Let’s accept this. Often in the brightest lights of the bigger achievements, many other accomplishments, which while not as dazzling as the former but equally luminous in their own, go unnoticed. Their contribution in the field may or may not appear in the ornamental bits that hang at the top of the house, but often go down in the foundations which provide the entire structure strength to grow on.
In our Book House, we have one such multi-faceted writer among us, who not only have been serving as the foundation to the Punjabi and Urdu literature but also have been making his contribution to enhance the value that constructs this society in different ways. He is Des Raj ‘Danish’ who has been making waves- literally and metaphorically– in Punjabi literature with his poems and Ghazals, since past 50 years.
Born in a small village Kootah near Hiranagar in Kathua, life has remained very surprising; full of turns, for Des Raj Danish but the love for the literature has made him brave all the odds that presented his way. Danish recalls, “I used to participate in village Ramleela as it was a big thing in my native place back then. But then the entire thing, over the years, started seeming too much familiar and then I, in an attempt to improvise things, started writing things that I would later use in my character and also when out of character. That I believe was the beginning of my journey.”
Danish’s first steps were in Urdu literature. As he started getting recognized in the region, the search for a better opportunity to earn his livelihood saw Danish shifting to Amritsar in Punjab. “I continued writing Urdu Ghazals there and it was a pleasant surprise that two of the most reputed newspaper there- Pratap and Veer Bharat- carried my work, prominently. I was barely in my early twenties and so much of appreciation at such high level was such a great feeling,” Danish tells.
Danish started working in a textile mill in Amritsar. The place, better suited for literature lovers than Jammu, helped Danish a lot. “I used to go to a weekly Sunday program by the name of Bajm-e-Adab which was attended by many big names from all over the country. This helped me a lot as there was a lot to learn from the experts. The finer aspects of the Urdu poetry were all over there for me to learn and so I did,” he said.
However, Danish’s love for challenges saw him taking to a whole new language- Punjabi, within a short span of time. “Where I was putting up, a lot of Punjabi Mushiyaras used to take place nearby. Intrigued, I went there and decided to write in Punjabi as well. So, a few weeks later, one fine evening I sent a slip with my poem written on it, up on stage. Within few minutes, I was reciting my first ever Punjabi poem on the stage,” he shares, adding that he was awarded the 3rd prize for it, a princely sum of 2 rupees. This is how an entirely new chapter unfolded in Danish’s life.
But it was not as easy as it seemed at first. While there was no dearth of talent, a helping hand was needed to polish it which brought Danish to search for a teacher. The tale is interesting in itself. “On Gurupurab and Shivratri, of the various events that would happen all day, one interesting event was musical competition among the groups in Amritsar. The groups would face each other in the middle of the road and sing aloud to woo people who would then adjudge the best of the lot. One such group caught my attention and I decided to get in touch with the lyricist of the group,” he tells.
“So I stayed up all night and in the morning, when the groups start moving back to their homes, I followed this particular group, walking on the foot. I got to know of the residence of the lyricist who also turned out to be the leader of the group and walked back home. The next day, I visited him and it was none other than Chaman Lal ‘Josh’, the famed poet who incidentally belonged to Jammu and Kashmir natively,” Danish tells.
Chaman Lal Josh agreed to teach him and it was how Danish’s life turned up-side down. “The first thing he did was change my pen name from ‘Shouk’ to ‘Danish’ and taught me a lot, so much that I cannot explain in words. Whatever I am today as a poet or writer, it is all because of him. I dedicate all my achievements to Chaman Lal Josh,” he shares.
Danish’s respect and regards towards his teacher aren’t limited to the field of literature only as he says, “My parents had died when I was a small child. You can call me an orphan. It was Chaman Lal Josh who looked after me like a father and mother would do. Besides, being my guru, he also taught me a lot about the life. He took care of so many things in my life, including my marriage. You would not believe but he used to call me and treat me like his son. Even till today, I am very much a part of the family, after so many years and a couple of generations later.”
After coming back to Jammu in 1962, Danish started writing actively which has continued till now. The number of books to his name may not suggest of his achievements, but the respect he commands among the fraternity is not for no reason. A hundred of poems and as many Ghazals besides many songs make Danish the big name he is in the Punjabi literature.
Danish’s first book came in 1965 in the form of ‘Tarranga’, Punjabi for ‘waves’ which was a collection of Punjabi poems and Ghazals. The book which was scripted in Urdu established him as a prolific name in the industry. The conversation regarding the book also brought to the light several interesting facts of the time gone by. “I had printed 1100 copies of the book in the first edition which had costed me 250 rupees in 1965. The Jammu and Kashmir Academy for Art, Culture and Languages had given me grant of 300 rupees, a big amount back then. The cost of each copy was rupees 2. The success of book gave me further award of 700 rupees, next year in 1966,” Danish recalls.
Ever since 1962, Danish is also a regular speaker at Radio Kashmir Jammu and has served Doordarshan as well. Danish has also experience spanning over 50 years in Journalism. After his stints in Sada-e-Jamhoor and Shankh Dhun, he started his own weekly newspaper by the name Charta Suraj, which has been running for 44 years now.
While Danish was writing regularly all this while in form of lone poems and Ghazals, his second book came only in 2001. Doonga Sagar was another successful expression of the ideas Danish formulated over the years and added another feather to his cap.
Danish is also credited with one of the first people from the state to come out with the Punjabi songs and Ghazals in the form of Audio and Video CD’s. His albums – ‘Mishri Di Dali’ and ‘Peeng Pyar Di’ give yet another enriching experience for the lovers of the language with 16 melodious songs.
Besides being a great artist, Danish is also doing exemplary work in the field of Consumer Protection with his NGO that has been serving the people for past 30 years. Danish has been awarded with Life time Achievement Award by the Jammu and Kashmir unit of National Human Rights Commission for his selfless service over the years, among many other awards.
Though he still writes every now and then, Danish is not willing to put a time stamp on when his next book would come out. “I am not bound by deadlines and this is how I feel things should be. Book or no book, your art shall keep flowing and I promise you that it will continue till I am alive,” he says.