TNN Bureau. Updated: 10/26/2019 11:12:16 AM We the Women

‘We The Women’ is delighted to bring forward journey of an exemplary woman of the land who took Dogri to new heights with her intricate and enriched work and passionate contribution. She has gathered numerous awards and accolades for her contribution in literature, especially Dogri, the list of which includes Sahitya Akademi Award (1971), Padma Shri Award (2001), Kabir Samman for poetry (2007-08), Saraswati Samman (2015) for her autobiography Chitt-Chete, Krutitava Smagra Samman (2015 by Bharatiya Bhasha Parishad, WB), Dinu Bhai Pant Life Time Achievement Award (2017), and many more. This June she was conferred the highest honour of Sahitya Akademi, its fellowship, becoming the eighth writer to achieve so. Read on about Padma Sachdev.

JAMMU: The world is filled with complexities and complications. People love, support and even adulate you when you adhere to and promote their values and belief; when you don’t, they wouldn’t hesitate to tear you limb to limb, both figuratively and literally. The admiration becomes profanity; adulation becomes hostility, in a fraction of second. But is there any other way to it? Is the reverse of it possible? Wouldn’t the world stop evolving if we all are conformist? Would you dare to pursue a dream or make a choice that the society or community you belong to, doesn’t approves? Would you compromise on life for validation?
For her, these weren’t the questions that occupied her mind. A maverick; didn’t want to be told and taught how to live her own life. One can say one of the two things- she was born too early or the world was lagging way behind her. Despite of all the difficulties that came her way because of that, she still wouldn’t trade it for anything. Let’s dive into the journey of Padma Sachdev, whom you may also know as ‘Mother of Modern Dogri Poetry’, who emerged as a ‘mother’ when there were only fathers.
Eldest of three children of Professor Jai Dev Badu, a Sanskrit scholar and Shakuntla Sharma, Padma was born at the core of Jammu, Panjtirthi, in late thirties in a family of Rajprohits. Tragically Padma and her siblings Ashutosh and Gyaneshwar, lost their father and Shakuntla was widowed at 23 when Prof. Jai Dev Badu became the victim of conflicts post India’s Partition in 1947. Padma takes pride in sharing about her father; he had acquired double M.A. and degree in LLb, which she shares with grief in her voice.
Padma admits that the loss created irrevocable void in her and her life. Post the loss, the family moved back to their native place, Purmandal, situated on the banks of the sacred stream Devaka, about 39 km to the north-east of Jammu, where she started her education in the primary school.
Padma’s mother became a teacher in Purmandal and from there Pudma’s interest in her heritage and culture began to bloom. Padma had been memorising and reciting Sanskrit slokas and Hindi couplets in her father’s lap from a very early age and now, she started learning ‘Lok Geet’ and started singing those Dogri folk songs with local groups of women to the accompaniment of dholak. Later on the passion evolved to composing simple verses on the pattern of Dogri folk songs.
The effect of Purmandal reflects in Padma even today, when young spirited Padma is in her early eighties. It is beautifully expressed in Padma’s words when she says, “Even, today when I write I feel like I am sitting somewhere in the hills of Purmandal.”
When Padma came back to Panjtirth and got enrolled in 9th standard she started engaging herself in Radio Station, where she was suggested to write in Dogri as well. She made a name for herself with her poem Raja Diyan Mandiyan written at the age of 14; a remarkable piece of her work which she penned down with grace, great depth of content, tone and texture and sheer expertise despite being nascent writer. The poem has been included in almost all the anthologies of Dogri poetry and occupies an important place in the repertoire of Padma’s works. This poem and seven smaller pieces of her verse later appeared in print for the first time in a selection of Dogri poetry of the most promising young poets titled Madhukan published by the J & K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages in 1959.
While studying in first year college, she became the first poetess of Dogri when she shared the stage with established Dogri poets and recited a song composed by her in a ‘Kavi Sammelan’ at Jammu before a large and distinguished audience, including then chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir state. The song was published next morning in a local Urdu paper Sandesh.
Padma got married at tender age of sixteen to the then editor of Sandesh, Ved Pal Deep, a prominent Dogri poet, twelve years senior to her. They fell in love with each other and got married against the objections of relatives on both sides. Padma describes it as fatal infatuation.
She moved to Srinagar to continue her further studies, while her then husband stayed back and few months following that she suffered the first bout of her serious illness tuberculosis of the intestines and had to remain in a hospital at Srinagar for about three years. She says, “Nobody expected me to survive but it never crossed my mind that I would lose battling that tormenting disease.”
