Gulam Nabi Firaq : A man with thousand shades ( 1922-2016 )

Professor Ghulam Nabi Firaq Kashmiri poet, writer and an educationist. From the last fifty years he had been writing poetry and prose. As a literary critic and historian he had been trying to evaluate the Kashmiri poetry of the last five hundred years and rehabilitate it by bringing to prominence among other things its intrinsic merit and power of expression. He also holds the Sahitya Akademi Award for his works in Kashmiri literature. He is regarded as one of the very few people of Kashmir who has been trying to preserve the rich Kashmiri culture, heritage and language.

 Gulam Nabi Firaq was an icon. I am fortunate to have read a number of his books. His book, “Parnayeh Pateh” (a collection of critical essays on Kashmiri literature published in 2007) contains articles on Mehjoor and Abdul Ahad Azad and a comparative analysis of these two poets, essays on Mehmood Gami, Rasul Mir, Ahad Zargar and Samad Mir. Another article in the book “Kashri Shayiree Hinz Mukhtasar Tareekh” (a short history of poetry of Kashmir) is thought provoking. These essays are master pieces of literature and reflect the depth and grasp of Firaq on Kashmiri Adab.

Similarly his another Kashmiri book, “Vudaw Fikri Hind” is a collection of literary critical essays published in 2006. One is amazed to see how deeply he has assimilated western literature including French and English and how deep and far he has gone to evaluate and analyze it. His understanding of Shakespeare, Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586), Christopher Marlow (1564-1654), John Keats (1795-1804), and the way he has profiled and projected them speaks volumes about his scholarship.

Rang Nazran Hind” (a collection of Kashmiri poems published by University of Kashmir) contains poems which represent highest levels of literary thought. His thematic translation of “Ode to a Nightingale” written by John Keats is simply mind blowing.

Firaq was a shining star on the horizon of Kashmiri literature. He remained one of the pioneers of progressive moments in Kashmiri adab. His translations, essays, ghazals, sonnets, metric poems, criticism, and lyrics have made him immortal in the annals of literature. He also translated some Bangla poem of Tagore. His Kashmiri translation of “Doctor Faustus”by Christopher Marlow is classical. His famous poetry collections are “Lalvun Nar,” “Rang Nazran Hind,” and “Sadah-Te-Samandar” (which earned him Sahtiya Academy award).

A scholar of great depth, he never boasted of his greatness and never believed in publicity. He was humble but had a dignity personified. Always meticulously dressed, he looked towering in every gathering. He would always walk with his head high.

His health problems started in 1996 when he got a complete heart-block and a pace-maker was implanted on him in SKIMS. Then he remained active and mobile for a long period till he got confined to bed seven years back due to Parkinson’s Disease, a disabling disease. In spite of his failing health he wrote as many as three books in a single year (in 2013). These are “Khair-ul-Basher,” “Ravan Teol,” and “Kashri Watchnuk Safar.” He had a will and courage which I have never seen in any such patient suffering from multiple health problems. Whenever he would visit the hospital, he would never demand favors or personal care specific to him, in spite of the fact that most of the doctors had remained his students. He believed all people have to be treated equally and he would wait for his turn.

His poetry reflects life, emotions of love and bereavement, smiles and tears, and above all nature. The tragedies Kashmiris have been facing for nearly three decades left a scar on his mind and one finds the pain in his verses. For example: –

I.) “Tarakh vaes peyi

Aftab haaney

Beyi kyah kyah gov dilbar myaney

[The stars fell down,

the Sun lost its sheen

and so many other things happened O my friend]

II.) “Makanan daari bar dith aes

su kyah vani hey, ba kyah vani ha

[Every house had closed its doors and windows,

what would he comment, what would I convey?]

[Translation by Autar Mota]

III.) “Yeti chinni sael khalee nairaan

Ash phir kenh chie hargah lagnai

[Petitioners do not leave this place empty handed,

I do posses some tear drops; take them, should they be of any use to you]

[Translation by Autar Mota]

Firaq (1922-2016) died at the age of 94. It is interesting to note that he had published a verse 60 years back depicting life and age where his ailing friend too is on death bed at an age of 94. Firaq had then said, “Vomer aasem yehai namath chunamath, yeman variyan yahai gayi dooen grend hish. Ye zan ais roodi raatha poosh pahrus.” [My age must be between 90 to 94. Alas these years passed in a blink of the eye. Alas this age ended like a heavy shower of rain which lasted only for a few moments]

God bless his noble soul!