THE TRULY GREAT DO NOT SING PAEANS TO THE ESTABLISHMENT. RASHNEEK KHER PROFILES ARJUN DEV MAJBOOR
Yeh Majboor kya naam hai? was almost a curt remark from my would be wife when her father showed her an article titled ‘The Forgotten Tirtha of Bheda Devi’ by Arjun Dev Majboor. Years rolled by, after her inquiry on Arjun Dev’s pen name, there was little that we heard of Majboor but his verses in Koshur Samachar. His verses reflected sorrow, anguish and uncertainty, but unlike many other poems in the kashmiri section, there was a fragrance of an unlikely dream and effervescence of an unlikely trait that one would call hope. We read more about him and his works, whilst we were in Ahmedabad. One day as I was sifting through the Internet Edition of Greater Kashmir(an English daily published from Kashmir)I came to know about a book written on Arinmal by Majboor. The newspaper carried a story on his remarkable zest (despite his ill health )for unmasking the cloud of doubt that Arinmal (a seventeenth century Kashmiri poet) had intentionally been clothed with by some scholars based in Kashmir. After almost two years of this newspaper report we got a chance to go to Jammu to attend a marriage, what else! The search for Arinmal took us (me and my wife) to various places some boring and some not so boring. Eventually somebody told us to get in touch with one Mr.Sagar who might have a copy of the book. I called Mr.Sagar and asked him if he had a copy of the book, which thankfully he did not have but he had something I would thank him ever after for. To my amazement he had Majboor’s phone number and he told me Majboor had shifted to Jammu from Udhampur. It took me some persuasion from my own soul to conceal my joy of finally getting the book, but destiny had more in store for me than just that. I called the number that Mr.Sagar had given me. Soon I was talking to someone I had known through his poems. After exchanging pleasantries I requested Majboor for a copy of the book. I was pleasantly surprised when he invited us (me and my wife) over for lunch and to get a copy of the book. I instantaneously accepted the invitation, actually jumped for it. The prospect of meeting him set butterflies in my stomach. It was a pleasant winter afternoon when we reached Majboor’s non-descript house in Bohri.We were led into the inner room of the house where we first saw Majboor in person. He looked very much like the picture I had seen of him in Koshur Samachar, except for the pale face and frail physique. Probably all had not been well with his health. He was glad to see us and it showed on his face, but to say the same for us would be an understatement. We were extremely excited. Soon we got talking over hot cups of kehwa. We traveled back in time to see a young boy and his quest for knowledge taking him to the most unlikely places where our mundane lives seldom take us to.He got nostalgic about his childhood and his years of adolsence.His art of story telling transported us to the springs of Zainapora where Majboor spent his childhood and the aura which bore its first imprints on his nubile mind. My wife wanted to know about his book on Lala Lachman (a 19th century bard and poet). She was particularly interested in knowing about “Gade Dhogul” one of the relatively unknown poet’s reflections on the society of the day he lived in. Majboor’s humility was at its full display when he took time and pains to narrate to us the story and the pun involved in it. We moved on to his interactions with Rahul Sankrityan (one of the greatest scholars of the last century)and thus came to fore, what really had transformed Majboor from a simple village boy with a quest, to a man who had come of age. Majboor told us about the time he spent with Rahul Sankrityan at Lahore and how he started to look at things differently and how his interactions with Sankritian evolved him. After meeting Rahul Sankrityan, Majboor was a different man. He was someone who had the legacy of Kashmiri scholarship and tutelage under one of the most balanced icons of communist philosophy. Soon we had lunch in his room which was served on wooden chowki(the low kashmiri table,where one can sit on the floor and have food on).There was a story to them also. These chowkis were one of the very few things that Majboor had managed to carry with him, when he had to leave his motherland, his Zainapora (his land of thousand imaginations).We were equally impressed by his desire to unravel the glorious past of Kashmir.I had read an article by Majboor in Vistasta(an annual magazine published by Kashmiri Pandit Sabha, Kolkatta)about his visits to Kapteshwara, Ganghobeda and Narastan. Painful as it is to know about the places of pilgrimage that people of our generation might never get to see, the vicarious pleasure of someone having seen them is the only refugee for souls like us. Majboor went into great details to tell us about his experience on visting these ancient temples and pilgrimage sites. Bewildered, I thought Maslow should have visited India before revealing his pyramid of needs to the students of psychology. How despite his limited means of income Majboor listened to his heart and traveled on the path which many would not dare to venture on. In the course of our discussions with Majboor we discovered he was an agnostic, a trait not uncommon to the emancipated. The sun was setting on the parapet of Majboor’s rented accommodation probably indicating the ephemeral nature of the houses that we live in and also the metaphysical sense of how time was about to end on the once great Kashmiri scholarship. Or maybe it was time for poetry. Majboor recited to us one of best pieces of work –Raaz Hamsas Kun. It was his longing for his motherland on the wings of wax, probably a flight of fancy which was not to happen but in the realm of imagination. The recitation was immaculate and poetry profound and haunting. By the time he finished reciting the sun had set and the firmament bore the look of a day that passed by both literally as well as metaphorically. Our eyes were moist and taste of the poem lingered in our subconscious for months. With heavy hearts we sought his permission to leave though our feet would not follow our heads. Majboor wanted us to stay over so did we, but we mere mortals had some mundane duties to attend to and bread to earn for our bodies, surely our souls had their meal. On the flight back to Delhi, me and my wife wondered how many youngsters know about Majboor. It was a moment of contemplation that we soon forgot when we got entangled in the web of our lives. We remained in touch with Majboor over phone and soon he expressed a desire to have some of his poems put to music. It was indeed a great thought to take his poems to the masses. The choice of the composer was unanimous, who else but the great maestro himself. Pandit Bhajan Sopori was really forthcoming and helpful in this endeavour. Shamima Azad and Abdul Rashid Farash lent their voices to the poems. The album called Alaav has already hit music stores across the nation. There is very little for me comment on the lyrical content and musical excellence of the album. My favourite however remains “Gayam Vaensa Vanan yath dastanas,dazeth khoth varake varkay aasmanas”. The poem is based on the legendary Gunadi, the author of Brihstkatha.When he recited his verses to the king, the king because of his ignorance ,simply dismissed the verses as ordinary. Gunadi enraged by the kings behaviour went to a jungle and recited his poems. All the birds and animals of the jungle came to listen to him. Even trees bowed their branches to listen to the beautiful verses which the king dismissed as ordinary. Then Gunadi burnt all his verses and the pages went up in the air. Majboor’s despondency is reflected in the verses as is Gunadi’s while burning his verses. The truly great do not sing paeans to the establishment. This was as true of Gunadi or Mirza Ghalib as is of Majboor.