At the age of 83, she published her first book. The same book, which she had written 34 years back in 1981. For her, it was more than just a book for her. It was the story of someone dearest to her. It was the story of someone who left her at a tender age of just 19. It was the story of her daughter. It could not have got any better that she got excellent response from her readers, for something that was much more than merely a collection of words, that was a part of her. It is the story of Kamla Sharma, a veteran writer from the city of temples, whose persistent efforts in the field of writing would make you surprised that she is nearing her 85th birthday.
That she could get the education in first place, was a matter of fortune, feels Kamla. “I was born in Lahore and for a girl to get the education in those times was something rare. I had interest in studies from the beginning and I was lucky that my family got me admitted in the school. In my childhood, my teachers used to appreciate me a lot for my writing and this further fuelled me to write,” she shares. However, her parents couldn’t support her education beyond primary stage owing to poor finances and she was married off at an early age.
It was another strange turn of events that Kamla’s husband, an artist, could see the desire in her to get educated and encouraged her to resume the same. Soon, after her husband’s transfer to Mumbai, she got an opportunity to witness and meet some of the most famous writers and artists. “I got to read from writers like Premchand, Sharat Chandra, Bakim Chandra, Amrit Pritam, Mohan Rakesh, Gulshan Nanda many others. They all have been an inspiration for me; their work taught me many small but important aspects of writing. It was because of this I could resume my writing in the form of poems and stories,” tells Kamla.
Radio is one of most powerful mediums of communication in those days, Kamla tried writing for radio and got successful, too. In the year 1958, her first story, “Dhool me Hira” was broadcasted on All India Radio, Pune and was well received by listeners. This continued for years before Kamla’s husband got transferred to Srinagar, in 1962. She qualified Radio Kashmir, Srinagar’s auditions the same year and started acting in Radio plays, which has continued to date. While she was doing fine as an actor, the desire of writing got better of her and she started writing Radio plays as well.
Her coming to Jammu, in 1965, saw Kamla writing pro-actively. Her writing extended from Radio to a score of magazines, newspapers and other publications. Her work was much appreciated by her readers and listeners alike, who responded in their letters of praise. “In those times, the way used to appreciate an artist was to write letters of appreciation or letters of praise. Artists used to treasure them as their prized possessions as they would be an excellent medium for giving feedback. I used to receive such later till not so long ago and they all are very dear to me,” she smiles.
Besides, innumerable poems and stories published in hundreds of publications in English, Hindi and Punjabi, Kamla is famous for writing some of the most heart-touching and hard-striking stories in the history of Radio Kashmir. While ‘Ye Kaisa Pyar’ tried redefining the meaning of love in the relationship of a dying wife with her husband, ‘Antr-dwanda’ hits hard on the hypocrite society adamant on leaving their parents in old age homes as they become a liability instead of blessing, ‘Aa Ab Laut Chale’ portraits the true picture of the situation that has plagued Kashmir and its people for so long. Some of her other stories with the same impact have been ‘Aur Bhi Hain Raaste’, ‘Baat Ek Raat Ki’, ‘Band Khidki’, ‘Maya Jaal’, ‘Rani Haar’ among many others.
In 1994, she qualified Hindi Drama audition for Doordarshan and started writing drama for them. All her dramas, especially ‘Bade Ghar Ki Beti’, were received well by the viewers and she became a famous name among writers of Indian Television fraternity. It is rather interesting to note that her book, “Ae Maut Zara Thehar Ja” which was written by Kamla in 1981 and got published only in 2015, has been the basis of an Urdu Tele-film “Ek Tabbusam” which got aired from Srinagar.
This brings us to her book, “Ae Maut Zara Thehar Ja”. The book is Kamla’s story, of the pain she went through losing her daughter to Cancer, at a very young age of 19. Kamla tells us about the book, “Losing Renu was the most painful thing ever happened to me. When she passed away, I wanted to tell her story to the world, but the pain never let me do so. There was a time when I could not sleep in nights, as images of Renu suffering in pain haunted me for months. Then one day, when the burden got heavier, I had no option but to write it all out. And with every word I wrote, the pain in my heart liberated,” she speaks with teary eyes.
The fact that her book remained unpublished for 34 long years, bothered me and I couldn’t help asking. Her daughter, Radhika Chopra, famous world-over for her Ghazals answers for her, “My mother’s story would have taken the form of a book much earlier if we all hadn’t got busy in our lives so much. While she tried to get it published, the things kept delaying because of various reasons. Two years ago, It was a ‘Nazm’ of Pakistani poet Munir Niyazi, “Hamesha Der Kar Deta Hu Main” which affected me so much that I couldn’t sleep for a couple of nights, pondering over how real were those words. We always take so many things in our life for granted, so many times. I could not afford to take this for granted and that’s when we decided to get the book out as soon as possible.” And this is how ‘Ae Maut Zara Thehar Ja’ happened.
Kamla Sharma, who is also an active social worker, stands for those elusive Iron-ladies who puts many to shame with their hard work at this age. She feels that while she is 84, at heart, she is young and would not make her age an excuse for doing things she wants to do. She remains the active part of radio and has also planned a couple of books for the near future. She ends the chat with a couple of her lines,
“rehne ko sada dehar me aata nahi koi
tum jaise gaye, aise bhi jata nahi koi
ek baar toh khud maut bhi ghabra gayi hogi
yun maut ko seene se lagata nahi koi”