By Dr. Brij Premi
It was 1962.
Zoor Saheb had passed away, Prof. Abdul Qadir Sarwari had donned the mantle of
the Headship of the department of Urdu, Kashmir University. Around this time the
post of a college lecturership had been advertised. Sarwari Sahib was on the
selection panel as an expert. I too had appeared for the interview and was quite
hopeful of getting selected since I had secured distinction in my
postgraduation, and also there were not many contenders. I had fared well, but
my name had been dropped. This compelled me to see Sarwari Sahib. Those days he
used to wear an english suit with a felt hat on his head. In my meeting I
referred to the interview. Sarwari Sahib took time to recollect. With all the
humility, he expressed regrets for my non-selection. He said political pressure
had worked against my selection. He, however, gave me few words of reassurance
saying, “I feel satisfied with your talent. God willing, next time you be
occasions came. Sarwari Sahib continued to be called as an expert. As usual I
was denied the chance everytime. Meanwhile, the Department of Urdu established a
Research Wing. I was a candidate herein too. Inspite of Sarwari Sahib, I was not
enrolled for Ph.D I felt bitter and started hating Sarwari Sahib. He worshipped
the rising sun and was too timid to resist political pressures. Who would care
for me? Neither I had the patronage nor the resources. Sarwari Sahib kept on
trotting out lame excuses. People continued to get admission, I was ignored
By now I had
come closer to Sarwari Sahib. He had turned sympathetic and shared my interests
in Urdu literature. During this period his two books "Do Bhai-Do Adeeb"
Mein Farsi Adab Ki Twarikh appeared".
He undertook a research project and wanted
to write a comprehensive history of literature particularly that of Urdu , in
Sarwari began his project, the chapter on 'the History of Persian literature'
became too unwieldy to be included in the book. It had to be published as a
separate volume. The history of Urdu literature in Kashmir came out in three
When I got
admission for Ph.D after some years, a fear haunted me that Sarwari Sahib would
spoil my career. One day, he all of a sudden turned up at my home and informed
me that my job had been done. I started receiving lot of affection from him.
Hamidi Sahib was my guide, but Sarwari Sahib continued to help me in my research
work for some time.
regular contact with Sarwari Sahib for the next six years. I was not on the
staff of the Department of Urdu, but had to visit the department quite often in
connection with my research work. Weekends and Sundays I spent in the pleasant
company of Sarwari Sahib. He was working on his project-Literary history of
and was looking for the relevant source material. I had the privilege to visit
many places with him in this connection. I came to see great researcher in
him-how he would handle moth-eaten old files of newspapers and visit the aged
writers and poets and their families. He retrieved the precious material from
ravaged manuscripts, which otherwise would have faded into oblivion. Sarwari
Sahib would patiently dust off the papers he was handling. His perseverance was
unmatchable. It was during this fieldwork that I met people like Kashyap Bandhu,
Maulana Saeed, Nand Lal Talib, Amar Chand Wali, Padam Nath Ganjoo, Kamal-ud-Din
Shaida, Dina Nath Nadim, Jia Lal Nazir, Dina Nath Dhar, Jia Lal Barq, Ghulam
Rasool Nazki, Jia Lal Kaul, besides scores of writers and poets of merit. On
these tours, Sarwari Sahib would affectionately tell me, "Aima, you have
become my conscience keeper". This made me feel humble.
Sarwari engaged in conversation with people, my job was to jot down the notes of
the conversation. Then he would rearrange these to put them in his own style.
Old files of newspapers of
particularly those of Daily Martand, proved of much help to him. For
nearly two months we kept on visiting the Martand office at Sheetal Nath. While
turning the old files, Sarwari Sahib would often exclaim, "the contribution
of Martand surpasses all other newspapers of the place". "Sheetal Nath"
weighed heavily on his mind. He would tell his friends," I and Aima Sahib are on
a pilgrimage of Sheetal Nath these days". For hours he would seem lost while
going through the back issues of Martand. He would dust off the files and sift
out the material needed. This was an exhausting job. We would then go to refresh
ourselves with some tea in the nearby tea stall. He would have anxious moments
whenever I would be late.
Sahib self never mattered. He had come from faraway Hyderabad. His
children-Fazal, Wasik and the little daughter stayed with him to pursue their
education, and lived in the spacious 46, Jawahar Nagar quarter. Probably due to
some problems, his wife and other family members had stayed back at Hyderabad.
