Memories of Azad



Prof Jagan Nath Azad As I Knew Him

Although I had heard a lot about Prof Jagan Nath Azad and seen him on television participating in Mushiaras or heard his voice on All India Radio several times, yet I did not have the good fortune of meeting him till 1978. I was posted at Government College, Udhampur those days and had to attend Academic Council meeting in the old campus of Jammu University where I got a chance to meet him for the first time. In his commanding voice he gave a number of suggestions to improve the academic atmosphere of the University. After the meeting was over I approached him and introduced myself. He shook my hand warmly and smiled affectionately. It encouraged me to tell him that I loved Urdu language which I had studied as an optional subject at Intermediate level in the college. I also told him that I wrote articles in Urdu. He said that he was glad that even as a man of science I loved Urdu and wrote articles in that language. He further said that he would be glad to meet me in his Department whenever I happened to come to Jammu.

As luck would have it, I was transferred to Gandhi Memorial Science College (Erstwhile Prince of Wales College), Jammu in the month of December the same year. Since University of Jammu was still operating from the old campus at Canal Road those days and Science College was just at a stone's throw, I met him several times in his Department and sought his advice on a book on popular science that I was planning to write in Kashmiri. He expressed his happiness and encouraged me. He also gave me some good suggestions which I incorporated in my manuscript. One of the suggestions was that I should add illustrations to make my subject effective and interesting to the reader. He told me that regional languages had a good future in the country as the Government of India was eager to develop them and encouraged writers to do so.

Those days I used to receive invitations from Radio Kashmir Jammu (All India Radio Jammu) and Radio Kashmir Srinagar (All India Radio Srinagar) to deliver talks on science, environment and wildlife in Urdu and Kashmiri respectively. Sometimes I had chance meetings with Prof Azad in the Duty Officer’s room where he would be waiting for recording his illuminative talk on ‘Iqbaliat’ or some other literary subject. His scholarly demeanor, humility and a benign smile were unique features of his personality. He answered all my queries during those chance meetings although he was much older to me and I stood nowhere near him in stature.

I had heard that he had written the original "Tarana-e-Pakistan" on behest of Qaid-e-Azam and that it was played immediately after the announcement of founding of Pakistan from Radio Lahore. When I asked him whether what I had heard was true. he said, "Yes it is true. I was living in my house in Ram Nagar area of Lahore when the announcement of founding of Pakistan was made from Radio Lahore. It was followed by "Tarana-e-Pakistan" which I had written only a few days before and I heard it myself on my Radio set. Actually Mr. Jinah wanted a Hindu Urdu poet to write the anthem for Pakistan. When I was asked to do so I wrote it gladly".

"Why was then this anthem replaced by another?" I asked.

"I do not know the real reason. At the time of writing it I had no intention to leave Lahore. In fact I had gone to Delhi after partition in August only to return in September. The circumstances thereafter deteriorated so rapidly due to large scale violence. That made me change my mind and migrate to Delhi", he said.

On another occasion I asked him why he had chosen the controversial poet Iqbal for his research when there were so many other great poets in India. He said, "Poetry of Iqbal had fascinated me right from my school and college days. I felt that there was a unique quality in his poetry which I did not find in others".

Prof Jagan Nath Azad, besides being a well known man of literature, was also a simple unassuming and down to earth man. He had no airs about him. He could easily mingle with the crowd. He taught at the old campus of Jammu University while I taught at the nearby Science College. Outside my college on the foot path sat vegetable and fruit vendors and I often found him buying something from them while returning home - as I myself did. We used to exchange pleasantries and while buying fruits and vegetables he would make some comment with a mischievous smile revealing a subtle sense of humour. He loved walking and did not make use of public transport for commuting between his home and the old University campus. He was always well dressed and a known face in Jammu. He was also highly respected equally well in the society and in academic and literary circles.

Credit must be given to Prof Azad for resurrecting Allama Iqbal in India. Notwithstanding his famous "Saarey Jahan sey achha" and other patriotic songs that he wrote before inspiring the idea of Pakistan movement, he was not liked in India. The division of British India had resulted in violence and untold miseries to the people of the subcontinent. I am sure, Prof Azad must have met with severe criticism, and even hostility, for pursuing his research work on Iqbal from his colleagues and friends. To quote an example I once casually asked an Urdu lecturer what he thought of Iqbal's poetry. His reply shocked and surprised me. He said, "Iqbal is a poet whose poetry is like a beautiful woolen carpet with floral designs but with some holes darned with jute." I did not like this comment knowing that Iqbal was a great poet of the subcontinent. It was Prof Azad’s untiring hard work and effort that made Iqbal an acceptable and respected poet in India once again.

When Prof Azad was made Emeritus Professor - a great honour indeed - the University of Jammu by then had shifted to the new campus across the River Tawi. Our meetings outside my college to buy fruits or vegetable from vendors became rare. However, later when I was promoted as Principal we continued to meet occasionally in the New campus during meetings or in the Central Library of which he was a regular, and myself an occasional, visitor. The news of his passing away saddened not only his family, colleagues and friends but all those who knew him. In his passing away the subcontinent had lost one of the tallest literary figures of the twentieth century.

Prof B L Kaul
Former Principal of Govt SPMR College of Commerce & Management

Created on 22 February 2016
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