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Versatile Litterateur in passionate love with Kashmiriat

By Suraj Saraf

Very first thing that strikes one going through the various literary works by Brij Premi is the wide sweep of the subjects he dealt with and the depth and insight with which he went into them. Then immediately one felt his love for Urdu, the language in which he produced his literary volumes was no less noticeable. Still more one also realised a deep research minded person and an eminent critic and analytical mind behind these works.

The binding thread running through   these varied traits of his personality was really Kashmiriat, his great fascination for his bewitching land and its people who in the foot-steps of the big personalities of the millennia old history of the valley enriching so handsomely its culture and life, were now engaged in writing new glorious chapters to keep on those great traditions.

I  feel that this factor, his fascination  for Kashmiriat and his constant endeavours to develop more and  more was the most important in enabling him first to get a good  start in  the literary field and then helping him to  widely  diversify his literary efforts dealing with so many subjects. Of course  this  highly beneficial  literary faculty was honed by his hard, rather very hard, struggle to establish himself in life. He was really a self-made man and had spared no effort to advance in life. Thus though he had a very tough grounding serving in various positions in the government yet on and on step by step he ultimately became a reader in Urdu in the Kashmir University. But his real goal on which he seemed to have set his sights, was literary excellence in its varied manifestations viz short stories (which was his first step in the literary field at the age of just 14 when still in school), essays, research, criticism, analytical studies, biography etc.. etc. but if one has had such a prodigious output, it is essential that he had ample input, too. In his case this input involved both study of vast literature and more so the practical study of the life and its problems which he himself encountered much while rising hard way. As professor Shakil-Ul-Rehman puts it in the foreword to Mr. Brij Premi’s volume “Harf-i-Justaju”,  "From the very beginning I was much impressed by his seriousness and  his deep-seated  habit  of  always  learning  something  or other.......  Dr.  Brij Premi is slowly and steadily  expanding his studies  viz   history,  civilisation,   mythology,   philosophy, religion; he is imbibing their high points and expressions which, I  am sure,  would  make his future writings  all  the more attractive.........

By his varied interests not only that the canvas  of  his  critical productions becomes vast  but  it  also becomes  more  fascinating, or as one  of  his  other  intimate  colleague-admirer  puts it, "Mr. Premi’s understanding  of  life and its problems was highly mature........He walked about and saw things   happenings  around with  an  artistic  vision.   He occasionally  smiled and in that smile one noticed the  smile  of the  critic,  an artist and a person who was always  prepared  to accept  new challenges of life, embrace new initiatives and  embark upon  one  activity or the other and  everything he understood, flowered  and matured in to substational work. His  books  speak volumes for his artistic talent. Once Dr. Brij Premi  himself remarked  that  he  loved to work more under  the  influence  of struggle, which added new dimensions to his endeavours.”

While it wouldn’t be possible to pen in a small write-up if enormous literary output, even the mere titles of several of his books would-tellingly underscore “his vastly varied  literary interests highlighted in them  like "Harf-i-Justaju" , “Zauq-e-Nazar” , “Chand-Tehreerein",  “Kashmir Ke Mazameen” "Jalwa-e-Sadrang” (The  last  awarded  by J&K Cultural  Academy). All these convey wide spectrum  of  literary coverage.  As  for instance take “Chand Tehreerein”: it has  six write-ups  on  research and criticism, one as  travelogue,  three allegories, two on Dev mala, Five on films, five on Nasri marsea and the last one is a translation or take his  “Jalwa-e-sadrang". Its  first nine write-ups, deal with Kashmir in its widely  varied facts  viz- history,  some  prominent people,  general  living, archaeologyfolk songs:  next three write-ups deal  with  urdu development  in its different phases in J&K, one on Saadat  Hassan Manto  and  one on a rare aspect of archeology in Kashmir.  In "Kashmir  Ke Mazameen” he goes into the Kashmir Chronicles  still deeper  in its two write-ups. However, this, book again  has  four write-ups  dealing  with "Shakhsiat”, four with “Adab”  and  one with development of journalisim in J&K. So on and so forth.

