NEW DELHI/JAMMU: Renowned Dogri writer Padma Sachdev, who also wrote lyrics for Hindi films such as Prem Parbat and Aankhin Dekhi in the 1970s, passed away in Mumbai on Wednesday. She was 81.
“She was a bard for Dogri. She converted, codified and rewrote Dogri’s oral literature bringing out its classical grandeur in an inter-textual manner. She wrote wonderful prose, powering life into the language. She was a polyglot who also wrote in Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi,” says Hindi writer Anamika.
Sachdev received the Sahitya Akademi award for her work, ‘Meri Kavita Mere Geet’, in 1969. In the book’s preface, poet Ramdhari Singh Dinkar wrote, “After reading Padma’s poems I felt I should throw my pen away – for what the Padma writes is true poetry.”
She also excelled in writing memoirs. “Her autobiography, ‘Boond Bawadi’, is a classic. Another book, In Bin (Without them) takes a fascinating look at the world of domestic help,” says friend and writer Mamta Kalia.
Anamika points out that Sachdev’s write-ups on Ismat Chugtai, Lata Mangeshkar and Dharamvir Bharti were a grand mix of ‘talk stories’, criticism and memoirs, altogether brilliant. “I also vividly recall one of her short stories about a taxi driver which was published in Dharmyug in the 1970s. The taxi driver’s experiences with his passengers and how he narrates them to his family at night – the story left quite an impression on me,” she says.
Sachdev formed a close relationship with Mangeshkar, who sang her songs, ‘Mera chhota sa ghar baar’ and ‘Yeh neer kahan se barse’ in fellow Dogri writer-director Ved Rahi’s Prem Parbat (1973). In 1977, she compered Mangeshkar’s concerts in the USA and Canada. Mangeshkar and Sachdev collaborated to bring out a music album of Dogri songs, a first in the language. Even today they remain a favourite with Dogri speakers. She also penned lyrics for Aankhin Dekhi (1978) which was directed by Urdu writer Rajinder Singh Bedi. ‘Sona re tujhe kaise miloon’ is one of the more remembered numbers from the film.
Some of her other works include ‘Tawi te Chanhan,’ ‘Nherian Galian’, ‘Pota Pota Nimbal,’ ‘Uttar Vahini’ and ‘Tainthian.
Born at Purmandal village of Jammu & Kashmir’s Samba district, Sachdev was the eldest of three children of Sanskrit scholar Jai Dev Sharma who died during the Partition. She “made a reluctant entry into the world of literature. When her first poem was carried by a local daily in 1955, she had to bribe her younger brother not to show the ‘outrage’ to their mother,” says a profile published by Sahitya Akademi in 1996. She worked as a radio announcer in Jammu. Her first marriage with ‘rebel’ poet Ved Pal Deep ‘failed to work’, the profile says. Later she married devotional singer Surinder Singh of Singh bandhu fame.
From all accounts, the writer-poet personified joie de vivre. Kaliya recalls, “I recall a ladies sangeet which we attended together several years ago. She wore a huge bunch of red bangles in both her hands. She made us put on bangles too. She was a good dholak player and urged us all to sing and dance. Talking to her was an antidote to stress.”
Kalia also recalls Sachdev sending her cooked chhole and rajma to their Delhi home in Lajpat Nagar from her CR Park residence which she had lovingly named, Mitwa Ghar. “Many years ago she gifted me a pashmina shawl. She was honest and frank enough to tell me that she had used it before. Of all the shawls I own, it still remains the coziest.”