July-September 2002 Issue
Fusion of multi
tiny specks of Pranav which pervades the Universe in the shape of OM. A
drawing by Late Radha Krishen Kaul (Kotha), retired Asstt. Engineer of
Bal Garden, Srinagar (Originally of Rainawari). Shri Kotha passed away
in September 1994 at Delhi
for Sure - Onkar Aima'
I were a poet I would pour my heart out and compose an ‘elegy’, If I was
a Pastor I would sing a ‘requiem’ and if I were a painter I would paint
a full canvass potraying the multifaceted personality of Kashmiri’s proud
and beloved son, Onkar Aima, who breathed his last on 28th September 2002;
But, unfortunately, I am neither a poet nor a Pastor nor a painter, so
I take refuge in the Canto (1) of the seventh chapter of Bhagavad Gita
which, in my humble opinion, broadly encompasses the persona of Aima Saheb.
Lord Krishna enunciates thus the virtues of Godly persons with divine nature
in this Canto, which, undoubtedly Onkar was :-
“ Fearless, purification
of ones existence,
Born in a venerable family of ‘Datatreya Kaul-
Gotra’ Aima was the nickname acquired by the family as it is said, the
family was gifted with a boon to be osteopaths (Waatangaer) who provide
healing touch to people with orthopaedic dislocations. At their Fateh Kadal
jointfamily compound, it is believed, long queues of people with orthopaedic
ailments would be attended to by the family elders who were gifted thus.
Onkar may not have inherited or practicised osteopathy of his elders, but
surely he had imbibed in abundance the art of providing ‘ healing touch’,
of harmony and friendliness which was evident by his exemplary behaviour.
inquisitiveness of spiritual knowledge,
austerity, simplicity, truthfulness,freedom
compassion, fortitude, cleanliness,
passion for honour.
These are the transcendental qualities
of Godly men
with divine nature O - partha.”
Having been endowed with an impressive
tall personality with chiselled Aryan features Onkar was born with masculine
charm. This God gifted body of exquisite physical features had been enveloped
by Aima Saheb by his conscious effort with virtues of a ‘human being’ which
made him the most lovable person.
In the post Independence
era when the cultural renaissance threw up talents in the field of art
and aesthetics in the Valley, naturally Aima saheb with his handsome personality
and irresistible befriending qualities emerged as unanimous choice for
spearheading the cultural movement. Drawn into the cultural vortex he soon
found himself leading the cultural movement of the time. This movement
not only revived the folk and traditional theatre of Kashmir but with the
passage of time the movement became ‘Progressive Think Tank’ of the post-independence
era of Kashmir.
By this time Aima Saheb had mastered
the art of friendship which remained most amazing characteristic of his
persona. Friendship to him meant life long bond even in the vicissitudes
of life - a rare quality in the present day shifting-loyalties scenario.
In those days the siblings from the
ruling clan Viz. Bakshi Saheb’s family were his contemporaries. They could
also not resist Aima Saheb’s infection of friendship. The friendship in
the following years grew so much that Onkar became part of the family.
Any other person in his place would have exploited the relationship for
his personal benefits, as was, sorry to say, wont of many of our Kashmiri
pandits of the time but Aima Saheb with his passion for his honour and
self respect knew where to draw the line between friendship and overbearance.
This trait of his character endeared him more to his friends and he was
considered as a true selfless friend.
When political exigencies forced
his politically connected friends to take a different political stance
on various burning issues, Aima fearlessly did give vent to his feelings,
but it did not create any chasm in the friendship - infact it continued
and became more cohesive. Now that Onkar is gone, the bond I am sure, shall
always remain with his bereaved family.
When the history of cultural upsurge
in Kashmir would be documented it would be mentioned loud and clear that
Onkar Aima was the lead actor in the first ever made Kashmiri film ‘Menziraat’,
which bagged the President’s silver medal as the best regional film in
Being an ardent student of aesthetics
his passion to satisfy his creative talent brought him to Bombay in 1965
to pursue his career in film industry, leaving his lucrative government
gazetted job. The Industry was quite receptive and offered this new face
a lot of chances and Aima Saheb played different roles under famous banners
of that era. But the irrepressible creative artiste in him remained restive.
Here, the composite epicurean traits of Onkar, like the refined and discriminating
taste, like subtlety of conduct, like exposition of beauty within, like
sartorial preferences, like sobreity of approach and the finesse in all
walks of life came to his rescue and he was drawn into modelling which
he made his profession. In the mid 70’s he rose on the horizon of modelling
and rubbed shoulders with the famous models of the time not only rivalling
them but at times excelling them- a cut above. He continued modelling till
the end of his life.
