By Mushtaque B Barq
Life is a fair way of celebrating the sojourn to a dreamland. A land full of lush green meadows and sky kissing mountain tips, towering peaks playing under the wandering clouds in the backdrop of the Vast Blue. Just then the scorching sun within a blink of an eye is summed by the nimbus of fate and the light takes a pause to unfold the mystery of existence. Death brings an end to all. We live with people whom we lose, we keep living with friends till the merciless soil opens its merciless mouth to make a morsel of mankind. We return with sighs and forget. But in the back of the mind, the burial image of the forgotten knocks the doors of heart and we recall them in our fancies and harbour our love to write a few lines. We may call it obituary, we call it tribute but in reality, we only pour our salt into the soil either to recall the pleasing moments or the harsh reality that we keep ignoring. Ashraf Sahil, like others, are now the subject of our tribute and who knows about us. He was an academician, a poet, a broadcaster, orator, bureaucrat and a writer. Sahil was known for his writing and storytelling from the Dard tribe of the Gurez area of north Kashmir’s Bandipora district. He headed Doordarshan Kendra and Radio Kashmir Srinagar. Although his mother tongue was Shina he had contributed to Urdu, Kashmiri and English as well.
A famous Columnist ZG Mohammed in his tributes writes : “The poetry of Rasool Mir ran through his veins and there was hardly an occasion when he would not greet me with couplet of this great poet of nineteenth century. He often greeted me with a verse or two from his poetry.
When I would meet him after a certain time gap, he would sound poetic and register his complaint in a typical romantic manner. His understanding of literature was immense. He admired Haba Khatoon and believed passionately that she belonged to the beautiful mountains of Gurez and wrote a couple of research based article on this great poetess. He had a deep desire to compile his writings published in Greater Kashmir- the newspaper he wrote from the day it was launched as daily paper.
I remember him with this famous verse:
“Thou wert the morning star among the living,
Ere thy fair light had fled;
Now, having died, thou art as Hesperus, giving
New splendor to the dead.”
May his soul rest in peace – Ameen
Bashir Dada, a filmmaker, poet and writer adds, “He had all the qualities as a DD official. Never cheated Artists and was a great Orator a standard writer, a master in prose writing. He was not serious in writing poetry but whatever he wrote, it was liked by common people and critics as well.”
Former Broadcast Journalist BBC World Service (Hindi) London, Abdal Mehjoor writes, “I knew Ashraf Sahil when he was posted as Station Director at Radio Kashmir Srinagar. Though it was considered a short period to work with him. Just a few days after his joining he proved a game-changer in the broadcast history of Radio Kashmir Srinagar. He certainly surprised senior programmers, other professionals, and listeners across J&K by changing the traditional broadcast patterns of Radio Kashmir Srinagar. After the 1990 onslaught Radio’s role had hibernated due to the extremely deteriorating security situation across Valley. There was an endless void created between Radio and the people of Kashmir. Therefore, the first challenge to Ashraf Sahil was to fill the chasm and reconnect the link between Radio Kashmir and the people of Kashmir. Ashraf Sahil’s vision and broadcast skills played a magician’s role in bringing the image and relationship with listeners and the program staff. By introducing the current affairs program Shahrbeen and other phone-in programs the voice of Radio Kashmir Srinagar reached into every household of Kashmir. His stay at Radio Kashmir wrote a glorious chapter in the broadcast history of Radio Kashmir Srinagar.”
Additional Director General, Prasar Bharti, Ashok Jailkhani describes Sahil as under:
“Ashraf Sahil joined DD Srinagar as a newsreader right at its inception. After a few years, he became a producer and continued as a producer for many years. Later he came into the management stream as Assistant Director and Director. He and I shared a very warm relation during my stint in DD Srinagar. He was a very keen student of literature and with my interest in theatre and literature, we enjoyed each other’s company.
I would describe him as a person with original ideas and very forthright and bold in his observations and comments. His single most significant contribution, I would say is managing and running DD Srinagar in the most difficult circumstances during the period of peak militancy. He did an exemplary job considering the conditions prevailing then.”
Tariq Javid, Director/ Actor informs that he was a good friend and a humble human being. He joined the Station as a news caster and was later elevated owing to his professional brilliance to the honourable post. His stature was towering.
Broadcaster Media Teacher Trainer and Consultant, Humayun Qaisar further adds, “Sahil spent little time at RKS but left lasting imprints. Although a man from Television he was open to innovation and understood nuances of radio broadcasting pretty well. He was instrumental in starting Sherbeen Program and approving the first regular spoken word phone in the program Mujhay Kuch Kehna Hai. It also became the first program of RKS which was promoted through ads in local newspapers and the Headline of these ads coined by me “We are just a phone call away” became our catchphrase. All because of the foresight and unconditional support of Sahil. He was an astute administrator and a dynamic media person who contributed to the growth of RKS.”
