Majboor As I Knew Him
ARVIND GIGOO NARRATES HIS EXPERIENCES WITH A POET CALLED ARJAN DEV MAJBOOR
1991. Udhampur. I am walking on the road. My friend Vijay Zutshi introduces me to a tall, smart, well-dressed and clean-shaven man: ‘Arjan Dev Majboor…..a poet.’ The man smiles. He is affectionate. We sit in a roadside tea shop. Majboor talks about his poetry. I listen. He is a good talker. Then we talk about small things that make up life. We part company.
Some days pass. Zutshi and Majboor come to my ‘home’. We sit in the room. Suddenly Majboor talks about Kashmir, his village Zainapur and the Standard Restaurant in the Anantnag town. He is obsessed with Kashmir. His nostalgia shows his pain. He misses his village which he romanticizes. Zutshi talks about his own paintings, sculptures and books which remained in his house in Ananatnag. Majboor talks sorrowfully about his books and writings which he could not carry when he left Kashmir. I say: ‘Is the beauty of the mountains and lakes and gardens and flowers more bewitching than the beauty of fall? One must experience fall and face humiliation. We were pushed into mud. Let us learn to live in mud.’
We exchange views.
More days pass. I visit Majboor’s place. A good house! His room is full of books. There are sheets of white paper on his writing desk. ‘I like good quality paper.’ A painting of Vijay Zutshi is hanging on the wall. ‘Martand Ruins’. It is very beautiful. There are many dictionaries. A white-haired gentleman enters. He is Makhan Lal Goja. He tells me: ‘I am a vagabond.’ He talks about his life and exploits. A real vagabond! I think: ‘He is like me. I have all along been a loafer…..a tramp. But I won’t reveal myself. I don’t.’ Soon P K Goja, P L Goja, Bushan Lal Kaul ( known as Doctor Bushan Lal) and Vijay Zutshi join. We have oceans and oceans of tea. M L Goja is a good smoker but he can’t compete me. We laugh and talk. Vijay Zutshi asks Majboor to recite his poems. I see mischief in Zutshi’s eyes and smile. He goads Majboor to read out his Kashmiri poems. I think: ‘Zutshi is pricking him.’ Majboor feels happy and recites poem after poem. All are thrilled and amused. Poets never see through mischief. P L Goja recites the verses of Ghalib and Majaz and Faiz. He is good at Urdu. P K Goja is a very talkative man. M L Goja talks about Astavakra, Aubrey Menen and Herman Hesse. He is a landscape artist who loves tea, smoking and drinking. Dr. Bushan Lal is an old friend of mine. He knows how to laugh. The conversation touches Communism. ‘Communism!?’ I think. Majboor talks about Progressive Movement. ‘Progressive!?’, I say, ‘who is progressive?’ In the evening we drink and disperse very late in the night.
Majboor and I are close now. He is an extrovert. One day he opens his heart: ‘I tell my children, grandchildren and other members of my family that they will know my worth when I am gone, when I am dead.’ Majboor always remains in his room. His daughter-in-law is very caring. (I salute her.) Whenever I go to Majboor’s home I find him writing. It is prose in Hindi and Urdu. It is poetry in Kashmiri. It is translation. He recites Persian and Sanskrit verses.
Dear Reader, I have bored you and angered you. I will change the tense now.
Yesterday Majboor recited long passages from Obra Shech, his translation of Meghdootam of Kalidasa. It was brilliant. Enthralling! The room resonated. Majboor’s voice was marvelous. I was all attention. I was breathless. I am a good listener. Lyrical quality and imagery were splendid. (I am sorry for having used literary terms). Recitation of Obra Shech gave me immense joy.
The scene changed.