Second  most  important  aspect  of  Dr.  Brij Premi’s voluminous literary output and which is rather the pivot of almost all his writings, is Kashmiriat in its comprehensive sense. There have been virtually countless books on Kashmir but they pertain to its Kashmir Janat Benazeer" image only. Hardly anyone had tried to peep into what actually lay behind this “Janat”, how its people lived, what were their peculiar mores and problems. Dr. Premi had tried to focus on those aspects of the “Kashmir Janat  Benazeer”, As stressed by Mr. M.Y. Taing in his foreword to Dr. Premi’s book “Jalwa -e-Sadrang”, “Dr. Brij Premi has gone through thousands of pages regarding the history of Kashmir and has highlighted in a capsule form some such aspects that  new historical and cultural developments regarding  Kashmir get  focussed on......this book brings out extremely  significant information  about  Kashmir and he has done it  in  an  unbiased, liberal  manner.......old  writers on Kashmir were  unable  to observe the troubles and travails of the people or they did not try to peep into its real burning interior.

Dr. Brij Premi has, however,  succeeded in presenting to the world actual  prominent image of  Kashmir. In this very book, Dr.  Brij Premi  himself says, "I want to pen in future, too, such articles which bring into  sharp  relief  outstanding features of  history,  culture, personalities  and  life  in Kashmir”. Dr.  Hamdi  Kashmiri  also  underscores  Dr.Premi’s  attachment with Kashmiraat ,  "it  is tantamount  to his “Ishaq” with Kashmiraat” Dr. Premi is  a researcher and a critic, too . A particular aspect of  Dr. Premi's writings  is that before dealing with a subject of research, he does not limit himself merely to collecting facts and figures but he  also fully examines their veracity which makes  his  research very meaningful. “The way he has tried to bring  into prominence real contours of Kashmir with painstaking work and sincerity, is commendable."

This  going  in-depth  in  his subject  of  a research is amply reflected in his book on Sadat Hassan Manto hailed, as the pioneer publication (which had also earlier got him the Ph.D. in Urdu from Kashmir University) on that great exponent of fiction as art in Urdu . This publication has been highly commended both in India and Pakistan. But it would not be out of place to emphasise here that Dr. Brij Premi chose Manto as his research subject not merely, because he had. taken up Urdu as his medium of expression and Manto was such a tall  figure in Urdu literature, but much more so because Manto was a Kashmiri and Dr. Brij Premi himself- says in that behalf". Apart from other things, one important reason for my mental attachment with Manto is that "he was connected with Kashmir and was undoubtedly the best representative of the productive genius of this land."

As  told to me by his talented  son Premi Romani quite a number of his father's unpublished works are under print which inter-alia include a collection of his short stories. I am sure that all these will still more significantly throw light on several other aspects of Kashmir, the land and the people. There must be still large areas to work upon in this behalf for any person as passionately immersed in Kashmiraat as Dr. Brij Premi was.

It was a tragedy that Dr. Brij Premi breathed his last (on April 20,1990) at a comparatively small age of just 55 years less than even the average age that people in India have got now. But perhaps the hard work that he had been engaged in throughout his life contributed much to this added to by another tragedy that a person who had been so madly given to Kashmiriat that he had made it a life mission for himself, had to migrate under highly inimical environs from Kashmir. Now  one can only say that it is not the  long life that matters but it is the work done by one which is really important, more so, if it also becomes the footprints on the sands of time. I have no doubt that Dr. Brij Premi’s work on Kashmiraat will inspire many others , too, to drive deeply into it, that will be the best memorial to him and most of his writings are very original, which is very admirable factor in  any author.

*The author is a scion of well-known Saraf family of Jammu, whose contribution to the cause of journalism is well-recognised. Sh. Suraj Saraf is a veteran journalist and has been writing regularly on literary and cultural topics.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

  

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