After miraculous recovery from the illness, Padma returned to Jammu, and started working as a staff artist with Radio Kashmir, Jammu. Soon after, she separated from her husband. This step offended the conservative mindset deeming marriage a ‘sacred bond for seven births’ as well as immoral character to the woman choosing for herself. Padma being a respectful person she is, doesn’t gets into the details or reasons leading her to take such drastic decision for that time and speaks respectfully of her former husband.
The instance not only alienated her from the conservative middle class society of Jammu and severed her job, but she also got criticized and unreasonably abashed by the newspapers which once published impressively about her saga. According to Padma, it was the price of being in public eye, yet she never got intimidated by it.
While this could have been a breaking point for anyone, Padma didn’t let this stop her. With a letter from Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed, then Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, addressed to the Director General of All India Radio Delhi, she came to Delhi and got employed as a Dogri newsreader.
Eventually in her mid-twenties she got married to a long time friend Surinder Singh, a famous singer of Hindustani classical music. This was followed by exponential height in work and recognition of it. Padma shares that when she started slaking after getting married in 1966, it was her husband who insisted and inspired her to get back to working and writing.
In 1969 Padma Sachdev published her first collection of poem in form of a book ‘Meri Kavita Mere Geet’ (My Poems, My Songs), with an introduction by a stalwart among Hindi poets, Ram Dhari Singh Dinkar who wrote it in Hindi which translates to, “Reading the poems of Padma, I felt I should throw away my pen because the things Padma says is real poetry.”
This book won her the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1971 at a young age of thirty. Following which she wrote the lyrics of the song 'Mera chhota sa ghar baar' from the 1973 Hindi film by Ved Rahi " Prem Parbat " which had music by Jaidev . Thereafter, she wrote the lyrics of two songs of the 1978 Hindi film "Aankhin Dekhi", which had music by J.P. Kaushik including the famous duet "Sona re, tujhe kaise miloo" sung by Mohd Rafi and Sulakshana Pandit. She also wrote the lyrics along with Yogesh for the 1979 Hindi film "Saahas", which had music by Ameen Sangeet.
Writing both in her mother tongue Dogri and the national language Hindi, she has to her credit six collections of Dogri poetry, eight books of Hindi prose including two novels, one collection of short stories, an autobiography, a travelogue and more than half a dozen translations. She also writes an occasional article in Hindi for newspapers and journals.
Thereafter she has published five more collections of her poems at regular intervals Tavi Te Chanhan (Rivers Tawi and Chenab, 1976), Nheriyan Galiyan (Dark Lanes, 1982), Pota Pota Nimbal (Fingertipful Cloudless Sky, 1987), Uttar Vahini (1992) and Tainthian (1992). The titles of her books are relevant, obvious, symbolic and significant. They reflect her predominant moods and concerns of the moment.
Alongwith abovementioned awards, Soviet Land Nehru Award, Hindi Academy Puraskar, U.P. Hindi Academy Pruaskar, Raja Ram Mohan Roy Puraskar, Joshua Poetry Award, and the Jammu & Kashmir Government’s Robe of Honour are some other honours this achiever acquired over the years.
Her work presents her versatility as a poetess and also reflects the growth induced by marinatio of experience and age. The subjects range from feminine sentiments of a young Dogra girl, emotions of woman, women, nostalgic reminiscences of childhood days, anxieties of budding youth, feelings of a girl married far away, desire for motherhood, yearning for and love of the soil, love for Dogri, Dogra way of life and flora and fauna of Duggar, intro-spection, disenchantment, irrepressible yearning, spirituality and also a certain concern for environment.
So, one can say without doubt that Padma has not been a conformist, never compromised for validation, pursued her heart and dreams. Despite the unreasonable condemnation for choosing for herself, admiration and respect came back her way because she was consistent and truthful to herself; above everything she had faith upon herself that induce nothing but awe.
We will leave you to read a citation of Sahitya Academy Fellowhip that she received lately which also validates her contribution and love for the mother tongue, Dogri.
“Her eagerness to introduce Dogri language to wider audiences kindled the flame of prose-writing in Padma Sachdev. Though she wrote short stories in Dogri, Hindi was to be her language for prose. She has repeatedly written for newspapers and periodicals about her language, current events, festivals and the burning topics related to Indian women and their problems. Known both as a poet and prose writer in her native language Dogri, and mainly for her prose in Hindi, she believes that when it is a matter of the heart it is only the mother tongue that is a fit and suitable vehicle of expression, and hence, all her important poetical works are in Dogri.”

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