Prof Shiv Nirmohi who has been conferred with the prestigious ‘Padamshree’ award for 2020 is an epitome of hard work and devotion.This octogenarian son of the soil has profound interest in the primary research and documentation of the rich culture and heritage of Jammu region. Probably no other writer from J& K has travelled so extensively as Prof Nirmohi,to explore the hidden wealth lying in the form of our priceless heritage and highlight the myriad rituals, beliefs, tradition etc of people inhabiting different regions. No wonder, he has been deservedly conferred Padamshree for his contribution in the field of education and literature.His life is a saga of deep inspiration and unwavering passion of a person who is driven by an irrestible urge to explore and highlight the literary,social and cultural aspects of our cultural heritage. He has authored about 40 books on Duggar culture and heritage such as ponds, forts, temples, bowlis, lakes etc.and thus enriched literature in Hindi and Dogri language. Born to Pandit Sawan Mal and Asho Devi on April 19,1937 at village Panthal, he had his Primary education at the only Primary School in the village and later was forced by circumstances to move, alongwith the whole family,to Firozpur in the Punjab where he did his matriculation. He got appointed as a teacher in Govt High School, Hiranagarin 1956 at the age of 19.He continued upgrading his education and at the same time following his passion of writing books. While he passed Sahitaya Rattan, Prabhakar from Punjab University, he completed MA and B. T from Jammu university. After serving School Education Department for 20years as a teacher and master, he was appointed as Lecturer in Higher Education Department in 1976.During his stint as Professor, he served GDC Kathua, GDC Udhampur, GCW Udhampur and Govt College of Education Jammu. He also taught in PG Department of Dogri and Hindi at Jammu University. He retired from active service as Sr.Lecturer in 1995.Post retirement, he served as lecturer in Dogra College of Education, Jammu and as Principal Shivalik College of Education, Udhampur. Moreover, he served in prestigious national institutions such as Member of Advisory Board in Jammu & Kashmir Academy of Arts, Culture and Languages, Sahitya Academy, New Delhi and Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) as Subject expert. During his service, he participated in a large number of seminars, workshops and conferences in various reputed universities. He himself has organised more than a hundred seminars in order to document and preserve cultural heritage of Jammu region.
All along the course of his more than eight decades of his life, Professor Nirmohi has written extensively on Dogra Culture and Heritage, Dogra History, Dogra Folklores, DograArt & Archaelogy etc.and many of his books are being used as reference books. No wonder, he has been profusely decorated with awards by various prestigious institutions. For instance, his titles ‘ Duggar ki Lok Gathein ‘ and ‘Duggar ke Lok Devta’ has been awarded by J&K Academy of Arts, Culture and Languages respectively in 1982 and 1990.His other award winning titles include ‘Duggar ki Sanskriti’ (Kendriaya Hindi Nideshalya in 1990 presented by then PM Chander Shekhar), ‘Kashmir ki Kahani’ (Information Department, J&K),Paddar-Lok aur Sanskriti’ in 2003 (presented by the then PM Atal Behari Vajpayee),’ Kishtwar-SanskritiavmParampara’.2011. (J&K Academy of Arts,Culture and Languages, Jammu). Besides, he is the recipient of Best Teacher Award (1972), Padamshree announced in 2020,presented on Nov 08,2021by PM Narendera Modi) & Lifetime Achievement. 2021 Announced by the UT Govt of J&K.. yet to be presented). He has also been bestowed with international awards.Prof Nirmohi is an intellectual giant and living legend of J&K.He is the pride of Duggar and he dedicated Padamshree to the entire Duggar fraternity.His future plans include exploring the hitherto unexplored regions of J&K and write a book titled ‘Duggar Ki Kahani’ to include the historical, sociological and cultural account of Duggar since prehistoric times.
Here are the excerpts of Ashok Sharma’s interview with this illustrious son of the soil who has brought laurels to his motherland by being awarded the coveted prize PADAMSHREE.