When Television made its foray in
Bombay in 1972, Aima Saheb was perhaps the among the first a few who played
important roles in the Sitcoms which were featured by the Bombay Doordarshan
then. Yet the creative bug in him did not sit idle and it made him write,
produce and direct many a popular morning shows for Doordarshan.
While he was pursuing his successful
modelling career in Bombay, Sadiq Saheb, the then Chief Minister of Jammu
& Kashmir formalised plans for his pet project of making a film on
Mahjoor - the poet laureate of Kashmir. Prabhat Mukherjee was commissioned
to produce and direct the film. The choice of playing Mahjoor naturally
fell on Onkar who played with aplomb the role of Mahjoor. ‘Mahjoor’, incidentally
was the first bilingual film which was made in Kashmiri and Hindi versions.
The film may not have done well commercially
but it fortified the belief of Onkar that film medium could well project
the essence of ‘Kashmiriyat’, of which he was an ardent advocate. As a
sensitive artiste, Aima strongly believed that ‘Kashmiriyat’ was quintessence
of harmony which, according to him, had its origin in Kashmir Shaivism,
in the Vakhs of Lalla-Ded and the Shrukhs of Nund Resh which taught Kashmiri’s
never to discriminate between the Muslims and the Pandits. Aima would often
quote Lalla-Ded’s Vakh to prove the point.
Naturally, for such a peace loving person
the ethno - cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits by their Muslim brethren from
their homeland lacerated the innocent heart of Onkar and he nearly gasped
for breath of harmony. The problem faced by the community in the wake of
this turmoil agonized him beyond measure. To help the community members
he joined Kashmiri Pandits’ Association - a nonpolitical, social organisation
and put his mite in mitigating the miseries of the uprooted youth and provided
them whatever succor through the Association.
The diaspora of Kashmiri Pandits,
he felt, would wean away Kashmiri youth from their culture and ethos and
they would gradually get usurped by the alien culture and in the process
Kashmiri’s would loose their identity. Aima Saheb felt that the least the
youth could do to safeguard their identity would be to preserve their language.
For this purpose he instituted “Mohan Lal Aima Music Award’ in the memory
of his brother Mohan Lal Aima - the doyen of Kashmiri music, under the
auspices of Kashmiri Pandits’ Association. Under the scheme Kashmiri youth
upto the age group of 18 years are given cash awards to sing in Kashmiri.
The underlying idea is to inculcate interest in Kashmiri language through
Notwithstanding the turmoil of 12
years in Kashmir, being an optimistic to the core, Onkar firmly believed
that things would turn in his ‘Reshwaer’ and he would often quote Nadim
Saheb’s famous verse :
To the dozens of youngsters who had landed
up in Mumbai after the Pandit exodus, to pursue their career in the field
of films, Aima Saheb was a father figure for them. He would befriend them
irrespective of their age, encourage them and give them tips and share
his experiences with them. Infact he was to them a friend, philosopher
From the family point of view Aima
Saheb was not only a loving husband but caring and understanding too. Their
long years of separation when Shakuntalaji was working for State Education
Department in Kashmir and Aima Saheb was struggling to make his mark in
Bombay, It was their caring attitude for each other which fortified their
relationship. Finally when Shakuntalaji retired and joined her husband
in Bombay, the understanding nature of the couple won the hearts of the
Mumbai Biradari and they were rightly christened ‘made for each other’.
As a doting father, Onkar always treated his two lovable sons as his friends.
He believed that if the children are given good Sanskars they would grow
in the right direction.
Onkar is survived by his wife Shakuntala, Aloke-son, his wife Lakshmi, granddaughter
Rahel, son-Abhay and his wife Radha. I am sure Sanskars of the family would keep Onkar’s name always
Rich tributes have been paid to Onkar
Aima throughout Jammu & Kashmir by his admirers and contemporaries.
A lot of e-mails have been received from abroad lamenting the sad demise
of Kashmiri’s noble and proud son. But the fittest tribute, I presume,
has been paid through his last modelling assignment of Bharat Petroleum
which he completed midway through his chemotherapy treatment braving the
monstrous disease. The bottomline of the advertisement was “Pure for Sure’
- ‘Surely’ Aima Saheb was a ‘Pure Soul’, and such souls rarely tread this