Eminent Journalist recalls the glory of Dogras


It was over 55 years ago that I was first attracted to Jammu. Every winter I used to be part of the yearly exodus from Srinagar to Jammu. It was thrilling to escape the dull, drab cold of the winter valley and land virtually in the sunshine of Jammu. Jammu's shine was not only due to its wintry sun, but also its brightly lit streets and a life pulsating with a merry rhythm. The winter capital of our state then was a very different place. Gandhi Nagar did not exist, there was no Railway Station or trains. For trains you had to travel to Pathankot.

Our entry into Jammu would be late in the evening as the dark took over from light our bus from Srinagar would meander through Kanak Mandi, Shahidi Chowk and finally it would disgorge its passengers at Dak Bungalow (now Tourist Center). The bus stand was were Macdonalds is and as soon as we alighted from our red ND Radha Kishen mail (my favourite bus) we would quickly deposit ourselves at the Dak Bungalow our home for the next three and a half months. As mom would get busy sorting out our luggage, Dad and I would venture out to get dinner. And onto the bright lights of Residency road, a road that pulsated with a strange amalgam of music from its restuarants, punctuated by an occassional drunken brawl at the fish fry stall across the street (still there). On the way we would pass Cosmo (since vanished) with its Bands and Cabaret transported all the way from Calcutta. By then news would spread that Dad was in town and my Jammu Uncle's would start arriving.

Apurab Somnath with Shakespeare stored in his bottle Ved Pal Deep the glory of Dogra verse (known as Dogra Ghalib) and Mulk Raj Saraf (father of states journalism) and Omji his son, Ram Pyara Saraf with his politics plus so many others. In politics the pride of place in Jammu went to Girdhari Lal Dogra and to some extent Moti Ram Baigra. Dogra saheb the father-in-law of Arun Jaitely, the current FM has an international record for holding the Finance portfolio the longest ever, Baigra too entered the record books as a rare person to have signed two Constitutions.

For Jammu politicians at that time the primary task was to make Jammu more inclusive by reaching out to the Gujjars and the Bakarwals and others to give Jammu a stronger voice by converting Jammu from a city to a region. Thus reviving the origins of the city where a lion and a sheep drank from the same pond together and Jammu was born; a city that produced Mallika Pokhraj, Allah Rakha and K.L. Saigal. But more of that later.


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Rahul Jalali