Ashok Sharma : Heartiest Congratulations to you, Sir on being conferred with the coveted Padamshree Award.How do you feel on being bestowed with this honour?
Prof.Nirmohi : I feel happy that my work has been recognised.I dedicate this award to my parents teachers,students,well wishers,members of my family and to all those with whom I interacted and who provided me direct or indirect information pertaining to the culture and heritage of Duggar.I feel it is the honour to the entire Dogra fraternity.
AS: Did your joining the Higher Education Department, in any way,boost your writings?
PN : As I joined Govt. Degree College, Kathua, I came in contact with famous poet Chander Kant Joshi and Sanskrit scholar Dr. Satya Pal Vats.I devoted a lot of time in the College library and from 1976 to 1978 I studied about a hundred books which influenced me a lot and I developed interest for research. In January, 1979 I attended a work shop at Punjab University, Chandigarh where I came in contact with scholars from Himachal Pradesh. They encouraged me to undertake research work in folk literature of Dogri, Dogra Culture, History and Heritage etc. In 1979, I wrote a book for children titled ‘ Kashmir Ki Kahani’ and was awarded by the Social welfare Department of J&K. I was given this award by the then Chief Minister of J&K Sheikh Mohd. Abdullah on June 4,1980.Encouraged by the writers from Himachal, I wrote a book ‘Folk Tales of Duggar’ which brought me ‘Best Book Award’ by Karnal Academy. I then published five books on Dogra Folk literature out of which ‘Duggar Ka Lok Sahitya’ fetched me ‘Best Book Award’. From GDC Kathua, I was transferred to GDC Udhampur where I served for about six years. I also served in MAM College, Jammu, Govt College of Education, Jammu GCW, Udhampur and also offered my services in Dogri Department of Jammu University. I attained superannuation on April 30,1995 and worked as Lecturer in Dogra College of Education, Jammu and Founder Principal of Shivalik College of Education.
AS: What are your views on the status of literary output of different languages in J&K?
PN: New literature is being added to the languages of Urdu, Hindi, Dogri, Kashmiri, Gojri, Bhaderwahi, Kishtwari and Pahari.
Kashmiri poet ‘Rehman Rahi has been conferred Gyanpeeth Award while Dogri writer & poet, Padma Sachdev has been awarded Saraswati Award. About 20 writers of Kashmiri & Dogri have been given Padam awards while about 40 writers have received Sahitaya Academy Awards. Similarly, Balraj Bakshi has been awarded awards by various Urdu Academies of Bihar & U.P. Khalid Hussain has received international awards in Punjabi. Similarly Meenu Khajuria from Bishnah is running Duggar Channel in England. Dr Champa Sharma is playing a key role in spreading Dogri language. Not only this, Dogra diaspora in America collectively celebrate various festivals popular in Duggar region.
Sahitaya Academy, New Delhi, Academy of Art, Culture and Languages, J&K, honours Dogri & Kashmiri writers. It boosts their morale. Some organisations also provide financial support to books under publication. Post graduate Department of Dogri and Kashmiri are running successfully in the University of Jammu & University of Kashmir respectively. Similarly in many colleges and universities, these subjects are being taught successfully. Akashwani and Doordarshan air and telecast many programmes in these languages highlighting local culture and heritage benefitting millions of people.Creative writing in English too is picking momentum in J& K and you too have published two books on poems in English. So we have a number of famous and budding writers as well in all these languages who are contributing a lot towards adding literature in all these languages.
AS: You have travelled a lot.Tell us about the experiences of your journey to different parts of J&K and outside J&K?
