Reminiscing Shamim Ahmad Shamim takes me deep down into the dark recesses of my unconscious and stimulates the bottomless alleys of my thought to have vivid recollections of the immensely pleasing native tang and aroma Kashmir was then distinctly known for throughout the world. Bringing back yesteryears scenes with both their thrill and languor, it jogs my memory of long-gone college days which, I confess, were too riotous to be graded simply as confused, unproductive, chaotic and improvident obviously for reasons of my budding youth.
Despite being an active under-graduate I was too unripe to make a distinction between good and bad, right and wrong. I was, in fact, wholly snowed under a rare streak of malevolence and would pander a lot to the follies of young age and its unremitting stupidities. Overwhelmingly plagued by idiotic things: daft behaviour, short-termism, drifting mind-set and tittle-tattle about fair sex and private lives of film celebrities, I was dwarfed by a flair for naughtiness, innuendo, flamboyance and nonchalance. These attributes stood in my way forward like a solid rock; not allowing me to come out of the shell of intellectual discrepancy, spiritual scarcity and cultural deficit. My ignorance, rawness, inattentiveness, inexperience, vagueness and gullibility had rendered me increasingly torpid and green. I had no acumen to comprehend the nuances and intricacies of worldly affairs and matters relating to politics, religion and society. I could hardly grasp the dichotomies and incongruities that existed between communities and different ethnic and religious groups of Kashmir. The incompatibilities, angularities and subtleties of the majority and minority communities were quite inconceivably beyond my comprehension and more so because both lived amicably amidst the uncontaminated environs of the Valley of Kashmir. Between the two there barely existed any noticeable dissimilarity. An astoundingly significant similarity and compatibility blended them together like butter with sugar. They spoke the only local dialect, Kashmiri; wore identical dress; relished sheer chai, mutton and indigenous vegetables and equally enjoyed folk tales of Heemal Naegrai, Akanundun, Lal Ded, Habba Khatoon and Arnimal.
What wiped out the vapours of my naivety and callous indifference to creativity and put me in a state of flux and on the pathway to maturity was a trifle issue of an unending romantic relationship of a Hindu girl with a Muslim boy and its successful culmination in their marriage at the end of the day. Having enraged the minority community, this inter-communal wedlock finally pushed Kashmir into a whirlwind of an unprecedented communal frenzy; giving Hindus an excuse to vent their pent-up feelings and frustrations against the majority and raise the bogey of Muslim domination of the State and its unjust system. The situation went out of control when the Indian press, as usual, poked its finger to paint the picture in pretty black colours by spreading rumours of abduction and forcible marriage and conversion of the Pandit girls by the Muslim boys. A huge variety of fabricated literature, that came to heap up on the subject, provoked a burly, razor-sharp reaction from some local writers and journalists. The foremost among them was Shamim Ahmad Shamim.
Through his story: Parmeshari ki Kahani Parmeshari ki Zabani, which he chronicled, for his weekly Aina, by cross-examining the bride in hiding, Shamim exposed the real intentions of the agitators whose heart he had found wholly besieged by quandary, predicament and hatred against the majority. His reportage on the critical issue was really too objective to unravel explicitly the factual position of the growing Pandit disquiet that had disturbed massively the happier circumstances and time-honoured amity of Kashmir by: setting apart Hindus and Muslims and; pushing them out of sync never to mix together and recuperate socially.
Initially it was the love angle of the Parmeshari story that attracted me to the illuminating columns of Aina; a weekly that had already become not only a household name but also a sweetie of noted academics, critics and experts of Kashmir. But gradually its lucid style, unambiguous and logical conclusions, discerning insight into the Kashmiri psyche and gripping discourses captured my emotion and engrossed my attention so awesomely that I became its avid reader.
Shamim’s expositions of Kashmiri wisdom were, unquestionably, quite incredible and enlightening. His thought provoking appraisals of men and matters, his fullest descriptions of indigenous ethos, his razor sharp Urdu prose and his all captivating art of a wordsmith converted me into his ardent fan and an Aina addict. His mastery of chiselling words to meaningful, constructive, crispy sentences drove me unremittingly across the wondrous vast realms of his ponderous writings and serious thought and moved me systematically towards understanding the nuances and intricacies of worldly affairs and matters relating to society and, subsequently, infused me with an unending craving for writing.
My initiation into the columns of Aina was, thus, an eventful moment in my life; a wonderful antidote to my stupor and insolvency. It evaporated my ignorance and mental dimness and put me on a study and research track to gain knowledge to my full capacity and potential. Reading-through its pages was, thus, quite stimulating and rewarding enough to widen my conspectus and kindle my imagination and enthusiasm to show a sign of change which, subsequently, manifested itself in transforming me from a casual, carefree Kashmiri into a painstaking researcher and an increasingly sombre writer; enabling me to write both in Urdu and English for papers, particularly: Aftab, Srinagar Times, Azan, Shiraza, Tameer, Patriot, Link, Hindustan Times, Kashmir Times, Islam & Modern Age, Struggle, Kashmir Research Biannual etc; and eventually become author of: Kashmir to Frankfurt; Kashmir Rediscovered; Kashmir: Triumphs & Tragedies.
