As if he walked in right now,
Climbing the steps of Coffee house,
its doors left ajar.
Entering his gathering of friends,
his head-tilt searching from afar
a table of friends.
He places his helmet on the window,
He lights his cigarette as Rajab places his mug,
He looks around and asks with a shrug,
“ Haan bhai janta aaj kahan ?”
Maybe looking for Iqbal, Sufi or Rehbar.
How could they be around, there is a curfew here. (F.D)
*Iqbal, Sufi and Rehbar being Mohammad Iqbal Qarr, Ghulam Hasan Sufi, Autar Krishan Rehbar
Those were our carefree times and to be a daily visitor to the Coffee House Srinagar was a habit. During one of those days, Radio Kashmir Srinagar broadcast a heart-touching romantic Kashmiri play, “MEANI JIGRIKI DADHI WOUTH”. The play was an instant hit and the next day, it was the topic of the town. For weeks, the Coffee House regulars had a hangover of the play and engaged themselves in discussing it for hours while gulping cups of hot coffee. At his preferred table, some distance away, the author of the play, Ali Mohammad Lone, calmly sipped coffee, enjoying the discussion.
Later, the play turned out to be a true story. In the words of Kashmiri poet and writer, Late Syed Rasool Pompur, the play was based on Lone’s own love story with the protagonist representing him. Pompur claimed that this was revealed by Lone himself during a radio broadcast “Mea Mashe Ne Zanh” few months before his tragic demise in a road accident.(Sheeraza, volume 42, number 4-5).
Lone Sahab, as people fondly called him, was synonymous with radio drama. He was the most acclaimed playwright of Jammu & Kashmir and author of about 200 radio plays, dozens of short-stories, many stage plays and two novels “Eass Te Che Insaan” (Kashmiri) and “Shahid Hai Teri Aarzoo” (Urdu). He was also the story, screenplay and dialogue writer of the first Kashmiri feature film “Meanz Raath”.
Lone Sahab was born in a family where there was no precedence of recording the date of birth of a new born. So, on his enrolment in school, the concerned teacher of his own sweet will recorded his date of birth as 27 September 1926.
A born rebel, Lone Sahab never compromised on his principles, come what may! How and when this rebel took birth in him is worth a mention.
In 1934 when Kashmir was ruled by Dogra autocracy, a large group of Kashmiri faced brutal force of Maharaja Hari Singh’s soldiers in Civil Lines of Srinagar. Dozens of bullet injured victims were rushed to the Mission Hospital Drugjan (Dalgate) on Tongas. A boy aged 8-9 years watched all this brutality from a nearby lane opposite the hospital gate. The incident scared him to the core as he rushed home in this state of mind. This frightened boy was Ali Mohammad Lone. The memory of this bloodshed chased him all through his life.
Later, re-collecting this incident in a write-up, Lone Sahab states, “What etched on my psyche were bullets, blood spill and people dying. I began to hate bullets, soldiers who fire bullets and the government that orders firing of bullets”.
Thus, at an early age when he was barely a primary school student, Ali Mohammad Lone’s heart was filled with anger against the system. During that period, Maharaja’s birthday celebration was a mandatory annual ritual. In a decorated boat procession over River Jhelum, he would be taken in a royal pageant through Srinagar city while school children in colorful uniforms with pink turbans (traditional Dogra Pagris) on their heads, were forced to greet the Maharaja and raise the slogan “Maharaja Bhadhur ke jai (Victory be to the Maharaja)”. On one such occasion, Ali Mohammad Lone decided not to obey the diktat. He recalled the incident thus: “School children were asked to wear the pink pagri, which I hated to do. Also, it was the same Maharaja who used to issue orders of firing on people. So I made the excuse of stomach ache and saved myself from pink turban and jai jai kar.” (Aaj Kal.New Delhi, Feb.1972)
Lone Sahab’s father, Abdul Rehman Lone, had no formal education but he had keen interest in Persian language and poetry. From him Lone Sahab came to know about Persian epics likeTilsim e Hoshruba, Gulistan Bostan and Chahar Darvesh. By the time he reached 8th standard, he was already introduced to short-stories of Prem Chand and Sudharshan, and novels of Deputy Nazir Ahmad and Abdul Haleem Sharar. At college, his range of reading further widened and a young Lone got hooked to Maxim Gorky, Dastu Whiskey, Karl Marx and other literary giants.
After graduating from S. P. College in 1946, Lone Sahab worked for some time as assistant editor daily KHIDMAT, Srinagar,. He also had a brief stint with the State’s infantry regiment (Militia), now called Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry (JAKLI) on a meager monthly salary of rupees five. Meanwhile, Radio Kashmir was established where he initially joined as a clerk/ copyist and gradually rose to the post of a script writer and assistant producer. He left Radio in 1965 and joined the J&K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages where he retired as deputy secretary in 1981.
Leaving behind a rich and highly acclaimed legacy of creative work, Lone Sahab left this world in a tragic way, six years after his retirement, when he met with a road accident near his Sonawar residence on 21 December 1987. Literary circles and his readers and listeners were shocked over this early departure and continue to miss him even thirty years later.
May his soul rest in peace!
The author is a noted writer & can be mailed at [email protected]