Tribhuwan N. Bhan

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Tribute: Remembering Shri Jagan Nath Dhar

By Tribhuwan N. Bhan

In early forties, Europe in particular and the whole world in general was engulfed by the fearful flames of World War II. At that time a young ambitious man Jagan Nath Dhar, son of Pt. Raghunath Dhar of Vecharnag, Srinagar had just graduated from the Punjab University. That time his age was about twenty six years. He then joined J&K Police in administrative department. The dull and sedentary desk job at the office did not suit his temperament. He wanted to be active mentally and physically. It was with this over-vaulting ambition, he joined the Royal Indian Air Force sometime in 1942. He was commissioned and stationed at Kohat, now in Pakistan. At Kohat, he and Mr. Aspee Engineer developed an inexplicable rapport between themselves. Mr. Engineer was his guide, and friend. Aspee later on rose to the rank of Air Marshall. As a Flt. Lt. of the Royal Indian Air force, Mr. Dhar saw action during the second world war, but his heart belonged to Kashmir valley. He would miss his ancestral hometown Vecharnag. He would visit Kashmir during a sabbatical. Whenever he was in Kashmir, he would visit my home at Karan Nagar and spend sometime with my father Late Shri Gobindji Bhan who happened to be his cousin. Whenever he came in Airforce uniform, he looked more handsome and smarter than a war hero of a Hollywood movie. Many years later when I saw the movie 'Farewell to Arms' starring Rock Hudson, I thought of my uncle in his young days of early forties who was more impressive than Rock Hudson! Later on World War came to an end and India got independence in August 1947.

Officers of Royal Indian Air Force were given option by the government that they could continue in the Airforce or join the department of Civil Aviation of India. Mr. Dhar opted for the Civil Aviation. During his tenure in this department, he held many important and strategic assignments.

In October 1947, Kashmir valley was invaded by Pakistani tribals called Kabailis. They unleashed havoc wherever they set their foot. In Srinagar there was absolute chaos. Maharaja Hari Singh, was holding his annual Dassera Darbar on 24th October which turned out to bethe 'Last Darbar' as the Maharaja left Srinagar for Jammu at the midnight of 24th-25th October, never to return.He settled in Bombay where he expired in Feb./March, 1961. The entire valley plunged into darkness as the raiders had reached Mohra and damaged the power station, which supplied electricity to Kashmir valley. It was at that time Indian government came to the rescue of the people of Kashmir by sending troops to fight back the Pakistani raiders. Srinagar Aerodrome assumed a lot of importance at such a moment of crisis, as it was the only airport where Indian planes could land carrying soldiers and supplies. Mr. J.N.Dhar was designated by Government of India to supervise the operations at Srinagar Aerodrome. His first-hand knowledge of the surroundings of the Aerodrome was an added advantage to his functioning at such a crucial stage in the history of the country.

While he was posted at Srinagar Aerodrome, he managed to visit us at Karan Nagar. My father was very fond of his cousin. He held him in high esteem for being a self-made man.

That evening my father and Mr. Dhar kept on talking for a long time. He was describing to him the experiences he had during the war. As it was quite late in the evening, my father asked him to stay on for dinner. He agreed to do so. After dinner my old aunt Kakni asked him how he would go back to the Aerodrome where he was on duty. He replied, "I came by a car and I shall go back by the same car." She then said, "You had dinner. What about your driver? Did he have something to eat?" "But my dear Kakni, I do not have a driver", he said. "But you say you have come by car. Every car has a driver. How come you do not have a driver for your car? I am utterly confused", She said with surprise and confusion reflected from her visage. "I have been driving here myself", Mr. Dhar told her. "My God, while going back please be very careful. The roads are deserted. There are stray dogs around, who keep on barking all the night. Please drive slowly. I hope the lights of your car are working so that you can see the road clearly etc. etc. "Mr. Dhar kept on listening to her with rapt attention. Not even once during their conversation did he give her the feeling that he was not taking her advice seriously. Instead he gave her the impression that he was taking her advice seriously, and he made her feel that she was giving him valuable advice, which was good for him.

Out of love and affection my aunt had so much genuine concern for a young man. To a young man who had piloted planes during the World War II, driving a car would be a child’s play. But he accepted an elder’s advice with all the humility. That was the care and concern felt by elders for young people those days and the younger generation reciprocated by giving due respect to their elders.

Those days, the elders were considered the wise men and women of the society. Whether they had been to any school or college or not. Whatever they said was accepted as the gospel truth. Their advice was followed word by word-nay letter by letter.

Later on Mr. J.N.Dhar was posted in the Civil Aviation department at Delhi. In this department he held significant posts at Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Calcutta etc. etc. Due to the Kabaili raid on J and K state, numbers of Kashmiri youth were displaced, and faced a bleak future, but Mr. Dhar guided and helped them in every possible manner. Almost all of them reached the zenith of professional success in their respective careers. Some of them remember him till today with gratitude. Some often talk about him. Yet, some seem to have forgotten him and the timely assistance he rendered to them when they needed it the most.

For me I would greet him over the telephone on his birthday, he said, "You call me on my birthday. It makes me very happy. I wish you would call me more often.” I did call him lateron. But then I could not do so more often as he was too unwell to talk over the phone.

In Civil Aviation Department the young ambitious man from Vecharnag, an insignificant suburb of Srinagar, rose to hold the office of the Chief of the Operations, International Airports Authority of India. His rise was no cakewalk for him. He had to face opposition from various quarters. He had to struggle and strive to survive in the mess of political labyrinth. At one of the meetings of the Department of Civil Aviation, the minister chairing the meeting had remarked sarcastically, “ Oh, there is another Dhar! A Kashmiri Pandit is here too!!" The minister did not take very Kindly to Kashmiri Pandit community. God had showered on him many a benediction, due to which he stood out even in a crowd. His impeccable diction in English language was appreciated by all who heard him.

There were sad moments in his life. His greatest tragedy was when his only son Dr. Ajay Dhar succumbed to leukaemia at a very young age of 37, in Sept. 1995. This is another example of how powerless God is who watches from the side lines while destiny catches us by the sleeve and does not leave its hold till it sees that we suffer endlessly.

In the first week of May 1971, my family and I were taking a flight from Delhi to Srinagar. I met Mr. Dhar at Palam airport when we were about to board the plane. He came to me and hugged me, "So, you have finally made it." He said. Probably he was thinking of the days in 1960 when I, an N Sweet & Sour - T.N. Bhan unemployed person, stayed with him for over three months, looking for a job. I introduced him to my wife Krishna saying, “He is Jagannath Dhar!.” That was typical informal and crude Kashmiri manner of talking, not prefixing Mr. or Shri before his name.

Hearing me thus, he did not take any offence but took it sportingly and had a hearty laugh, at my coarse diction and said smilingly, “ Your style is sameas your father’s. Now go and identify your baggage. Bye, and have a nice time back home!” After that I met himfor the last time on January 29th,1977at my niece’s wedding at Delhi. Sunday 8th Oct. 2006 was a dark Sunday for all who knew Mr. JAGANNATH DHAR, affectionately called LALA SAHEB by his near and dear ones. On this day LALA SAHEB, was recalled by his Maker to the ultimate abode. This is the cycle of life. Everyone has to depart from this planet, but there are some who leave a void behind which no mortal can fill.

LALA SAHEB was one such person and I salute him for whatever he achieved in life, through discipline, dedication and dexterity, though he started from very humble beginnings.

Source: Milchar

  

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