Saturday, July 8, 2000

He gave new dimension to Pahari poetry
By Jitendar Awasthi

SHESH AWASTHI, who breathed his last recently at Baijnath, left a vacuum in the literary circles of the region. A teacher by profession, Shesh was not only a prominent literary writer but also a social worker, painter, stage artiste and an astrologer.

Born on September 30,1937, in a reputed Brahmin family of Gandhigram in Baijnath, Shesh started his career as a primary school teacher. Later by dint of sheer hard work, he improved upon his professional qualifications.

As a teacher, he always strived hard for the integrated personality development of his students. He remained closely associated with the Gram Sudhar Sabha, Gandhigram. During his youth he became part of the village drama troupe and participated in a number of its stage performances. He founded the Sahitya Sangathan in Baijnath about three decades ago, giving a fillip to the literary activities in the region.

  In the early fifties, Shesh started writing poetry in Hindi and Pahari. Later, he also wrote poems in Gurmukhi. Shesh edited about a dozen books in Pahari dialect and Hindi. His works have given a new meaning and dimension to Pahari poetry and prose. Ghazal-writing in Pahari dialect and Hindi was his forte.

After the division of the Punjab and emergence of Himachal Pradesh as a separate state, there was a spurt in the number of literary writings in Pahari dialect, especially in the Kangra valley. Pahari literature was given a boost by the then Chief Minister, Dr Yashwant Singh Parmar, and his senior Cabinet colleague Lal Chand Prarthi, who was an eminent writer. During those days, Shesh and a few other poets rose above mere tukbandi and wrote serious and meaningful Pahari poems. His first collection of Pahari poems, Dharan Diya Dhuppan (1971)was very well received in literary circles. It was followed by a collection of folk tales, Saheryo Pholl (1974) and Bhyakna Bhullya (1978), Kurs Parana, Pather Noen (1997), both a collection of Pahari poems.

Shesh also wrote short stories in Pahari. He acquired a position among the top architects of modern Hindi ghazal. Aapko Maloom Hai is a collection of his popular ghazals. These ghazals portray the feelings of this humanist for the common man.

Humour was the hallmark of his writings. One of his poems, Marghat Ka Udghatan (opening of a crematorium), became immensely popular. He also wrote a book, Shiv Bhumi Baijnath. When he had reached the pinnacle of a glorious career, this humble teacher once said, "Main halli dikhana sikha da, main halli kichchh ni likkha da" (I am still learning to observe, I am yet not writing anything worthwhile).