Lonesome promoter of Dogri

Squadron Leader Anil Sehgal
For the past 18 years, since the year 2005, a unique Dogri programme is being produced in Jammu, in the video format, which has a rural base and background.
This specially devised programme takes you to the villages of the Dograland and brings the localised issues, problems, aspirations, festivals and social lives of the rural folk to the forefront.
Every week, the anchor visists a randomly chosen village in the Dogra belt of Jammu, Kathua, Ramban, Udhampur, Samba, Rajouri or Reasi districts along with his team that consists of a cameraman, a sound recordist and a driver for the vehicle in which they travel.
The anchor speaks to the young and the old, men, women, students, artisans etcetera of the village on camera. He speaks to them in their language, which is also his own mother tongue Dogri. The informal and unscripted format puts the villagers at ease and they forthrightly speak up their minds.
I was not aware of this popular programme until a month ago. Nor had I ever heard about this programme titled “Kade Aao Sahade Graan” (KASG), which, when translated from Dogri, means : sometime come to our village.

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The programme is conceived, and devised by Praveen Sharma, who has been continuously anchoring the programme, since it’s inception, nonstop except during the tough times of national lockdown due to the COVID pandemic.
Our friend Kuldeep Singh Katoch hails from village Jarmada Tikri in Udhampur district. The Katochs had invited us to visit their village for a weekend in the first week of January this year.
We happened to be in the village when the KASG team visited to record a programme.
This Jarmada village is situated at a hilltop, we call “tikri” in Dogri, about 40 kilometres from Jammu at an average elevation of 1100 feet, in the Trikuta hills.
There was perceptible activity in the hill pockets on the morning of 8 January. The team KASG arrived around 12 noon. Soon they were off to meet the young men of the village whereafter they interacted with the womenfolk, all dressed up in festive attire in cheerful mood.
Women spoke without any inhibition in chaste Dogri after the anchor had set the tone of congeniality and informality. After the usual banter, there was a colourful session of Dogri folk songs the women sang with fervour.
That very morning, Seema Anil Sehgal had gone for a hitch hike tour of the hills along with the host Seema Katoch. Enroute, they happened to meet a few young girls of the village who go to the nearby army school in Udhampur town.
These Dogra girls spoke in a mix of English and Hindi. When my wife enquired if they could converse in Dogri, they shook their heads in denial. No, they are not adept at speaking in Dogri, they informed in Hindi.
After giving them a short pep talk about the importance of speaking in one’s mother tongue, my wife even succeeded in extracting a promise from the girls that they will speak to her in Dogri next time they meet !
Kuldeep Katoch, an engineer by profession, is in deep love with his ancestral village. He took great pride in playing a perfect host to the KASG team as if they were his personal guests !
As the team was busy with shooting the programme, Kuldeep lit the tandoor and presided over a lunch with tender chicken tikkas he lovingly roasted in the tandoor for the team members.
Who could ask for anything better than a sumptuous lunch by the burning tandoor on a cloudy winter afternoon in the Trikuta hills !
Praveen Sharma is still a villager at heart. This commerce graduate from the University of Jammu, was born in village Chhanni Saror on the outskirts of Jammu. He studied in the village school and inherited Dogra culture in full measures.
” Times I spent in village Sanger near Purmandal had a lasting impact on me. Here, I learnt the nitty gritties of Duggar life “, says Praveen remembering his maternal grandparents’ village.
Coming from a lower middle class household meant practically no exposure to the fast developing city culture, leave alone any impact of the English or the western culture. So, he was raised speaking Dogri and living the traditional Dogra lifestyle.
First exposure to the city life came knocking as he sought admission in Ranbir High School, Jammu, followed by the studies at the Commerce College for his graduation. Here he met a teacher who spotted his talent at public speaking and acting on the stage.
“Professor Kuldip Singh Jandhrahiya, a Sahitya Akademi Award winner, was instrumental in encouraging me at every step in the college life. He guided me to appear for auditions and soon I found a footing in a private television channel”, informs Praveen Sharma.
The only lifestyle well known to Praveen was the Duggar way of living. The only language he was comfortable with, was his mother tongue Dogri. And he had spent most of his life in Dogra villages. So, it was natural and easy for Praveen Sharma to think of a programme based on the rural life in the Dogra belt.
He devised a simple format where he can introduce the village and its residents to his viewers and also articulate the rural issues involved and the difficulties faced by the modern day Dogra villages. The villagers feel perfectly at home with this anchor who is essentially a villager like them. That is the USP of Kade Aao Sahade Graan !
After travelling through more than 650 villages in the traditional Dogra districts of Jammu, Reasi, Udhampur, Kathua, Ramban, Samba, Akhnoor, Punchh and Rajouri, our Dogri speaking anchor is rather wary of the future of his mother tongue.
” Dogri language and culture is at the verge of extinction, unless some drastic steps are taken by the people and the government together.
” In villages, our young generation hardly speaks any Dogri. They don’t know even the counting in Dogri.
” Government schools don’t have teachers for Dogri ; large chunk of vacancies remains un-filled”.
What are the common grievances and concerns of our villages ?
After speaking to Praveen Sharma, we learn that the common concerns for most of our villages are : roads, education and health services.
If we wish to put speed breakers to the quick migration from our villages to the cities, we must address these issues on priority. Water and erratic supply of electricity are the other concerns that need urgent attention, according to this veteran Dogri anchor.
What kind of impact can a village based programme like KASG have today, you may ask ? To give you a clear idea, Praveen narrated the case of Kartar Chand, a daily wages mazdoor.
Kartar is from Dhanna Ambo Shaani village in Choki Choura tehsil, about 25 kilometres from Akhnoor. His one room tenement recently caught fire when he was away earning his daily wages.
Everything including the frugal food stores, clothing and other essentials were lost to the fire. Local Tehsildar provided just two blankets to the family of four when cold wave was sweeping entire northern region of the country.
” I covered the tragedy in my programme, spoke to Kartar Chand, his family and the local administration in camera. In my narration, I appealed to the viewers to come forward and help the poor man in this hour of need. I flashed his mobile number and the bank account number too.
” So far, about 80 thousand rupees have been paid to his bank account by way of donations. This is certainly better than the help of merely two blankets in the thick of the bone chilling Himalayan winter,”exclaims Praveen.
On a conservative scale, about 700 episodes of KASG have been telecast in the past 17 years, which should be a record for a programme of this nature in Dogri language.
Are you listening, Mr President of Dogri Sanstha, the leading socio-cultural organisation for promotion of Dogri language ? We need to recognise such commendable efforts of individuals like Praveen Sharma in promoting Dogri language and her culture. And, what about the Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art Culture and Languages ? Would you like to take notice of such significant contribution, which encompasses all the three pillars of your foundation : art, culture and the language ? Lovers of Dogri language and Dogra culture may like to watch episodes of Kade Aao Sahade Graan on YouTube. Open the YouTube app, just type KASG in the search box, and there you are !

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