As we entered the lanes of Adarsh Colony in Udhampur, finding directions to the house of Balraj Bakshi was way easier than we had anticipated. Everyone, from the kids to the adults, knew him as “Writer Sahab” and was more than happy to direct us to his house. As we sat across the couch in his room, an old school Radio set accompanied his brand new laptop, explaining the balance he maintains between the traditional storytelling and modern subjects in his poetry and stories. An eminent Urdu poet and short story writer, Balraj Bakshi had the distinction of being the first Urdu writer from the state to win the prestigious Bihar Urdu Academy as well as Uttar Pradesh Urdu Academy award for his book ‘Eik Boond Zindgi.’
Born in 1968, Bakshi’s inclination towards Urdu poetry and short stories became evident at a very young age. The sophistication in the language attracted him like anything and he started penning down poetry when he was a child. Bakshi recalls, “One of the very first incidents I still remember was when I was in 6th standard. I was writing poetry in my notebook and was caught by my class monitor, who then recited my poem to the entire class. The words, I clearly remember were, “Woh Khafa Hain Mujhse, Main Unhe Manau Kyun Kar!” The interest in Urdu poetry was further accentuated by his parents, who were very fond of Urdu Poetry and encouraged Bakshi to take up his interest more seriously.
However, the road was not as easy as it seemed. The constant struggle between pursuing his passion and striving to earn livelihood forced Bakshi venture into other fields. He started writing in various newspapers and eventually became editor of a couple of Urdu newspapers. After completing his graduation in Sciences, Bakshi started his own Urdu newspaper “Waqar”, in 1972. It was a weekly newspaper, published from Udhampur. However, his publication became the victim of infamous Emergency of 1975 and was banned by the government in the same year. While, Bakshi didn’t resume the newspaper later, but he still contributes articles in many prominent newspaper, even today.
Being the multi-talented person he is, Bakshi has contributed to his passion for Urdu in more than one ways. He joined Radio in the decade of 1970 and has remained one of the most popular names ever since. “I was introduced to the world of radio in my college days. This opened a vast sea of opportunities for me, as my words starting finding their way to the largest audience as there was no Television in those times. It was great fun as I still remember how great an occasion it used to become when my poetry used to be aired on Radio,” he recollects. In the illustrious career he had, the most close to his heart was project for Radio Kashmir Srinagar where he researched and scripted umpteen episodes of ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ in chaste Urdu.
Bettering his stint in Radio was what followed in Television. He has written and researched as well as produced and directed more than 100 episodes of various TV serials for Doordarshan. What makes this feat even more special is the fact that he has provided his services for different broadcasting centers of Doordarshan in Srinagar, Jammu and Chandigarh. Besides this, he has been known for his excellent coverage of proceedings in Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly on numerous occasions for Doordarshan Jammu. Even after his association with Television ended, he has remained a regular part of Television as various channels have extensively covered his life in the form of documentaries, at various occasions.
For Bakshi, his love for Urdu poetry and story writing is not something extra-ordinarily and he considers it a part of every one’s routine life. “Poetry is very relatable to us human beings. It is nothing, but the expression of what we feel. And same goes for short-stories. Whatever happens around us, its reaction in the form of expression is what we all do. The only difference is that an artist can express in a better way, speaking for many who may not do so equally well,” he says.
For his excellent work in promotion of Urdu poetry and short-stories, Union Ministry of Culture, New Delhi, had awarded Bakshi with Senior Fellowship Award, worth Rupees 2.88 Lakhs in 2007. It is worthwhile to note that Bakshi was the first recipient of this award in Urdu, from the state. He has served as president of the Jammu & Kashmir Anjuman-e-Adab, a literary organization established in 1967, for a number of terms. The significance of his work is proved in the light of the fact that University of Jammu has conducted a couple of M. Phil’s on his contribution in Urdu language & literature. He was rewarded duly for his talent when was assigned the project of translating Sahitya Akdemy award winner Dogri novel of Deshbandhu Dogra Nutan, ‘Qaidi’ in Urdu, in the year 2012.
However, the ‘Kohinoor’ in the diamonds-studded hat that Bakshi wears definitely has to be ‘Eik Boond Zindgi.’ His first collection of short stories that came out in 2015, this book was a popular hit among the Urdu writers’ fraternity as well as the Urdu readers across the country, who widely appreciated his work. The popularity of the book can be gauzed by the fact that for the first time in the history of Jammu and Kashmir, a writer was awarded by prestigious Bihar Urdu Academy as well as Uttar Pradesh Urdu Academy, in the year 2015 and 2016, respectively.
Bakshi tells more about ‘Eik Boond Zindgi’, “This book is my first collection of short stories. It contains 12 short stories, each one close to my heart. The subjects of the stories are random as it is impossible as well as idiotic to confine your writing within boundaries. In fact, this is true for any form of art. And that is the reason I have not tried to shape my stories within any predefined limits. I have talked about 4 Cubs and I have narrated the tale of how difficult it can be to procure an identity card.”
Bakshi has a different approach to his writing than others which he shares with us, “My poems and stories are a bit unique in a way that before I pen them down on paper, they are already 10 to 15 years old. Each and every situation of the story, each and every dialogue, has already gone through my mind for umpteen times until its meaning becomes very clear to me. It is only after the attainment of this clarity that I write them on paper.”
While Bakshi is an established poet as well as a short-story writer, on a lighter note, he feels that his double identity sometimes becomes a trouble for him too. “In a couple of lists of top Urdu poets of North India, I found my name missing. Upon enquiring, I was told that they consider me a short-story writer, instead. In another such list where they published the list of top Urdu short story writers, the reason of my exclusion was given as I being a poet. However, it all doesn’t matter as long as my work is reaching readers, in any form,” he smiles.
Currently, Bakshi is working on translating another Dogri novel of Deshbandhu Dogra Nutan in Urdu, a project assigned by Jammu and Kashmir Academy for Art Cultural & Languages. He is also hopeful of coming out with another collection of short stories, very soon.