Dr. Om Goswami is one of the most well-known authors of the city, equally at ease with Dogri and Hindi.
One of the most distinguished and prominent writers in the literary scenario of the state, Om Goswami is known as the trendsetter, both in Hindi and Dogri, both languages he know as good as back of his hand. Not only has he written in both languages, his work in both has got him awards and honour too, a rare feat for any writer. He has to his credit, some of the most valuable contribution to state’s literature, a service he continues to render even today at the age of 69 years.
Born in a middle class family of priests, Om Goswami was drawn towards writing since childhood as his father had interest in Sanskrit and Hindi literature. Goswami’s earlier attempts with pen and paper were rewarded when his poems started publishing in ‘Veer Pratap’ and ‘Veer Milap’, two major publications of that time, which used to operate from Jalandhar. He shares, “After my poems were published in many newspapers and magazines, my father encouraged me further. I was a small kid, studying in 5th standard that time and didn’t know much about the ways of life but my father guided me, protected me and always supported me in all this.”
Goswami doesn’t forget to thank two other people he considers were important in his journey to become a writer, “There is this very interesting incident. The magazines I wrote for used to send me letters of appreciation back. The postman used to deliver them at Om Saraf’s residence as he was hugely popular and lived close to our residence. One day, he came to our house with all those letters and asked me to come to his place the same day which I obliged. The routine continued for many days where he used to give me subjects to write on, which under his observation, got better and better. A major part of whatever little I could achieve is because of him and another person, Raja Krishan Anand, a bookseller in old city, who always served as a motivation and inspiration for me.”
By the time he joined college, Goswami was a well-known name in the writers’ fraternity of the region, a good number of his poems, one act plays, and short stories having been published in many major magazines across North India. In GGM Science College, he was asked to work on college magazine where Goswami as an experiment tried to inscribe on his paper, stories and poems in Dogri, his mother tongue. His work was so appreciated that he was made the editor of college magazine’s Dogri section, an incident that started his foray in Dogri literature.
It does not come as a surprise that Goswami has over 80 books to his credit, both in Hindi and Dogri, considering how immersed he remains in writing, all the time. Not surprising either that he has been getting published for 56 years of 69 years he has been alive and writing even before that. While it makes little sense to name mammoth list of his books, we can very well do with some of the most popular books of his. His Dogri short story book ‘Sunne di Chirhi’ was given the national best book award by Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi in 1986, a year before he was awarded by Central Hindi Directorate, Ministry of Human Resource Development for his Hindi book ‘Dayitva’ in 1987.
Apart from his original work, Goswami also has edited around 60 books and written preface for over 100 books. Goswami’s work has been translated in more than 10 languages, international and regional. He has also translated many books, and has even got national award for that. The latest to his credit is his book ‘Jungle Ch Mangal’ which bagged him Bal Sahitya Award of Sahitya Akademi for the year 2016. This award made him one of the rarest ones to have won Sahitya Akademi award in all three categories. There are many other honours to his name, the major among them being Jammu and Kashmir State award, presented to him in 2014.
In his 56 years of writing journey, apart from books, Goswami has also edited tens of magazines the major ones among them being Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Language (JKAACL)’s Sheeraza, both in Hindi as well as in Dogri, Dogri Sanstha’s Nami Chetna, Jot and Shri Ganga Sangrah. He even started his own magazine ‘Amber’, which he shut down after he was selected as Editor, Sheeraja, to avoid conflict of interests.
It is to be noted that of the total 51 years of existence of Sheeraza Dogri, Goswami was its editor for over 15 years, the period in which he worked tirelessly worked for Dogri’s expansion at national level, by giving chance to writers from far flung areas to come in limelight. “When I joined JKAACL there were very few Dogri writers and all were confined to city only. Our team took it upon themselves to reach out to the writers in far flung areas of the region, giving them encouragement and other help required to get Dogri to a greater stage. Sheeraza had numerous editions like Women special, rural writers special, Kids special and so many other innovative ideas to extend the language’s reach beyond certain boundaries,” remembers Goswami.
Goswami, who is a Phd in Dogri and has done research on ‘Rituals of Dogra Culture’, is of the belief that we as a community have failed in collecting and preserving the Dogra culture. “Rituals are the backbone of any culture and we are unfortunately losing everything that remained of our rituals, our culture. We used to be lucky to have born in such a land where there was a lot to retain and preserve but unfortunately, we, this generation and our predecessors also, could not do even half of what we should have,” he speaks.
Goswami also busts a myth regarding the origin of Dogri literature. “We all were led to believe that there was no sign of Dogri literature before 1944, the year Dogri Sanstha established. Even I used to think so for many years, before I thought otherwise. Dogri has a very old tradition of oral literature and there exists a rich treasure, both in content and form, of folk songs, folk tales, riddles, proverbs, idioms, etc which represent various aspects of Dogra life. To my surprise, when I started working on it, I found many specimens of Dogri lietarture which were formed way before 1944, which I have collected and reproduced in many magazines,” he shares.
Goswami, who has served Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Language in various capacities before retiring as Additional Secretary, JKAACL, has been instrumental, as editor, in the formation of Concise Dogri Dictionaries under the titles ‘Lauhka Dogri Shabadkosh’ and ‘Dogri Hindi Shabadkosh’. He is still contributing in almost all fields of literature, both Hindi and Dogri and is hopeful that he would do so for coming years too.