IGP Tajender Luthra’s Hindi recitals enthral literati in Chandigarh
This Sunday evening Meet-the-Author by the Chandigarh Sahitya Akademi was full of surprises albeit pleasant ones. The writer was none other than the inspector general of police (IGP) of the city— Tajender Singh Luthra. This was the first surprise. The second was that the bearded Sikh officer pens his verses in Hindi and recites them equally well, without any traces of a Punjabi accent.
This is so because the cop who would be poet was born and brought up in Uttar Pradesh (UP) and grew up speaking and reading Hindi. He was introduced to Hindi literature in his school and college years and he was greatly inspired by it.
“I did not choose Hindi, in fact Hindi chose me. Had I grown up in Punjab and been influenced by Punjabi language and literature, I may have written in Punjabi. But that was not to be.”
Completely at ease with the culture and idiom of the heartland of the country, Tajender took the readers to cities and towns of UP and its everyday people from one sensitive narration to another. He struck a chord with the readers by taking them to meet the flute-seller at the southernmost ghat of Varnasi, known as the Assi Ghat, where poet Tulsidas is believed to have breathed his last. The poem called ‘Assi Ghat ka Bansuri Wala’, which is also the name of the poet’s debut anthology, told the poignant tale of the flute-seller playing on for his supper but is not able to sell many flutes in a changed world. “This is the same place where Kashinath Singh set his ‘Kashi ka Assi’, a celebrated novel set in a mohalla by the ghat.”
While his family’s ancestral home was in Sargoda in Pakistan, they moved to Saharanpur after the partition of Punjab in 1947. Tajender, 50, opened his eyes to literature as a favourite of the Hindi literature teacher in school. “I grew up reading and admiring the poetry of Kumar Vikal, Kunwar Narayan and Kedarnath Singh. I liked Vikal so much that as a student I specially visited Chandigarh and visited him in his home on the Panjab University campus.”
Tajender recalls that he did write poems even when he was a student and was graduating in commerce and doing chartered accountancy but these remained bound in personal diaries.
“When I returned home on my first leave as an IPS officer I went to my room and tried to look for my diaries of poems and books in the cupboard but it was empty. My mother told me that now that I had become an officer, she had sold all my books to the raddi-wala because I would not need them now.”
It was in 2008 when Mumbai 26/11 took place and Tajender who was posted in Diu-Daman visited the tragic site and penned afresh a poem to the martyrs of the terrorist attack in general, and soldiers in particular. It is called ‘Main Aapka Abhari Hoon’ and calls attention to those who died fighting. “To me anyone fighting for a just cause is a soldier and not just the one in a uniform.”
He is working on his second anthology of poems called ‘Jo nahi mara hai’ (That what is not dead) which speaks of values, convictions and sensitivity that refuse to die even in the face of brutalisation.
When asked how he feels to be working in the city in which his favourite poet Kumar Vikal lived and wrote, Tajender says, “I often visited this city which is beautiful and I remember how it found mention in Vikal’s poems. It is a beautiful city and I am happy to be posted here.”