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Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri



Abdul Qadir Sarwari

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 hopeful".

Many more 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 everytime.

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" and "Kashmir 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 Kashmir.

As Prof. 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 volumes.

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.

I maintained 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 Kashmir, 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.

While Prof. 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 Kashmir, 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.

To Sarwari 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".

Sarwari 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.

Sarwari 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.

Peevish 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."

Sarwari 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, Lahore, Shakshiyat, No. Page 550)".

Abdul Qadir 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 Delhi 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.

Sarwari 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 Mellore 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 days.

His special 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.

Sarwari 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 and Mehtab-e-Sukhan. These works have opened new vistas in the field of Urdu poetry and literature.

Sarwari 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.

A 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 Hyderabad. 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.

Sarwari 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 Kashmir 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 vision.

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)

Postscript: That year (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 Kashmir. It was probably Sarwari Saheb's love for Kashmir that Kashmir accepted him in its bosom.

*(Translated from the original Urdu text by Shri Prediman K. Joseph Dhar)

Source: Kashmir Sentinel



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