Prof.Nirmohi : Though I have travelled across the length & breadth of J& K, I have also travelled a lot outside J& K to conduct research. Whether it is Ladakh or Poonch, Kashmir or Himachal, I have gone everywhere. I have been to Nepal too. I have travelled extensively to Kullu, Lahaul, Kinnore, Shimla, Bilaspur in HP & Kedar Nath, Badri Nath, Pithoragarh, Dharchala and Om parbat in Uttrakhand in connection with my research work. Inthe South , I have participated in literary activities in Artidasan university and Tamil University and visited Kanya Kumari, Trivendrum, Ooty.I have also visited Gangasagar, Bihar, U. P. M. P. Rajasthan, Gujrat, Maharashtra etc. and presented research papers in Punjabi University, Punjab University, Hindu University, Rajasthan University, Gujarat Vidyapeeth.
Padamshree Award presented to me has given me recognition at national level. I feel happy that my hard work has been recognised and my name and fame has enhanced in social, cultural and administrative circles.
AS: How did you feel on meeting the President & the PM of India as you received Padamshree Award?
PN: I went to the President of India at 5.45 PM on Nov 8, 2021 to receive my award. As I reached near him, he said, “Nirmohiji, Mein aapki rachnaon se prabhavit hoon.” (Nirmohi ji, I have been much impressed with your writings”.As he addressed me by name, I was extremely happy. I thought he had gone through the books which I had sent to the Rashtrpati Bhavan.
At the refreshment time, PM Narendra Modi asked me to tell him about the present condition of J&K.I was dumbfounded as to how PM Modi could recognise me in such a large number of people. I told him that my home is near SMVD University where he had gone to preside over a Convocation. He smiled, patted me on my shoulder, shook hand with me and moved forward. To attend Rashtarpati Bhavan was a memorable event for me.
AS: What is your message for the young budding writers of J& K?
PN: The young and budding writers should always strive to explore and highlight the local history, culture, religion and traditions at the national and international level. Encourage your children to speak & converse in their mother tongue. Try to explore and highlight our glorious culture & heritage in the past.Write on and tell the stories of great warriors of Duggar. They should bring to light the patriotic fervour of Dogras and sacrifice for their motherland in their writings.Last but not least, the sweetness of our local languages should be highlighted. There is dire need to conduct research on prehistoric times and history of Duggar. Sufficient research needs to be conducted on Naga Culture and cultural traditions in far flung areas such as Marwa Dacchan, Pogal Paristan, Gool, Seoz Dhar etc to highlight the unexplored aspects of local culture and traditions. Encyclopedia of Duggar has not been published yet. So there is dire need to work on it. I suggest that all the local universities should encourage research in Dogri language & Dogra culture in their varsities. Primary education should be imparted in the mother tongue.
AS :How do you feel at the declining trend in the reading habit in the youth today?
PN: As a result of Social Media, there has been a declining trend in reading of books. Everything is available on the internet, so the students have little passion for reading books. But this is not a healthy trend.The teachers should themselves read a lot of books to develop interest in the students. There should be a library period for the students of middle and secondery level in which they must be asked to read the books of their choice.
AS:What are your views on Online teaching being followed in Corona times.
PN :Though online teaching has emerged as a viable alternative to offline or classroom teaching it cannot be a substitute to classroom teaching especially in case of elementary classes. However, during corona times, it proved to be a good method of teaching the higher classes at the school and the college level.But the close rapport between a teacher and the taught that is forged by classroom teaching is not possible in Online teaching. The way a teacher enters the class, his smile, the eye contact, his persona,the close interaction with students etc matters a lot in transfer of knowledge but all this is possible only in Classroom teaching.
AS: What,do you think,is the future of creative writing in J& K?
PN:I think creative writing has a bright future in J&K.A number of writers are writing in various local languages and thus, highlighting their rich culture and heritage.I tried a lot to develop passion for creative writing in my students and some of them have turned out to be good writers. In Udhampur, Anil Paba and Kusum Sharma Antra have been very near to me and they are now very good writers. My daughter in law, Sonia Sharma too is trying to carry my legacy forward. She has published a book of anthology of poems and my grand daughter takes keen interest in creative writing. I am very happy that many people of my native village are taking keen interest in creative writing.