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The Evanescance of an Era

 
by Pradeep Kaul ( Khodbali)

With the demise of Pandit Moti Lal Saqi an Era has come to a sudden end. Age follows age. The wheel of time eats away that comes in its wake. Climes change and spring follows winter. Sun and moon rise and set. People are born to die. This has endlessly been the fate of the phenomenon that we call life. But amidst this abstruse monotony we hear an occasional song of a bird be it in the crags of colorado or in the alpine slopes of the Himalayas.

Its song enlivens the otherwise dull and seemingly endless routine of our life with its enchanting and musical note. Saqi was one such songbird, whose music we heard for four decades. But like a true song bird he fluttered his wings early, flew away and left us dazed. What poet Robert Herrick wrote, aptly reflect the painful pangs on his parting. ‘Fair daffodils we weep to see you haste away so soon As yet the early rising sun. Has not attained his noon stay stay.....

The daffoduls of the vale of Kashmir now remain to us a fleeting impression, a cherished vision. The very thought of their fragrance makes us sad. And when Saqi left us we lost another daffodil. A warm, full blown, colourful one. Flowers are born to fade but they leave around a fragrance which tingers on. It is hard to forget. So will be Saqi. I shall not here in this humble tribute go in detail about the literary achievements of Saqi. Perhaps I am not equipped to comment on his writings and partly it would be better to leave that to posterity. Here I shall dwell upon the general survey of his works which shall to some extent give us a measure of the scope of his literary activities.

He lived in his mother’s parental place in Mahnoor, a picturesque village nestling on the uplands which lead towards the lofty south Pir Panchals Saqi got his early education at Mahnoor. There he was tutoured by the famed Poet and Humanist Abdul Ahad Azad. In his childhood he lost his sister which left him shell shocked for a pretty long time. It was this shock (according to Saqi himself) that brought out the poet in him. He started writing short poems. And then rest is history. No Kashmiri poet or writer has written on such a variety of subjects as Saqi has. In his own right he was a minipolymath. Saqi wrote poetry. His three collections of poems have been published. They are ‘Madur Khawb’ (sweet dreams), ‘Mansar’ (mind, the ocean and ‘Neer Nagma’. He was a biographer and wrote biographies of many poets of Kashmir. ‘Gashiri’ is a short biographical work on contemporary poets, by him. He compiled Kulyati Samad Mir and Kulyati Sheikh-ul-Aslam. He edited and compiled Kulyati-Parmanand a saint poet of nineteenth century. This work is in two volumes. His other works of note are ‘Naval Kya Giya’ (What is a novel’), Kashmiri Sufi Shaiyiri (In two volumes), five volumes of ‘Folksongs’, Sahaj Kosum which is a collection of Kashmiri devotional songs (Leela) and has been ably edited by him. ‘Bhavna’ is another work, ‘Kashmir Mein Secularism’ is a work which surveys the composite culture of Kashmir.

In recent times his important work has been ‘Agerneb’. This is in Kashmiri written in Nastaliq alphabet ‘Agerneb’ is the history of Kashmir and is an important work of this kind based on the source material.

It was the cherished desire of Saqi to see this work rendered into English and on his insistence and inspiration my scholar friend Dr RL Bhat has rendered it into English. It is hoped that this rendering shall increase the readership of interesting historical work. Saqi has translated Lal Ded of Sh JL Kaul into Kashmiri. He has also translated letters of John Keats, ‘Sainfire’ of Tagore and thirty four poemsof Dr Iqbal. Before his death he was working on the translation of Raj Tarangini. As far as I know he had completed a chapter or two of this monumental work.

He remained attached to media, first to radio and then to television when it started transmission in early seventies. He was animportant consultant to the longest docu-serial on Kashmir entitled ‘Kashmir Fill’. He also conceived, wrote and onehored a serial ‘Harmokh Key Saye Mein’. ‘Kashmir Today’ a six episode docu-drama serial was also written and anchored by him. This serial was telecast from DDK Srinagar and DD-1. The script of a short film based upon the history of Srinagar city was written by him. This film was ‘Srinagari Say Srinagar Tak’. This film was also telecast from DD-1. He was script writer of man documentaries for DDK Srinagar based upon Archeology. Ancient History and monuments, important poets and writers of Kashmir. He was advisor to Radio Kashmir and Doordarshan Kendra Srinagar.

