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Brij Premi-My Father

By Avinash Aima

My thoughts go back to the days, when my father used to go every morning for a walk in the company of my mother in Naseem Bagh, an area surrounded by lofty Chinars. He not only enjoyed the fragrance of cool air, but also turned these beautiful mornings into occasions of literary interactions. Such luminaries - Prof. Rais Ahmed, Mrs. Shakhti Rais, Prof. Shakeel-ur-Rehman, Prof. Manzoor-ul-Islam, Mrs. Manzoor, Prof. Ayub Khan and others, who lived in the Campus quarters at Hazratbal would also be on their morning walk jaunts. On return, Dr Premi would enlighten his family members about the discussions he had with these people.

I also recall how our house at Ali Kadal used to host literary meets. These meetings were attended by scholars - Hakim Manzoor, Moti Lal Saqi, Makhmoor Badakhshi, JL Raina, Pushkar Nath, Rehman Rahi, Arun Kaul, Ghulam Nabi Baba, Wajhi Ahmed Andrabi etc. The meetings continued well past midnight. I too happened to sit in these gatherings but without any interest. My father, after day's business, would meet scores of friends at Habbakadal, conversations would drag on for hours together. My father would also make me attend many poetic symposia and 'shows' in the Tagore Hall, Srinagar.

Once Krishan Chander and his wife Salma Siddique visited Srinagar. My father, an admirer of Krishan Chander met him and discussions on literary aspects continued for many days. Saadat Hassan Manto also came up during the discussions. My father was those days engaged in research work on Manto. The meetings which my father had with Krishan Chander later flowered into a companionship. My father wrote down a memoir based on these interactions. It hasn't been published as yet.

Prof. Shakeel-ur-Rehman had close association with Dr. Brij Premi. He seemed impressed with my father's talent and literary interests. I can still recollect the discussions he held on the cultural heritage of India with my father Prof. Shakeel was that time engaged in writing a book titled 'Ghalib Aur Hind Mughal Jamaliyat' Dr. Shakeel's scholarship left deep impact on my father, it helped him to identify other areas of literature and pursue these with vigour. On my father's death, Prof. Shakeel said, “I have lost an intimate companion of my life and feel weaker in his absence”.

Though my father was deeply fascinated by Urdu and considered it as the real vehicle of his expression, yet he did write few stories in Kashmiri and some articles in English.

In his Kashmiri short stories, he projected psychological and social dimensions of the society. For example, in the story  'Vudav', the protagonist, a female character, while being caught in the whirlpool of disturbed environment, gets obsessed with certain spiritual urges which need to be filled. In 'Pas Az Gadai Chakri', he paints the picture of an employee, burdened by economic misery. The character is exasperated with the situation he lives in. He has to spend his meagre earnings to fend off the debts, which leaves him little to tide over his existence for the month. He gets visual hallucinations - seeing his creditors waiting for money with tilted noses on the currency notes. The writings portray the psychological trauma of these econmically marginalised people. Dr. Premi presents artistically the difficulties poor employees underwent in supporting large families. 'Chaye Geit' is a stream of thoughts, which have been woven in the warp and woof of realism.

'Kashmiriyaat', the social, literary and historical aspects of Kashmir, was very dear to him. Mr. Suraj Saraf, has acknowledged this in an essay on him. Mr. Mohd. Yusuf Teng, in his forward to 'Jalwa-i-Sadrang' says that Brij Premi, after ploughing through thousands of pages of available material, has presented various aspects of Literary, Historical and Social heritage of Kashmir in a capsule form, in an unbiased way. About the same book Prof. Hamidi Kashmiri observes that it would add new dimensions to research.

Dr. Premi's book 'Kashmir Ke Mazameen' awarded posthumously by J&K Cultural Academy (1991) is dedicated to Kashmir. He says, "I dedicate this book to my native land. If through these writings, if somebody feels my presence I would feel delighted and pleased. The essays have the fragrance of the soil of my land".

Born in a tradition-bound Kashmiri Pandit family, Brij Premi (1935-1990) loved to read in his early years the adventure novels in the late hours. His father, Pt. Sham Lal Aima, a writer of repute, wrote short stories, which were published regularly in the Daily Martand. My grandfather had given an impressive performance, when Pt. Nehru visited the Basic Model School, Srinagar. He rubbed shoulders with such eminent personalities - Kashyap Bandhu, Prem Nath Pardesi, Master Zind Kaul, Fazil Kashmiri, Nand Lal Talib, Dina Nath Warikoo, Dina Nath Mast, Aftab Koul Wanchoo etc. This provided a good ambience for my father to become a writer. Pt. Sham Lal Aima also excelled in writing allegories and pen-sketches.

My father, in his early years, wrote under the pseudonym 'Yugdeep', to voice his protest against the social evils. His articles appeared in 'Martand', 'Navjeevan', 'Jyoti' etc.

His death was deeply mourned by writers and artists. They sympathised with us in our hour of grief:

Ahmed Nadeem Qasimi (Lahore, Pakistan) puts it as:

"Sad demise of Dr. Brij Premi has left me deeply shocked. Brij Premi was young, but some health problem has removed him from us".

Upender Nath Ashk (Allahabad) says,

"I knew he was diabetic, but this disease is quite common these days and people can live with it for 80/85 years in many cases. But it is also true that death keeps no calender and who can avoid what has to happen. He had still many projects to complete".

Prof. Ale Ahmed Saroor (Aligarh) says:

"The service rendered by Dr. Brij Premi in the teaching and criticism of Urdu language and literature has a specific place. His book on Manto goes a long way in understanding and analysing this great artist".

Prof. Jagan Nath Azad (Jammu)

"When I was in Europe, I came to know about the sad demise of my dear friend. I was deeply shocked at his demise".

Prof. Qamar Rais (Delhi)

"I cannot express the feelings of dejection my mind is filled with at the sudden passing away of my dear friend, Brij Premi. He had a passion for Urdu literature".

Prof. Shamim Hanfi (Delhi)

"I felt very sad at the tragedy of passing away of Brij Premi. Whenever I would visit Srinagar, I would meet him. He was a cultured and polite person. I would always get pleasure in meeting him".

*The author is son of Dr. Brij Premi. At present he is working as Principal of Camp Higher Secondary School at Muthi, Jammu.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

  

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