Rajinder Ranjha’s rise to popularity has been special in more than one way. A loner by nature, it was not very easy for his work to find acceptance in a place like Jammu. On top of that, the busy schedule of this hardworking guy would spare him lesser than required time to dedicate to the art of poetry. “But I managed. This is what I have learnt very well in life,” his words can only intrigue you more and more in knowing the story behind this young poet from the state winning prestigious Sahitya Akademi award for his maiden book.
Rajinder’s tryst with pen started in a very peculiar, unusual way. It was a lie, outcome of a desire to grab teachers’ attention that started the journey which would later go on to become the only truth of Rajinder’s life. Rajinder recalls, “I was in 6th standard when it happened. As they would call out students to climb up the stage and recite something or sing a song. I was a young boy back then, too immature to think of right and wrong. I recited a poem written by someone else in my name. And it got me exactly what I wanted- the accolades, the appreciation and a new earned respect in teachers’ eyes.”
However, things were about to turn bad not too later. The increase in popularity would mean that Rajinder became someone everyone expected a lot from but none knew the truth other than Rajinder himself. “They would call me on stage more frequently after that and all I knew was reciting the same poem, time and again. They asked for a new one but I have nothing new. The small mistake I had committed a couple of years back was now troubling my conscience more than anything else. I had to do something to save myself from the humiliation that would follow if I told anyone the truth. Then I decided to write,” Rajinder shares with us some of the most dark secrets of his life in this candid conversation.
Rajinder attempted at writing small poems at first. While they sure were far cry from the poem Rajinder got popular with but the guy just wouldn’t give up. “As I had reached senior secondary school, one of my teachers, Dr. Khajuria saw the helpless poet in me and helped me sail through the deep, vast ocean that literature was,” he tells. It was on Dr. Khajuria’s suggestion that Rajinder started writing in Dogri, a decision that would make Rajinder the Ranjha in times to come.
After his school ended, as Ranjha was completing one degree after another, the poet in him was also taking small but assured steps, as if preparing to take the giant leap when the moment presents itself. His poems were getting published in a number of magazines from university’s magazine to magazines of national repute. He was also delivering talks on radio and reciting his poetry to thousands of the listeners of Radio Kashmir Jammu. The association with drama and stage that has begun in the childhood was also revived as he staged a number of plays in every nook and corner of the city and the areas around.
Ranjha’s maiden book came late last year, in ‘Tere Hirkhe Ch’. A collection of Dogri poems, the books garnered great appreciation from everyone around but what was in store for him, even Ranjha had not an idea.
In the Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puraskar-2017 which were announced on June 23 this year, Ranjha won the prestigious award of best book in Dogri for ‘Tere Hirkhe Ch’, becoming the 5th writer from the state to win this award in the 7 years long history of the constitution of the award, as in 2011 and 2014, no awards were given to Dogri in absence to any worthy book.
So what is it so special about his book and his poems- we asked Ranjha.
“My poems while initially talked of the love in a general way, a routine manner, became the love Sufis have for their lover, with time. So as they say, the USP of my poems is the Sufism they reflect, something unheard of in Dogri. Secondly, I try that my work is more contemporary than what is being written around me. May be that also helped in carving out a niche for myself,” he answers.
And he couldn’t be any truer. His poems speak for a newer, younger form of expression of poetry in Dogri. The poems like Curfew, Tere Ehsas, Banne De Log, Faansi, Kandi Te Sheher, Bomb Blast, Birthday Gift, Majdoor and many others speak of the modernism, Ranjha brings to the table, yet retaining the sweetness of the language, it is known for.
So how does it feel to win such a reputed award? “To be very honest, I never thought of award while writing the book. Having won it, I feel more responsible towards my work, more dedicated and more tensed, a bit more than my liking,” he speaks while giggling, before regaining his composure as he explains, “You see, it is more complex than it seems from the outside. They select 15 books and ask the committee to rank them in sequence. The last five are eliminated and then the remaining 10 books again go for ranking and then the number cuts down to six and finally to three books. It is then that the jury is called upon to adjudge the best book. People of such stature, reading your book is a big thing in itself and then they announce your name for the award! This feeling is inexplicable and makes your more conscious of your writings, the details which you wouldn’t even notice otherwise.”
As this year, the poets of regional language dominated the Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puraskar, with 16 books of poetry along with five short stories, two biographies and one essay, winning the award, Ranjha thinks it is the coming of age of a new generation of writers and poets in India, those who are not imitating the more popular languages, but are confident enough to take their mother tongue to new heights. Ranjha will be presented the award in the form of a casket containing an engraved copper-plaque and a cheque of Rs 50,000 at a special function on November 14, this year.
Ranjha who is Master of Arts in Dogri, Political Sciences and Philosophy; A post graduate diploma holder in Rural Development teaches students in a private coaching institute he runs near his village in Jorian, an area where quality education would otherwise mean to travel for 5 hours a day, coming to Jammu.
So is this National Award winning writer a reader too? Ranjha tells, “I have been a voracious reader and it has been a part of my observations. My associations, acquaintances and interests allowed me to explore works from across the cultures and eras. I have been reading the old and new writers for a comparative study also. There is no specific book I am inclined more than others but I love reading Kalidaas’s legends. Also, Darshan Darshi is my favourite author. I idolize him and hope to become even a part of what he is.”
What is the easiest and most difficult thing about writing for Ranjha. He smiles before answering, “Writing is more of a spiritual thing for me than anything else. You need that connect, that bond to write. As a writer, once you feel something, you cannot hold it off for long. You need to let it out any way and until then, you cannot relax. That makes things very easy. What is difficult, though, is sometimes, when I am not finding that connect with my subject, I just cannot write. I am terrible at meeting deadline and that is why you see I have just one book to my credit.”
Ranjha has a special interest in Urdu Shayari and is getting better with each passing day in the poetry he writes. “I idolize Rahat Indori and Munawwar Rana. The wordplay they do is a distant dream for me. In fact when they used to ask for what is one thing I would do in my life at any cost, I used to answer- listening to them, at least once.”
Ranjha is working on his next book- in Urdu. Titled ‘Armaano Ki Baraat’, the book will be a collection of Ghazals in Urdu. “ The book is almost completed and will be out very soon,” he shares.