Prof Rita Jitendra: My last desire is that I want to die with my shoes on

Pallavi Sareen. Dated: 9/11/2018 8:22:57 AM

JAMMU, Sep 10: “I want to die to with my shoes on. You get only one life and that is my desire,” was what Prof Rita Jitendra, a prominent writer, educationist, radio artist and social activist said, few weeks before she died during a Live broadcast of ‘Good Morning JK’ of Doordarshan in Srinagar this morning.
And that is exactly how she went while giving a television interview, performing her last act before a live audience.
In an unpublished exclusive interview taken by this author some weeks ago, Prof Jitendra talked at length about her life, her family, her career, struggles and achievements. She spoke about her innermost desire to start an award for humorous production and drama in the name of her deceased and equally illustrious husband, Jitendra Khajuria, a writer and dramatist. “I had been discussing it with a cultural organization just before you came in,” she told this author and added, “they tell me it is a great idea.”
“They suggested an award with prize money to the tune of Rs 11,000, but I will keep it for more. It has been nine years since he died and his works are still getting published. He was a brilliant writer and quite an intelligent man.”
Prof. Jitendra, who had been the first and only female secretary of J&K Art and Culture Academy, talked about how hard it was for her to prove that she was no less competent for being a woman. The position was one she had already refused twice, yet the one she embraced like a brave soul by breaking stereotypes of women leading the institutions.
“I was the secretary of J&K art and Culture Academy when militancy was at its peak and even my husband warned me from taking up the position. But I used to be really brave and bold. I was told that I could operate from wherever I wanted and didn’t need to go to the valley or Ladakh. I, myself used to be so hesitant of going to Ladakh, because I thought I would have breathing issues. They used to pay thrice as much if you went and did a show in Ladakh. But I would say that I love my voice and if something happened to it, it would kill me. Still, when I became the secretary, I did go to Ladakh and they wrote a letter to the Governor appreciating my gesture.”
An embodiment of cultural integration, Prof Jitendra chose to describe herself as a Kashmiri-Pandit who worked all her life for the Dogra-land in the various roles she performed as an educationist, writer, poet, drama-radio artist, feminist and a social activist. Her life long contribution enriched Jammu – a city full of her many life-long associations, which she holds close to her heart. She spoke about the many people who influenced her.
Another one of her unfulfilled dreams was to show the world a peek into her past by the means of telling her mentor’s story. She talked fondly of the woman who taught her all about being a radio artist, a woman she soon outperformed and a woman who remained a life-long friend – Adelene Ruhi.
“Adelene Ruhi was a beautiful woman, in the way that she didn’t have the pettiness or jealousy in her. She actually taught me. She was a Christian woman and her father was a priest in the Church right near the Kashmir Times office on Residency Road. We did so many radio programmes together and we were also colleagues as educationists. Our common interests and our concerns for humanity and womanhood blossomed into a friendship till she died.”
In her late eighties, when this author met her, Prof. Jitendra recalled details with ease and was still full of energy and zest. “My three children are all earning four time I ever did and they dote on me but I don’t want to be a burden on my children. I don’t want to fall sick so that they don’t have to take care of me, press my feet and be bound by my illness. Such inactiveness would kill me,” she said, and added, “I want to keep working and performing till the end.”
She lived life in many ways on her own terms, breaking many a stereo-type. In her death today she redeemed her last wish - choosing to depart the world on her own terms.



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