Author Interview | The Legend and his Tale – Padmashree Dr. Jitendra Udhampuri.  

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The man himself needs no introduction as his name itself, Padmashree Dr. Jitendra Udhampuri, speaks for his greatness. There were certain notions in my mind about him which were, though general in themselves, fit the description in most cases. But I must mention here how this time I loved being proven wrong. In rare cases, and mind you, it’s only people with finest of humane qualities, they are humble despite the Everest of success they have scaled. But the humility I discovered that day was on another level, altogether. As we went into the conversation, I could connect the dots and fathom the reasons as to how this man felt different than others, in more than one way.

To put it in simpler terms, there are two sides to his story- First as the ordinary boy Jitendra was, hardly known to anyone outside his family and relatives. The second one is more illustrious, for obvious reasons, as here he is more than just Jitendra. He is Padmashree Dr. Jitendra Udhampuri; the world knows him. He has his name in the living legends of Literature world here, respected by millions, yours truly including for his magic with pen. Of two sides, the latter was the reason I entered his house; the former was what I got out appreciating more.

Jitendra was born in Udhampur when our state was an independent nation. Though his father was working in a bank, the income he generated was hardly suffice to make the ends meet for three households, father himself living in Banihal, Grandparents putting up at native village Jaganu and the rest of family back there in Udhampur. The five siblings were soon faced with the tragedies of life when their mother passed away at a rather young age of 34 years, leaving Jitendra with the task of looking after the siblings, for literally everything. It was a life-defining phase in his life, where a young boy, all of 16 years, didn’t continue his studies and rather took up a job. He would wake up the first in morning, prepare breakfast and lunch, and get his siblings ready for school before leaving for his job. The evening brought even more complications, where tired by day’s work, Jitendra not only made dinner for family but also teach them as well do other chores like washing up their uniform and doing the dishes. The days he was not working, he walked 8 Kilometers on foot to bring home the flour from the grinding mill.

Only after his grandmother died and his widow-aunt started living with them, the shared burden gave some breathing space to the man in making. Where he could have gone ahead with so many things, he chose to follow what her mother had asked him to before his death- to study. He continued the job to help family with finances and as a private candidate, resumed his studies to scale new skies. He is a Master in Hindi, History, Education and Urdu. He has also completed his Honors degrees in Hindi, Dogri and Urdu. He is a pHd as well and also has a Post graduation diploma in Journalism and Mass Communication to his name. He is also the topper of (then) Jammu & Kashmir University in Urdu and secured 2nd position in Dogri as well. And all this, without going to a formal classroom and struggling with the hardships life posed at him.

Jitendra had started writing at age of 15 only, having read more than most of his age read and being more familiar with works of Mirza Ghalib, Mir, Josh, Firak, Sahir, Mizaz, Pant, Prasad, Mahdevi, Nirala, Dinkar and more in school only. His work was even published in reputed publications of that era like Pratap and Milap. However, maybe there was another script written for him as the life happened, keeping him away from the inevitable for a few years. In what can be termed as the connective between Jitendra and Dr. Jitendra Udhampuri, he served as Teacher in reputed schools like Mahavir Jain School and Sri Ranbir Higher Secondary school.

The making of Dr. Jitendra Udhampuri started in 1970 when Jitendra was appointed as Editor, Dogri Dictionary for Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages. Working with legends like Pandit Ram Nath Shastri, his thirst for Dogri literature increased with each drop he swallowed for next 6 years before making a foray to All India Radio as Producer, Education and Broadcast, where he worked for 28 years before retiring as Senior Director in 2004.

Jitendra Udhampuri’s first book, ‘Chanani’ came out in 1972, marking the start of a new phase in Dogri Literature, one that was fresh and remarkably unique in a way which was never tried before. In a journey that ensued thereafter, Jitendra Udhampuri has authored 32 books, 19 in Dogri, 5 in Hindi, a couple of books in Urdu and Punjabi and rest are translated work from different languages while some of his notable works have been translated in languages like English, Nepali and Czech.

While discussing each of Jitendra Udhampuri’s work would require an extra page for sure but what cannot be missed is mention of few books which have been conferred with various honours, across the country, the list of which is also quite long in itself. Making history back when I wasn’t even born, Jitendra Udhampuri became the youngest recipient of Sahitya Akademi New Delhi award for Best Book for his work ‘Ik Shehar Yaadan Da’ in 1981. A remarkable feat it was for someone who was still considered one of the newest writers of language to achieve what is considered one of the most reputed awards across the country.