Ashraf Sahil was more of a poet than Programme Producer and Broadcaster. Not that he could not be one as he proved it when he was posted at Doordarshan Lucknow where he proved his mettle as the most popular producer and broadcaster.
He was not a traditional personality. He would not mind to cross the limitation. A flamboyant personality with an intense sense of vagaries of life.
I remember when I produced a fifty mts. devotional musical programme “SAAZ E IRFAN” in DDK , Srinagar. I started it with a HAMAD written by Ashraf Sahil and recited by late Ghulam Nabi Sheikh-the young star singer. Ashraf was so happy he remained always grateful to me for this.
I remember one anecdote which reflected his poetic sensitivity.
When I was transferred to Delhi for a few days in Chanakyapuri , Kashmir house Shabir Mujahid and Bashir Budgami chose to stay in my room. We had a wonderful time together . Infact late Prof. Hamid Anwar Dar who had been my teacher and even Ayash Arif joined us as our evenings were very enjoyable.
One day Ashraf who was on a visit to Delhi visited us in the evening and was happy to join us as all of us had been colleagues. Next day again he visited us in the evening. He had bought a hot water bottle and came to deliver it saying I know Basharat Sahab is always feeling cold and this Dec he needs it.
I was moved and everyone else was surprised to see this side of Ashraf who was essentially a poet,Basharat Ahmad, Producer and Broadcaster DDK.
Noted broadcaster and playwright Nissar Naseem while paying his tributes writes, “Ashraf Sahil was a great administrator Radio Kashmir Srinagar celebrated its Golden jubilee in 1998 He was Director of the Station. He managed the show in such a way that it became memorable. He knew what task should be given to whom. As Director of DDK, he assigned commissioned category program to all those who deserve it. Besides in House programmes were started by him which boosted the morale of artists. During his last days he didn’t allow anybody, I mean outsiders to meet him,” When I asked him the reason he replied that “I have lost weight. I want people should remember me as I was before three years. He has written many bold articles for Greater Kashmir which were highly appreciated.”
Ashraf Sahil ‘s multidimensional personality became hostage to his being an Officer of Doordarshan.He was a poet par excellence; an authority on English literature and a distinct political analyst with tremendous love for his home land. Though he mostly wrote his poetry in Urdu but he would proudly recite some Kashmiri songs he had written one of which sung by Jameela Khan became quite popular.
Smilingly he would complain to me why we don’t invite him to Kashmiri mushairas.
He had great post retirement plans to work for preservation and promotion of Kashmiri culture and literature but death snatched him too early.
My last memory with him is preserved in a frame at Dargah Hazrabal sometime before his death. At Asar time while I was in the revered shrine I saw him entering the central hall alone. He went to a corner offered nimaz and raised his hands briefly for prayers.
Before I could tell him I was around he had reached the exit gate. As I intended to catch him he abruptly turned back smiled at me and waved his hand to say goodbye.
Prayers for peace in paradise to his soul, M. Amin Bhat writer & social activist.
Zahoor Zahid, renowned media personnel informs that Sahil was a brilliant man who knew his job. He was the one who changed the ambience of Radio. He was a good looking person and likewise, he would see things in the same nature. He started a lot of cultural programmes. His stay was a golden period of Radio and his initiatives and creativity are beyond words.”
If one say’s friend, philosopher and guide then I can think of no one other than late Mr.Ashraf Sahil.Two of the late directors of DD Mr.Lassa Koul and Mr.Ashraf Sahil taught me the nuances of TV Broadcasting when I was a student of journalism but had the honour of being friend of my teacher latter on in life that was Late Ashraf Sahil.I always found him very sensitive and polite in his approach and he had the quality of communicating his thoughts to the other one in a subtle manner without offending the other one-perhaps this trait of his was the reflection of his sensitive poet that always was there deep inside his inner-self. In our conversations he would somehow travel back to his beautiful native place of Gurez which had left a mesmerising effect on his inner self. I remember our conversations at his home which would cover almost everything under the sun except Doordarshan when he was at helm of affairs at DDI.I will always remember him whenever my thoughts will go down the memory lane in search of good friends I ever had, Shafqut Habib (FTII Graduate) Film producer Educational Multi¬media Research Centre .
Time flies exuberance of youth disappears and death brings end to all.
Mushtaq B.Barq is a Columnist, Poet and Fiction Writer. He is the author of “Feeble prisoner, “ Wings of Love” and many translation works are credited to the author like “ Verses Of Wahab