Saqi remained on the staff which completed Kashmiri-Kashmiri Dictionary.

This Dictionary is in seven volumes. He was one of the members who worked on 12 volume Urdu Kashmiri ‘Farhang’. He was Editor of Encyclopedia Kashmiriana and Son-Adab Sh Dina Nath Nadim is accredited to have introduced opera in Kashmiri literature. Saqi after Nadim took this new literary gift further. He wrote six operas. All of them were staged and one was telecast. He worked on Gujjar history. He would narrate to me some interesting views that he held about them. He had deep admiration for carefree Gujjars and had extensive knowledge about their ethos and unique socio-cultural entity.

This was the reason that he was consultant to first serial on Gujjars of J&K entitled ‘Pahroon Mein’ (midst of hills). This serial was telecast on DD1. Saqi published more than three hundred papers in various journals of the country in Kashmir, Urdu and English. To the Encyclopedia of Indian literature Saqi contributed seventy entries and to the Encyclopedia Kashmiriana he contributed about two hundred sixty entries which are about Archaeological remains and architecture of Kashmir. His books and writings have been translated into Hindi, Urdu, Gojri, Dogri, Pahari, Bengali, English, Tamil and Gujarati. He was felicitated and honored many a time. In 1974 and 1976 he was felicitated by the Ministry of  Education Govt. of India. In 1981 he was given Sahitya Academy Award.

Then followed the State Academy award. In 1989, he was given Arnimal award, and afterwards Ksemender award. In 1989, Govt. of India in recognition to his important and multi-dimensional literary activities, decorated him with Padamshree. In 1988 Orissa government awarded him Varnmal award.. Radio Kashmir awarded him the Golden Jublee Award. Saqi had traveled extensively in the country. In 1997 he was member of Indian Cultural Delegation to CIS states. Thus he got an opportunity to visit Central Asia.

Awards and felicitation did not bring about any change in him. He did not allow them to go into his head. In fact they mellowed him. He never worked or wrote for rewards or recognition. He had an innate, inborn passion. Every creative person has that, but he had them in ample measure. He was, not only, a poet but a compiler, a biographer, a critic, who wished and strived for a somewhat comprehensive view and understanding. Though poets have finest instincts for they see every blade of grass striking its roots into eternity. Saqi saw it as well. To him other literary activities, lighter fields and seemingly mundane things were also worth to be research upon. He was a researcher who painstakingly worked into the middle of the nights. The recent literary and cultural scene of the state has seen so many great people like Mahjoor, Azad and Nadim etc but Saqi was unique. Though he did not attain the excellence of these giants yet they also did not match the versatility of Saqi. That verily makes him unique. Therein lies the importance of Saqi which the present generation and posterity should never forget nor underestimate.

As a man Saqi was saintly, with little pretensions about dress or taste. He loved to wear simple clothes. His sight would betray a portly figure in clean raiment, which was attractive. Saqi was a good conversationalist and his high pitched ringing voice would dominate proceedings at a formal or informal meet. A person could notice many moods changing swiftly across his face, which was fuller. Now it would explode, now hilarious, now pensive and now sullen with deeply creative people this happens and Saqi was no exception. But he never lost his composure. Never lost his equanimity. To younger generation he was affectionate and very helpful. He would readily give his suggestions and offer help. In his views he was never rigid.

Never obstinate. He would accommodate and was to a large extent objective. Before his death he talked about it and confided that he did not fear it. Perhaps he had a premonition and soon he was filled by a fatal stroke. His death has left a great void, which shall never be filled. He was young only three score and four. With his death an Era has come to a close. He was an original scholar who was not influenced by any bias.

An Era of writing, compiling, biographing and research has come to a sad end. If posterity takes up Saqi’s unfinished task it will be a silent but serene tribute to this gentle giant of our times our recompense to his memory. Hazaroon Saal Nargis Apni Be Noori Pe Roti Hai, Badi Mushkil Se Hota Hai Chaman Mein Deedavar Paida.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

 
 

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