The list of awards has only grown ever since. Jitendra Udhampuri has been conferred with Best Book award (original) by Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages for 4 times over the years. The first such award came in 1985-86, for his Hindi book ‘Phool Udas Hain’ which was soon followed next year with award in Dogri for his book ‘Jitto’. The third award came in the year 1990-91 for his Hindi work ‘De Do Ek Vasant’ while the 4th one was for his Dogri book ‘Dil Dariya Khali Khali’ in 2002-03.

Udhampuri’s Hindi book ‘De Do Ek Vasant’ was also awarded by Central Directorate of Hindi, Government of India in the year 1990. He has been decorated with ‘Robe of Honour’ in 1987 by Hon’ble Governor of J&K State, Hindi Rashtriya Samman in 2000, Man of the Year for 1998 and 2003, World Medal of Honour in 2004 by the American Biographical Institute USA, Dogra Sahitya Ratan Samman in 2004, Prestigious Senior Fellowship by Union Ministry of Culture in 2007, and Dogra Ratan from Hon’ble Governor in 2007, besides Varishth Hindi-Sevi Pratibha Samman and honour by University of Jammu, Banaras Hindu University, Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University and Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan.

The list doesn’t end here, however, as the man in question has achieved more than a mere mortal like me and you can think of. Udhampuri was awarded with Gold Medal and Certificate of Merit by J&K Government in 1993, State Government’s Republic Day Award, also known as State Award, for 2005. In recent years also, he was honoured once again by Sahitya Akademi when it conferred its Prestigious National Translation Award upon him in 2011 for Dogri translation of famous Urdu Novel ‘Do Gaz Zameen’. JKAACL followed the suit and awarded its translation award-2011 for the same book.

However, the most important jewel in Jitendra Udhampuri’s diamond studded crown has to be the Padmashree Award when he was honoured with the fourth highest civilian award in the year 2010, making him join the elite club of only 50 persons from state to have won this prestigious award ever since its inception in the year 1954. Another achievement he holds very close to his heart is also one of the recent honours conferred upon Udhampuri. In the year 2015, Udhampuri was the sole recipient of National Award for Literature. One person among millions writers of various language recognized by the constitution of India and he was none other than our beloved Padmashree Dr. Jitendra Udhampuri. Let it sink, for a moment.

A trend setter in modern literature spanning over languages, Jitendra Udhampuri has introduced several innovative themes and experimented with new styles in his verse, in his writing carrer that has been now over 50 years. He has certain firsts to his name in Dogri having created first Laghu-Kavya, first Maha-Kavya, First and only Dewan of Ghazals, first Sufiyana Kalaam, first longer poem and so many other things. His book ‘Dogri Sahitya Da Itihaas’ is arguably the finest reference book, used by scholars and writers alike. Same has been case with his book ‘Duggar Sanskriti’. Interestingly, Udhampuri also holds the record for world’s shortest Ghazal of only 15 words and world’s longest ghazal, with 135 Sher’s, each of them ending in the word ‘Ghazal’!

Udhampuri’s magic hasn’t been limited to Dogri only as in Urdu and Punjabi also, he has created literature unheard of. His Urdu book ‘Sailaab’, based on 2014 Kashmir floods, is Tabeel Nazam, a continuous poem from beginning to the end, appreciated by one and all, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi. His books in Punjabi- Sajda and Dil Hoya Parvesh- both feature Sufiyana Kalaam’s, something not many have tried before.

Drawing the ideas from what goes around him, Udhampuri is the master of depicting pain through his words. His best compliment, he says is yet to come. Considering each of his book as a newborn baby, he hasn’t even thought of giving up upon writing and is ready with his next book by the title- Kehkasha.

Udhampuri’s unassuming personality is further embellished by his unceasing devotion to the cause of the poor, the suffering and the down-trodden. He has been a member of Management Committee of J&K State Red Cross Society. He was honoured by the Society on World Red Cross Day for his exemplary contribution to the Society in the year 2010.

As I said in the beginning, there are two ways to his story. I am not sure which one deserved more emphasis when I started writing. But now, when I am finished writing this, I know what I am going to tell others, when they speak of Jitendra Udhampuri.

The determination and the passion towards the writing can be seen in his words, “I will be writing till I am alive. I will be alive till I am writing.” More power to this yeoman of literature of state.

He ends the chat with the world’s shortest Ghazal:

“Husn Te Shabab, Ada Lajawab,

Saaki Te Sharab, Suroor Behisaab,

Sab Khwab Khwab,

Zindagi Kitaab.”

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