The life style of Sarwari Sahib revealed that he had virtually renunciated the
family life. He was all the time busy either writing or reading. Whenever I
visited him he was seen writing with a big cigar held in his mouth and cup of
black tea on the table. He ate little and used to say," In these times one has
to take care of the digestive system".
Sahib was not too conscious about the dress he wore. Initially, he used to wear
english suit with a felt hat on his head. Later, he switched on to black
Sherwani, Pyjama and Woollen Gandhi cap. He always had a hand bag with him, in
which he carried everything-from vegetables to precious manuscripts. Sarwari
Sahib also had an old car, which he used to drive himself. He used to drive at
snails' pace as the engine of the vehicle would often break down. After some
time he disposed off the car.
Sahib used to lose his temper and burst into fits of anger. He would then lash
out at the students and the staff of his department, and often make their
'incompetence' the excuse for this. If somebody was courageous enough to retort
back Sarwari Sahib would then soften and try to placate him.
behaviour was probably the result of his aging, but at other times his patience
and endurance had few parallels. He suffered from allergy and was often seen
scratching the affected parts. One day, while on his way to home in the
University bus, he was seated alongside a senior professor. The two were having
a heated argument over some topic. As the itch became troublesome, Sarwari Sahib
desired to scratch the affected part. As he began scratching, his professor
friend reminded him, " Sarwari Sahib, this is my leg."
Sahib observed fasting and offered prayers with regularity. He would carry his
children alongwith him at the time of offering prayers. As per his servant, he
used to get up in the wee hours and recite the holy Quran. He had strong faith
in God and never cared about his self-interest. It is also true that he would
compromise with the times. He was a workaholic to the core.
Qutub-ul-Nisa, a close acquaintance of him from
Hyderabad describes him as, "a successful professor, a competent
administrator, seeker of truth and peace, who like his students and friends in
the field of Urdu, a down to earth person...He has the potential of bending time
in his favour. With great sagacity and intelligence, he would set the things
right and the difficulties would seem a non-issue. He counters the difficulties
with courage and strength (Naqoosh,
Shakshiyat, No. Page 550)".
Sarwari was born on August 19, 1906. His father Haji Mohd. Sarwari had received
a little share from his mansab. Of his ancestors, one of them had a
Kashmir link. He had come to settle in
from Arabia. His descendants during the reign of Aurangzeb migrated to Deccan.
Many of Sarwari Sahib's ancestors had fairly good acquaintance with Arabic and
Persian languages, besides religious literature.
Sahib had his early education in Madrassa Mansab Daran and also attended the
religious school, Makbara Zaman Khan Shaheed. He passed his M.A. and LL.B from
Osmania University. In 1926, Sarwari Sahib was appointed as Lecturer
Urdu-Persian at his Alma maters. For a while he headed the Urdu, Persian and
Arabic deptts. at
University. In 1947 he returned to Jamia Osmania again to head the department of
Urdu. In 1963, after his retirement, he joined as Head of the Urdu, Persian
Deptt. of J&K University. He continued to perform these duties till his last
field was research. He had strong hold on the language and was a good translator
and a poet. Sarwari Sahib, during his professional career had close association
with luminaries like Dr. Mohi-ud-Din Zor and Maulvi Abdul Haq, regarded as
father of Urdu literature.
Sahib's publication include Duniya-e-Afsana (1926), Jadeed Urdu Shairi
(1929), Kirdar Aur Afsana (1935), Duniya Ke Shahkar Afsane (1934), Phool Ban
(1939), Shihraj-e-Sukhan (1939), Kuliyat-i-Siraj (1940), Siraj Aur Uski Shairi
(1941), Zuban Aur Ilm-e-Zuban (1956), Do Bhai Do Adeeb (1965), Kashmir Me Farsi
Adab Ki Tareekh (1968), Urdu Ki Adbi Tareekh, Kashmir Mein Urdu (3 volumes,
1981-1984). His other published works (from Jamia Osmania) are:
Osmania Mein Urdu Maktoobat Ki Tafsili Phirist,
Qisa-e-Be Nazeer, Murah Allah Sarar
Mehtab-e-Sukhan. These works have opened new vistas in the field of
Urdu poetry and literature.
