Junaid Nabi Bazaz
SRINAGAR: Nearly 15 years after his death, Kashmir University on Monday remembered noted Kashmiri-American poet Agha Shahid Ali, with a former professor ‘regretting’ that Shahid—who had expressed his willingness to be a guest faculty in the varsity—couldn’t teach there.
GR Malik, the ex-head of the English department, said he had written to the authorities of the university to have Shahid for one session every year in the department.
“Since that proposal could not materialize, we regret not having him (Shahid) amongst us,” Malik said while addressing a three-day seminar titled ‘Agha Shahid Ali: Tradition and Modernity’ organised by the English department.
Malik said the legendary poet, who introduced Kashmir to the international audience through his works, though being physically away from here, felt the pain Kashmiris were going through and “gave its response through his poetry.”
Malik also lauded Shahid’s technique of poetry in which infusion of different cultures is found. “He was a Kashmiri and American at the same time and merged both of them together. The technique used by Shahid was similar to that used by ES Eliot,” Malik said.
Agha Shahid was born in New Delhi but grew up in Kashmir. He later moved to the US where he taught in many colleges and universities. Shahid died of brain tumour in 2001.
In her address, Hamida Bano, who heads the varsity’s English department and was instrumental in organising the seminar on the poet, said Shahid remained rooted to his place of birth and gave a voice to the pain of its people.
She said Shahid broadened the form of gazal and created new poetry.
“Shahid broadened the realms of traditional poetry through gazals. In this endeavour he was so successful that he even persuaded the Americans to experiment with the form,” she said.
Punjab University’s former professor Moti Lal Raina termed Shahid a “transnational poet who wrote beyond cultures and traditions.”
“In spite of having well-grounded understanding of western poetry, he still returned to Kashmir,” Raina said as he quoted various international critics who have applauded Shahid. Raina also read various couplets from Shahid’s poems.
KU’s vice-chancellor Khurshid Iqbal Andrabi in his brief address said that “it would be ridiculous for me to speak on the legendary poet as I know nothing about him.”
Kashmiri poet and satirist Zareef Ahmad Zareef also paid tributes to Shahid by reciting a Kashmiri poem.
Various scholars also presented their research papers on Shahid during the function.