreciated by a significant but largely limited audience. But all that changed on that fateful Sunday.
A couple of days later, while the bereaved family was still trying to come at terms with the loss of their young son, Antra gathered enough courage to publish the poem on Social Media Sites. The responses she received echoed the same sentiments as she was compelled to produce the poem in print and besides being the heart-wrenching tale of a brave son, it was a work of literary finesse too. Soon, the poem took form of a poster and was liked and shared by tens of thousands.
“I felt a pain which I have never been able to describe in words upon hearing of Tushar’s death. I have seen him up and close in his most tender, innocent form. A teacher is very close to his or her students, and the bond between us was no different, like others of his batch. When people appreciated what I had written, I felt duty-bound, and very proudly at that, to contribute my bit towards bringing out emotions of many like me through my poems,” she describes the events.
On his first death anniversary earlier this year, Antra, with her husband, met Tushar’s parents and gifted them few of the poems, embellished and framed, that she had written for their son. Tushar’s father, a famous educationist of the city, Dev Raj Gupta upon knowing that Antra has written many more poems in past several years, apprecited and suggested that she should get them published for the general public to read, something she was already planning and this is how ‘Antra’ happened.
‘Antra’, a poetry collection of 80 poems in Hindi, is dedicated to the great son of soil, brave Martyr Captain Tushar Mahajan, Shaurya Chakra awardee. The book was released a couple of weeks ago in Udhampur by Parents of martyr himself. Besides a number of dedications of the martyr, the book also features an array of poems based upon different subjects. “The book has various poems about the emotions of the martyr’s family from their own perspective. ‘Mera Chand’ tells about the feelings of a martyr’s mother while ‘Amar Shaheed Ka Pita Hu’ portrays the feelings of a father for his martyr son. There is ‘Shourya Gatha’ that sings about the immense valour of Martyr. It also has poems about Social Issues, Women Empowerment, Mother-Daughter relationship, Environment, Patriotism, Nature and various other aspects of life,” Antra shares.
The book was appreciated greatly by readers and critics alike and has brought to limelight Antra in way unprecedented. In another record that followed only 4 days later, Antra released her second book in the same week, of a completely different genre.
‘Granth Ratna Shri Parshuram Akhyan’ is more than a religious book as the name suggests, a one of its kind attempt at documenting the life of Lord Parshuram. “After the arrival of the Ashtadhatu idol of Lord Parshuram ji in our home, it felt like a great eternal source of bliss and powerful vibes. I felt a special spiritual connection to lord Parshurama. Curious, I tried searching for books about lord but couldn’t find any specific book. This led me to thoroughly read various Hindu Epics like The Ramayana, The Vishnu Puarana, The sukhsagar, The Premsagar and The Mahabharata, besides researching in depth about him. That’s when I decided to write all about his life in the form of a Grantha,” she tells.
‘Granth Ratna Shri Parshuram Akhyan’ contains 5 Adhyayas or chapters about his life. An effort that took Antra four years to complete, the book also contains a brief poetic compilation of everything about Sanatan Dharma written in 40 lines. It also has the very famous Shri Parshuram Chalisa she has penned down which was received overwhelmingly by public and later recorded into an audio song that is a common sound to be heard at all the major temples across the state.
So what is she doing when she is not teaching or writing? Antra tells she loves cooking and that is what she does the most when free, surprising her family with different cuisines. A family person to the core, she has also caught snakes when they tried entering her house, something she remembers as some divine intervention. Of late, she has mastered the skill of ABC with a round wheel in front, tells her husband Subash Sharma, a renowned social worker of the town. “Driving herself to her school every day, she also drives her family to nearby tourist destinations on the holidays that come every other weekend,” he adds.
Already a name known in writing fraternity of the state, Antra is not ready to settle down just as yet. Already working on her next book, Antra is breaking away from the path and is going to write her next collection of poems in Dogri. She is also looking forward to compile a book on various folk songs that Duggar weddings features of various type of different categories for different ceremonies before they get extinct. A book on the life of Army men and their family is also in works, she tells.