Dr. Rafique Anjum: A ‘Doyen’ of Gojri Literature

Every time I talk to my grandparents, I realise Gojri and its rich vocabulary is dying a slow death. And every time I fail to understand a typical Gojri word or a proverb, I realise that the language needs to be documented. And then I am told, it has already been. Dr. Rafique Anjum has done immensely not only in documenting this beautiful language but also has penned down a dozen of books on varied subjects.To keep his mother-tongue alive, he calls himself a lamp who shall try to give light when the sun sets; Dhalte sooraj ne poocha ke hai koi jo mere baad inn andherun se ladta rahe/ ik chiragh-e-muhabbat ne badh kar kaha, meri koshish toh hai abb khuda jo kare. His literary work is an epitome of his unparallel contributions. He is truly a world in himself; grounded despite having a great intellectual ability.

Dr. Rafique Anjum at a Mushaira

In January 1962, Mohammad Rafique Anjum was born to Miyan Abdul Karim and Bibi, in ‘Almawan-da-mohalla’ of village Kalai in Poonch district; the nomenclature of the locality resonating the fact that Áwans lived there, who mostly headed the religious fronts and reverently called Ulama. But his forefathers were rather known by the traditional Gojri practice of rearing a large herd of buffaloes and practising unadulterated Gojri culture. Dr. Anjum inherits insight, intellect and diligent nature from his parents. While he lost his mother at a very tender age, his father singlehandedly dealt with the circumstances to rear him up and imbibed in him such morals and ethics, which helped him a great deal in his struggles, which were to confront him, later.

With so much of household responsibilities, his father was initially hesitant to give him formal education. The entire community cannot help but thank a teacher named ‘Sat Paul’, upon whose insistence, he was enrolled in school. Education chiseled this diamond into what he is today-a multifaceted persona. Married in 1977, he would often read ‘Saif-ul-mulook’ to his father; which being the first brush with literature ignited the fire within. His father would often encourage him to pursue medical studies and also would urge him to write and thus a new chapter began when he wrote his first Gojri poem. A year later while his father left for his heavenly abode, the youngest of the three sons, Anjum, matriculated with a record-high percentage. All responsibilities fell on his meek shoulders as his elder brothers were away serving the nation but that did not deter him to carry on his studies, and thus fulfilling his father’s dreams.

Two years in Government Degree College Poonch and he passed his 12th. Soon after, he got selected for M.B.B.S. in Jammu owing to his abilities and capabilities, where he spent five years of his life, not just studying medicine but also enlightening his being, both literally and physically. He grew up playing volleyball, chess and cricket and also represented his state in many national volleyball championships and won accolades for the same. During this period, his interaction with Maulana Muhammad Yousaf and Maulana Wahid-ud-Din Khan gave him a religious inclination to be virtuous and pragmatist. And it is a wonder and his devotion, that he still hoists the flag of these morals. The literary bug was continuously tickling him, meanwhile.

Come 1981 and his meeting with head of Gojri wing of JKAACL Choudhary Naseem Poonchi in Gujjar Conference was the ritualistic beginning of his literary journey. He wrote his first Gojri short-story for which he got much appreciation and a considerate suggestion to never let the pen stop. Thus began the never-ending series of writing short stories, poems of all genres specifically ghazals and drama not only in Gojri but also in Urdu. In the meantime, his article ‘Shaitan naal do gal’ written for Radio Jammu was praised and complimented by one and all. During this period, Choudhary Iqbal Azeem , Amin Qummar , Faiz Kassana and A.K. Sohrab encouraged and cheered him up and helped this flower bloom. When he moved to Srinagar for his internship, he tried his hand at writing Gojri songs but ultimately turned to Ghazals. By this time, he became a known face in Gojri conventions and his writings got good publishers at his doorstep.  His Ghazals are talking-words that take you along, changing your facial expressions, as the emotions shift. This characteristic of his writing style is distinct yet simple; not a single word can escape the reader’s eyes. Such is the magic in his writings.

Appointed as Medical Officer in Loran in 1988, Dr. Anjum settled his family in Chandak and his passion for Urdu poetry was at its crest during this period. It was in 1991, that during a Writers’ Camp organised by JKAACL in Patnitop, Khawaja Mohammad Yousuf Taing advised him to concentrate his writings only in his mother-tongue.  Since that day, swan-song was played for Urdu and Gojri became the nucleus of all his writings. From 1992-94, he remained in Jammu and from 1994-1997, he was in Srinagar for his doctorate studies in medicine. But he always took time out of his hectic schedule to bring out his first collection of Urdu Ghazals titled Khawab Jazeere in 1993. Impossible as it seems to devote time to writing during his M.D., his abilities defy all description when he came up with an anthology of Gojri Ghazals in the form of Dil Darya in 1994. During this time, he also started working on a book on ‘Golden History of Gojri Literature’ and also got his stories published in Kora Kaghaz, a first in Gojri fiction. Very few have the audacity to give words to their thoughts and Dr. Rafique Anjum genuinely waters the perennial stream of Gojri literature, his emotions powerfully cascading and delving the reader into the whirlpool of his words.

In the midst of his acclaim as a writer, Dr.Anjum began practising medicine as a paediatrician in Rajouri in 1997. It was here that his contribution was recognised and he was awarded ‘Man of Letters’ by Himalayan Education Mission. And it was here that he began working on ‘Gojri-English Dictionary’ that is by far, the largest contribution, ever made by a writer. While the twenty-first century dawned, he started Jammu Kashmir Anjuman Taraqqi Gojri Adab and his other works on Gojri proverbs, Gojri grammar and another collection of poems titled Soghaat were published in 2004. Despite having great responsibilities being in a government job, his pen didn’t stop and his book Banjara (a directory of Indo-Pak Gojri Writers) was published in 2007. He also intends to publish Gojri-Kashmiri thesaurus. His heart also has a soft-corner for Punjabi folk literature. Being a polyglot and being deeply influenced by Dale Carnegie, Khalil Jibran, Ahmed Faraz and Bashir Badar, Dr.Anjum is one of his own kind. For his work, he was also awarded Best-Book Award for Dil-Darya and Gojri-English dictionary. He toiled hard, all by himself, ploughing the firm fields of Gojri literature, sowing earnestly and irrigating intently but has left the rich harvest for generations to come. Such is the farsightedness, he beholds.

It is nothing but sheer luck that I got to acquaint with this man of grandeur literary ability. While a mature smile always settles on his face, you got to be extremely fortunate if he converses with you. Every single word speaks of his maturity and his commitment towards his language and culture, despite being dressed comfortably in western attire and an ivy headgear. In spite of having s long career in medicine, Dr. Anjum completed his masters in Urdu, English and Islamic Studies. But being highly inclined to Islamic Studies, he is pursuing his doctorate in it.  And owing to his unmatchable contributions, distinctions and mesmeric literary pursuits, Dr. Anjum has recently joined as Assistant Professor in ‘Islamic Studies & Languages’ at BGSB University Rajouri, renouncing his white apron forever. The varsity is indeed privileged to have him around. The tribal community needs to take a cue and recognize his contributions as so far he has remained a hidden jewel, with so-called representatives of the community siphoning away the credit of his works and ideas. That would be the greatest felicitation ever conferred over him, the ‘Superman’ of Gojri literature, as KD Maini, one of the contemporary literary critics, likes to call him

About the author: Tazeem Akhter is currently working as Assistant Professor in Economics in School of Management and Economics at BGSB University.

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