KEHRI SINGH MADHUKAR (1930-2000) STALWART MODERN DOGRI POET

I came to know this Grand Dogri poet through my friend Madan Singh Slathia . This friend once read Madhukar’s poem “Ambar Khadotaa Chhadaa Chupp-Chaap Dikhadaa or Silent Stood the sky nearby watching everything ”. The poem bore  Marxist thoughts but the humanism and imagery in this powerful poem belonged to   poverty laden rural  India. Any person anywhere would have immediately identified with the moving thoughts of the poem. I too was touched . It also reminded me of Albert Camus”s line “ The Benign Indifference of the Universe”.

After that , I read everything about Madhukar that I could lay my hands on. His songs , Gazals and beautiful poems. I found his work Lyrical and provoking . His poems do not impress you momentarily, they keep hovering around your heart again and again . Surely he was a revolutionary and visionary but always full of compassion. I can also say that he was all in one .

One can feel the inherent music and flow of Words in his poetry . And once you translate him from Dogri , he comes up as eloquent as Naazim Hikmet ofTurkey. My study also makes me to believe that he was a Naadim of Dogri renaissance . What poet Dina Nath Naadim did for kashmiri , Madhukar brought the same Modernism to Dogri.

His admirers included Prof. Jay lal Kaul , Bakshi Ghulam Mohd, Ghulam Mohd Sadiq ,Com Dhanwantri, Ram Piara Saraf, Pt Trilochan Dutta, Girdhari Lal Dogra and Pandit Shiv kumar Sharma ( Santoor Maestro ).

Madhukar belonged to a reputed family of Dogra Rajputs. His father Thakur Kripal Singh was a Major in the State Forces.During a visit to Village Gurah Slathian ( presently Samba district ) , I also happened to see the ancestral house of this poet near Devak river .

Village Gurah Slathia   has a long history of   people serving in the armed forces much before independence . These valiant men saw action in  many wars including second world war . They fought to last man so courageously under Brigadier Rajinder Singh during the Tribal Invasion of the state  in October 1947.

Located at a distance of  about 30kms  from jammu city , Gurha slathia , having a population of 10,000, is the only hamlet in India where 90 per cent persons have been and are in the Army.

He did his matriculation from Jammu and later joined Sri Partap College Srinagar for free. In 1947, he shifted to Prince of Wales College Jammu.

In 1961, Madhukar joined J&K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages, as Editor Sheeraza Dogri and stayed there till 1974. In this short span of thirteen years, he did an incredible job for the collection of folk literature and the development of modern Dogri literature.

For some time , He also worked as announcer with radio Kashmir jammu . He was treated summarily by the official Patrons of Art And Literature who just handed him a Sahitya Akademi Award in 1977 for his book “Main Mele Ra Janu” when he deserved much more for changing the face of the Dogri poetry . I am informed that Madhukar wrote so many songs for the Radio station jammu which probably have been lost . Four collections of Dogri  poems ,  Namian Minjrain, Dola Kunn Thapea, Main Mele Ra Jannu and Padam Gokhru have been published by him.. He wanted to publish one more collection “Parabhat Panchi Bolea” but he died before the book could see the light of the day. Neither his family nor any literary organization took  any intiative to publish his last poetic collection. Yes “Dola Kunn Thapea ”has been translated in Hindi by Padma Sachdev and published by Sahitya AkademiNew Delhi. It is placed in classic literature series of Indian literature.

A master contribution in the field of translation from Madhukar appeared in 1961 when he translated 101 Bangla poems of Nobel Laureate Rabindra Nath Tagore

In the shape of a Book titled “Ekottarhati ”. Apart from this He has written radio plays, operas as also undertaken important translation works into English of some well known books in Indian languages.

Liquor came in his way frequently. It disturbed his creative and family  life. It finally proved fatal for him and he breathed his last on 24th August 2000.

Now something about his poems .

Madhukar’s most popular poem “Kohlu ” is based on exploitation of labour by the rich and the privileged .It is an attack on the system . Like the Ox of the oil expeller, the poor man keeps labouring hard bearing everything even starvation for some other person’s comfort . Madhukar uses “ Kohlu ” is a symbol to present the condition of the common man in the corrupt and selfish society .This common man keeps the Kohlu of labour running totally oblivious of Chaitra and Sawaan or the changing seasons

I quote some lines from his poems ..

“Chur-Mur Chur- Mur Kohlu chaldaa

Baladh Chaley Ek Chaal .

Aey Janamey Da Raahi Bacheraa

Keh Mahiney Keh Saal..

Jajari Jajari Tora Turdaa

Gal Thankey Gangroal.

Undaa Khichadaa Bakhar Fisdaa

Taan Thhondaa Fi Teil.

Jorein Jorein Chhantaa Bajdaa

Pindey Laasaan Paun

Akhiin Khopey Soajh Gwaachi

Keh Chaitra Keh Soan”

 And again in this poem he adds .

“Hazar kroh eh painda karda.

Phi bi uhai thhaan

Teli baichey teil bazaarey

Nein dandai da naan.”

(“The Ox  covers a thousand kilometres but remains tied to the same spot. still The Teli ( Oil seller ) sells the oil in the market and earns while none makes mention of the ox.)

&

Pralay di Gataa Ganondhi Rehi

Par Lau suraj di mukki Nahin….

Mere Kaaran Desay Andher

Falaiya Hirakh Pyaar

Chalay Bapaari Pardesein Gi

Kardey Banaj Bapaar………….

Another example of his beautiful verse:

“Jo lehar kanara tappi ja.

O lehar kanarai hoi jandi

Mitti di goda sei jandi

Mitti de rangai rangoi jandi “

(The wave that crosses the bank goes beyond the boundary and sleeps in the lap of the earth and ultimately becomes one with it.)

Before his death he kept informing his friends to keep meeting and visiting. “ Please remain in  Touch” . He would often say that this life and the breaths that one inhales could not be relied upon . Like  shades and  shadows, these are intangible and not trustworthy.  Who can lay hands on these things?  Hope of someone around could be more soothing  and satisfying . His simple but lyrical poem conveys these sentiments :-

“Iney sahain da ke parbhasa jindey

Asain laggi de raini hai asha jindey

Aoundhe jande raina,

mildhey gildey raina”

Only Madhukar could write like that .

Autar Mota is a Blogger  , Translator and writes in English , Urdu , Kashmiri and Hindi. His write-ups have appeared in many national magazines and journals.