Sahib had great interest in short stories. His publications 'Duniya-e-Afsana'
and 'Kirdar Aur Afsana', based on criticism and Research of short
stories, are regarded as pioneering work in the field. The short story writing
in Urdu had lagged behind in matching western standards and artistic
expressions. Around this time Jaleel Ahmed Kidwai, Manto, Prof. Mujeeb, Kh.
Manzoor Hussain Sal Ahmed, alongwith Abdul Qadir Sarwari introduced translations
of western short stories in Urdu. Even before the progressive movement in Urdu
was born, Sarwari Sahib published his 'Tarajim' in 1934. This work put
before the students of Urdu the techniques and experimentation of European
authors in the field of short story writing.
comprehensive review of Sarwari Sahib's literary activities exceeds the scope of
this essay. I would confine myself to his last publication-Kashmir Mein Urdu,
and its ethical beauty. He toiled hard for six years and was able to finish
the work during his lifetime. He was keen that he should see through its
publication. University had closed for the winter vacations. Two days before he
had to leave for his hometown, he took me along to the Normal Press and stayed
there to see that all the three volumes were bound well. Then we proceeded to
J&K Cultural Academy office at Lal Mandi to deposit the manuscript. Mr. Mohd.
Yusuf Teng congratulated him for accomplishing the job well. He added," The
office is closed today. Please take the trouble of visiting again tomorrow. I
would try to get it reviewed at the earliest and make arrangements for its
publication.” When we reached near his quarter, Prof. Sarwari said, “Did you
hear Aima Saheb that he will get it reviewed. Who will review my book?” His
confidence stood shattered. I felt puzzled. The manuscript was deposited the
following day and Sarwari Sahib proceeded to
Soon after he returned, he breathed his last. His great dream, to see the
publication of this work in his lifetime, remained unacco-mplished. It took
Cultural Academy many more years to see the publication through.
Sahib's great contribution was that he was the first researcher to put the
record of Urdu in
Kashmir in a chronological order. He exhumed many
a vital 'literary corpses', which lay buried. Before him, no real work had been
done in this field. He not only rendered services to Urdu literature, but also
'Kashmiriyaat' (Kashmir Studies). Any serious venture on Urdu in
cannot overlook Sarwari Sahib's work. The first volume of Kashmir Mein Urdu
serves as the backdrop and lists the achievements in the field of literature
of different languages of the state. Originally, he intended to title the first
volume as 'History of Kashmiri Literature'. Second and Third volumes
record Urdu writings till 1970, in a concise and systematic order. Mr. Mohd.
Yusuf Teng observes, "More than criticism, it is a work of history. The work
reflects both, at times there is detailed discussion too. Sarwari Saheb has
travelled back beyond the past and illuminated many aspects through his
explorations." The work does have few shortcomings. At places he goes into
unnecessary detail and exacts the patience of readers. Nevertheless, it
stimulates our curiosity. The work reflects his sound understanding and broad
Sarwari Saheb was a great scholar and an
outstanding researcher. He was affable teacher and a guide. His correspondence
that he had with me during my years of research work throw ample light on this
(The Correspondence would be published separately--The Editor)
(his last year) the winter was quite harsh and the vacations had been extended.
The University had to re-open on March 12. Sarwari Sahib returned to Kashmir one
or two days earlier. As usual he visited the department on the day University
re-opened, and attended to the work. One of the employees, Mr. Beig recalls that
on that day Sarwari Sahib appeared unusually cheerful. He interacted with lot of
people amiably. While he was on way to home at Jawahar Nagar, he took ill and
was rushed to the hospital. Inspite of the best efforts put in by the doctors,
he could not be revived. Sarwari Saheb felt that death was near. He was worried
who will wipe the tears of his children and what would be their fate as they had
come with him to take examinations.
Sarwari Saheb remained conscious till his
last moments. One of the employees of the department who was at his bed side
said his last words were "O, Allah". Before I could see Sarwari Sahib again, he
had departed from this world. He was buried in a small graveyard near Jawahar
Nagar. One of his ancestors hailed from
was probably Sarwari Saheb's love for
that Kashmir accepted him in its bosom.
*(Translated from the original Urdu text
by Shri Prediman K. Joseph Dhar)