The Evanescance of an Era
by Pradeep Kaul ( Khodbali)
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.
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.....
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.
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.
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.
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
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
remained on the staff which completed Kashmiri-Kashmiri Dictionary.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.