My lettering debut brought me closer to a galaxy of writers of Kashmir including the illustrious editor of Aina; Shamim Ahmad Shamim. But meeting Shamim was altogether a different experience; the most pleasurable and memorable one which tuned me up to do something unusual in life by urging me away from sluggishness and cynicism. His prolific, fertile brain, always brimming with progressive ideas, buoyancy and optimism, awakened my dormant concerns about my people, culture and society.
Shamim Ahmad Shamim was, undeniably, a Kashmiri of distinct calibre, incomparable substance, amazing demeanour and intrinsic worth. His unrestrained inventiveness, creativity, capacity and magical panache had no parallel. His conversational skill was so persuasive that he would make you change your mind in a fraction of a second. His open-mindedness, articulacy, eloquence, oratory, punch and satire were swaying enough to blow apart in a jiffy the dryness of our routine life and unpleasantness of our surroundings. His integrity and truthfulness were so penetrating and flawless that he didn’t spare even his close relations for their follies. He once made his relative, teacher by profession, the butt of his cruel ridicule when he imprudently, anxiously and openly cursed the prolongation of Nehru’s illness as it had deferred the closing of his school for mourning holidays. Wishing an instantaneous end to Nehru’s ailing life for a petty consideration of a break from his everyday work was on the part of the teacher uncle really too silly to infuriate a sensitive person like Shamim and invoke his wrath and condemnation to the hilt. While sharing this episode with me he yelled with disdain at the entire teaching community and criticised the teachers for their trivial and bizarre outlook.
Shamim was equally known for his punctuality; he wasn’t a time waster; time was extremely invaluable for him. Lateness made him extremely sour; it was unacceptable to him under all circumstances. His sense of time was, therefore, worth appreciating. Any deviation from the fixed schedule of a meeting or function, social or otherwise, would rub him up the wrong way. His impatience with delay became ever more noticeable on the occasion of my marriage ceremony when he had to wait too long for the departure of baraat and consequential sumptuous wedding feast. To register his protest against this he left the baraat half way without a slap-up meal; and next morning published a story in the Aina to admonish me for the inordinate delay notwithstanding the relationship we had nurtured over a period of time.
Likewise he was blunt and didn’t hesitate to expose the tawdriness and bigotry of his friends as well as adversaries, and of systems and institutions of learning, justice, politics or otherwise. Knowing well that this peculiarity of his persona would land him into trouble-which it did many a time-he didn’t give up nudging others into seeing their shortcomings, principally those guilty of obscurantism, parochialism and resistance to change. His normal and emotional aversion to mediocrity, injustice and feudal mindset found its natural expression in his prodigious, influential writings which he made regularly public through his Urdu weekly. The most enduring among such writings are his reminiscences of his Pakistan visit available in a long series of articles which he wrote not only with compelling narrative but with strong, objective and critical mind too. They have, in actuality, assumed a significance of a treatise on a society that was torn between military totalitarianism/ jingoism and feudalism.
My association and encounters with this witty, gifted man who abhorred idle-talk or gossip and whose tongue or pen hardly ever used a thoughtless word grew step by step only to whet my appetite for more knowledge, learning and research. He equally made obvious his growing affability for me by critically appreciating and evaluating my work and writings. A number of times he invited me over a cup of tea–which was quite unusual of him– to a local restaurant, far away from the noise of Indian Coffee House, to know more and more about me. He would immensely delight in my typical style of lampooning persons of shallow, ostentatious and flamboyant nature. My cutting satire for recounting such people was “protein value” which became too popular lampoon to depict those who had nothing beyond their looks, bodies, secret connection with Raw and impious deportment to reach to the summit. What made him laugh uncontrollably was, however, my line of caricaturing his friend turned foe as a facsimile edition of Ranga and Tunga; the most disgusting characters of Rajatarangni who rose to the position of King Makers by dint of sheer mean mentality. My comment that had the particular “Friend” been a contemporary of Kalhana he would have definitely found his space in a close up frame next to these men of derisible nature, his mirth knew no bounds.
To be in his company and chat about a variety of issues, ranging from the routine to the esoteric was always a great pleasure. In him I discovered a Kashmiri who seemed genuinely worried about the socio-economic imbalance Kashmir had become a cradle of and for which he held native leadership responsible. He could hardly hide his growing antipathy towards those politicians who were high on anger and low on talent and whose imbecility had been largely instrumental in prolonging the inequity that had visited Kashmir and the woeful saga of which continues uninterruptedly to this day. His way of chiding leaders for their acquisitiveness was unique and inspiring for many more young men like me to follow his footsteps. Some of my contemporaries really became introspective political commentators to chide those at the helm for their imbecility and futility.
The fierce energy, stunning talent and brilliant ideas Shamim Ahmad Shamim was embodiment of — and which are extremely rare to find today in the multitude of small-minded politicians who advance themselves by mounting on others shoulders– became even more pronounced during his stint in the Indian Parliament. He proved himself to be a veteran parliamentarian whose views came to be widely respected and highly acclaimed even by his detractors. By his active participation in parliamentary debates and with his excellent fluency, unusual confidence, sparkling eloquence and exceptional elucidation and moving exposition of vital issues he changed the tradition of parliamentary discourse.
We can repay the great debt that we owe him by following the path he traversed so boldly and wholeheartedly; the path of impartiality, truth and independence.
Dr. Abdul Ahad is a well-known historian of Kashmir. He presents a perspective on the Kashmir issue and talks about Kashmir’s history and individuality and personality. For feedback the author can be mailed at email@example.com