Majboor talked about his involvement in Democratic National Conference. He talked about his determination in youth to create a classless society in Kashmir. He talked about his association with politicians. I said: ‘You have wasted your time in politics.’ He readily agreed but said: ‘I have not wasted even a single minute so far as my writing goes.’ He talked about his poverty, life in his village, schooling in Srinagar, his ambitions, his restlessness, his education in Lahore, his association with writers and scholars, his hard life, years of unemployment and his passion to change society.
I find Majboor is dictatorial in home. He is stubborn. He is an egoist. He does not mix with the commoners, the ordinary---those who constitute mankind. ‘How does he feel comfortable in my company?!’ I wonder. He is a disciplinarian. He demands respect from others. He scolded the organizer of a literary function because he had made a minor mistake.
‘Have you ever fallen in love?’
The reply is a smile.
Majboor is romantic. He has been an adventurer. At this age he went to Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kolkata, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab, Kashmir and some other places. He is inquisitive. He loves to take the photographs of historical places.
Majboor lives life on his terms. He loves freedom.
Majboor invited Vijay Zutshi, P K Goja and me to his place. He had written a novel in Kashmiri. He started reading out the novel to us. Somebody pinched me. It was Goja. I had fallen asleep. Next day he read out some essays to us. He showed us some critical analyses and travelogues.
Some other day.
‘I don’t understand many Kashmiri words that you have used in your poems.’
‘I love to use archaic words.’
‘Which Kashmiri poet has influenced you?’
‘None. I am self-made.’
Majboor was a lover of good food, spicy mutton and tasty dishes. He was a man of strong likes and dislikes. He never indulged in backbiting. I never found him discussing persons critically. One evening he got tipsy at ‘my place’. He spent the night with me. Nobody had the guts to question him.
Majboor read out his long poem teol. It is musical. Image follows image. The voice was resonant.
‘Now listen to this poem. It is titled thuk thuk.’ I listen. One of his best poems. Depicts the cultural history of Kashmir. The last stanza is superb. Shows the horror of militancy.
Majboor never accepted defeat. He knew how to get things done. He involved his grandchildren in his literary work. He sent them on errands. I never liked it.
‘Will you translate some of my poems into English?’
I start working. Majboor is in haste. He is keen about quantity. Whenever he comes to my ‘home’ he finds me sleeping. I love sleep.
I translated forty Kashmiri poems into English. I went on polishing and polishing them. It took months. He lost patience. He wanted me to work quickly. One day I handed over twenty-six poems to him.
‘Where are the remaining poems?’
‘I rejected them. But I will not give you the rejected ones because I know that you will publish them. And I will not translate any more.’
Majboor became sad.
After a couple of months Waves was published. The second edition (containing thirty translations) is better than the first. The drawings of Vijay Zutshi are breathtaking. Waves got an award in Kolkata. Majboor came back an excited man.
Majboor throws a party. There are about twenty persons. We drink. Vijay Zutshi and P K Goja sing songs. Others recite verses. I laugh and make others laugh. Humour is my weapon to fight my shyness and to conceal the real ‘i’ in me. I love my foolishness. We drink and drink. And then an excellent dinner is served.
Zutshis, Gojas and Aimas shifted to Jammu. ‘All writers and poets are in Jammu. Literary activities happen there. I also want to shift to Jammu.’
And one day Majboor and his family shifted to Jammu.Majboor is very ill. He is unable to move. Adarsh Ajit, a writer, is interviewing him. Majboor is mentally alert. Today he is critical. But he is talking about his book which is under print. He wrote his memoirs yaadan hund saffar during his acute illness.
‘My body is gone but my mind is active.’ His wife, son, daughter-in-law and daughters take good care of him, look after him very well. He becomes happy when somebody visits him.
The phone rings. ‘Majboor Sahib is no more’, his son Desh Rattan tells me. Majboor is cremated.
I went to Desh Rattan’s place. Majboor’s sons and grandsons were talking about him. They told all who were present there: ‘We know the worth of Majboor Sahib NOW.’
Lastupdate on : Sat, 28 May 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 28 May 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 29 May 2011 00:00:00 IST
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