In Book House today, we have with prominent poet of Dogri, Bishan Singh ‘Dardi’ whose rise from a ordinary kid to history-maker in Dogri Literature is a journey nothing short of amazing.
While growing up, there was nothing about this kid from village Kaloha in Samba that would distinguish him from others of his age in a major way. He was not someone born to rise and shine; what he was born with, however, was zeal to work hard, and make a name for himself one day. Half a century later, has he made it big? For someone coming from such a background, he certainly has, and how.
Bishan Singh Dardi remembers an incident from his childhood. “When I was in 4th standard, coming from school we used to come across many mango trees on our way back home. The kids used to go berserk and would pluck them using stones and sticks and what not but I was too scared to steal as taught by teachers in school and parents at home. One day, the owner of tree hid himself behind the bushes to get hold of those who used to pluck mangoes from his tree. I, like usual, moved ahead while others started their ritual with stones. Suddenly, I saw the kids crossing me running, leaving their bags and shoes on road only. Since I was moving with my own pace, I was caught by the man who asked me why I didn’t run. I replied because I wasn’t stealing. He asked me where I lived and took me to my father. To my surprise, the owner gave me a reward of Ten rupees for my honesty. Though a kid, the incident left such an impact on my mind that I practiced the same path of honesty and hard work all my life,” he smiles.
Bishan didn’t have much to look up to in terms of writers in family while growing up. None in relatives, far and near has any concern whatsoever with writing. However, blessed with a voice as sweet as honey, Bishan was the usual choice among teachers and friends alike which used to request him to sing for them. Obliging them amidst the huge applause, Bishan was a name known in nearby villages by the time he was in high school.
“They used to get me on stage every Saturday where I would sing songs and Bhajans and what not. In the nine nights of winters Navratra’s, I had to do the opening and final act, every night. Then I didn’t even know when but I was soon writing songs on my own. Some poems wouldn’t fit in the meter so I would modify them, so as to make them rhyme. Barely into secondary education, I had to my credit more than a couple of dozen poems,” he tells. The transition from singing to writing was as natural as anything for Bishan. He also credits it to Durga Das Gupta who had a huge role to play in this journey with his guidance.
In class 12th when majority of his age were cramming text books to score higher than anyone else in Boards, Bishan Singh would found himself in the recording studio reciting his first poem. “This was in 1979 when I recited my first ever poem on radio. It was a program by the name ‘Nami Pongar’ which provided a platform for young poets and writers. The people there really liked my poem and asked me to write new poems as well which they would record and broadcast every month. This really moved me and I have been writing ever since, for last 37 years,” he says.
The life was sailing smooth for Bishan as he got a job in Horticulture department as a Technician soon and got married as well. The bond with radio however continued and his stature in Dogri literature world only increased with each passing day. His poems were also getting published regularly in various publications in and out of the state. However, it was later in the middle of the decade of 90’s that it dawned upon him to print his work in the form of a book and he debuted with a collection of devotional prayers of deity in Vaishno Maa Dati which came out in 1995. The success of the book saw him rising to an even higher position in this field as he penned down a number of songs which were reproduced in ‘Baba Jitto Dohe- Choupaiyan’, ‘ Tera Bhavan Sajaya’, ‘Mata Sukrala Devi’ and ‘Jai Maa Bala Sundari’.
Turning his focus again on the literature, Bishan came out with a slew of books in last 12 years, 4 to be exact. What begun with his songs and Nazm’s in ‘Tere Naa Kish Geet Te Ghazla’ in 2004, continued with his collection of Dogri Poems in ‘Ambar Chundiya Dhaaran’, a monograph on life of prominent lyricist of Dogri Yash Sharma, ‘Dogri de Albele Geetkar- Yash Sharma’, but what takes the top seat here has to be ‘Banvas’ which was to be published in 2015 but due to passing away of Bishan’s young son Aman at the age of 21, could come out in print only in 2016.
A Dogri version of Hindu Epic the Ramayana, Banvas seeks its distinction in the fact that it is the first translation of Ramayana in any language which tells the entire tale in one Shhand. No translation of Doha’s is required as the entire epic is narrated in a continuity never seen before in any form of literature. The book has been an instant hit, so much so, that Bansi admits it is his first book among total five which people have paid for getting a copy, a feat rarely seen in Dogri literature.
The magnitude of the book can be guazed by the fact that All India Radio has recorded the entire script in the voice of Promila Manhas and Bishan himself. With total duration of over 4 years, which is a record in itself, the recording is played for an entire month just before the Navratra’s for listeners to enjoy the epic tale.
It also brings us to Bishan’s poems and songs again. An approved Radio singer, Bishan has recorded innumerable poems and articles for radio besides 25 songs as well. He has penned down songs of some of the most famous Dogri movies like ‘Reet’, ‘Doli’ and ‘Guggi Maar Udaari’. He is also the lyricist for a number of Dogri Television serials like ‘Kunju Chanchlo’ and ‘Hun Murmura Kiyan Khana’.
This is not all, however, to the curious personality of Bishan. He is one of those rare lyricists from the state of Jammu and Kashmir for whom Bollywood singers have sung. Yes, he has given lyrics for a song sung by legendary Kumar Sanu and Annie Chatterji in a Bollywood flick by the name ‘Hum Tumhare Rahenge Sada’. In what is another feat to his name, Bishan Singh has also written a Dogri Jingle for Beti Bachao Beti Padhao theme for District administration Samba. Composed by Sahil Jasotra and sung by famous singer Sonali Dogra, a renowned singer, the ringtone is installed on mobile numbers of District Officers in Samba.
For his efforts and contributions to the Dogri literature, Bishan has also been honoured by Nami Dogri Sanstha, a leading literary organization of the language. He was also the star of the year in ‘Meet the Eminent Poet’ series of Sahitya Akademi New Delhi for the year 2017. A couple of M. Phil degrees have been awarded to researchers working on Bishan’s work in the University of Jammu.
So what is the best compliment you have received for your work, we asked him. “The greatest reward in my life has been that Rupees Ten note that mango tree owner gave me when I was a kid. The greatest compliment is what I get very often, but in a rather indirect form. Sometimes people call me, requesting me to recite a poem or a Ghazal for them which I happily do depending on how busy I am or not. So every once in a while, when I forget a couple of lines, the caller on the other side completes me. That someone has learned my work, to each word by heart, is the greatest compliment I have ever received,” he answered.
We couldn’t help asking him of his pen name ‘Dardi’. He smiles before speaking, “Like everyone else in this field, I also wanted a pen name. There were a couple of options in my mind which I shared with my friends. Majority of them gave a thumbs-up to Dardi as they could relate it to the pain I express in my work.”
Currently working on a couple of books including a collection of write-ups and a translation of Lehri’s ‘Seema Ke Uss Paar’, Bishan is working hard, juggling between his job, family and his passion, without compromising on any of them. His thirst for the literature, it seems, won’t be quenched, not at least any time sooner. We look forward to the next set of tales Bishan brings to his readers.