BY FIDA FIRDOUS
Shahbaz, a philosophical poet and writer, is certainly above any description and needs no introduction as his contributions and charisma have already carved a niche for himself in the literary circles for ever. It is certainly a thing of shame to know that the state government’s culture wings as well as other culture organizations forget to remember even those whose contribution that have deeply influenced our culture and language and beatified civilization with immense treasure of knowledge that they leave behind for rest of the generations to come.
As I decided to write about this great personality and my best teacher, my hands tremble while my memory of this man blossoms with the colors of those days spent with him as a student. Shaheed Ali Mohammad Shahbaz, a teacher by profession was the principal of senior Secondary School, Handwara and, as fate had it, I was supposed to seek admission here for my 11th class. As per the set of rules, I now reached the principal’s office and saw this gentleman for the first time.
A man of strict discipline and order, he had a soft heart for children and would take great interest in trying to figure out the best possible subjects for each of us. Having mastered Urdu, Kashmiri and Persian Languages, he, however preferred his mother tongue and wanted his students to appreciate the depth and discourse of this fabulous language that he spoke so magnificently. He was, surely a great teacher, a true friend and a perfect guide.
Born on May 01, 1939 at his ancestral residence at Shortgund Mawer (Langate), a village in District Kupwara, he had his primary Education completed from Islamia Model School, Kalamabad and matriculate degree from Senior Secondary , Handwara. After this, he was appointed as a teacher and, as usual, spent time in many areas in the Valley during different postings in his career. But, this did not deter him from pursuing his studies as he went on to complete his Master’s degrees in Kashmri, Urdu and Persian.
His father, Ghulam Mohammad Qureshi was a cleric, who died when Shahbaz was in teens. He was fostered by his uncle Ghulam Ahmad Qureshi, a highly acclaimed preacher in the area. Shahbaz turned to poetry at a very tender age and by the admiration of his teacher and guide, Shahlal Bahar, who influenced him tremendously.
Call Shahbaz a revolutionary poet, a satirist, a humanist, a philanthropist, a calligrapher and educationist- every sphere would finds relevance and resemblance in him and his contributions reverberate in such fields of life. His literary work genuinely pictured and voiced the true agony of the Kashmir conflict.
Well known Kashmiri singers have sung most of Shahbaz’s Gazals and one of the most famous among them, the one that broadcost on radio Kashmir almost every morning- “ Psch-i-Mateo Ninder Payeem Chaen Gazal Gewaan Gewaann….. and also..” Thovath Khudiya Lalwoun Takdaar Maini Babath….”
The great scholar cum people oetically depicting the role of army, militants and people in their day to day life, and wrote beautiful poems on martyr Maqbool Bhat and his village. His poetic art voiced the sufferings of Kashmir. Ali Mohmmad Qureshi was known for being bold, daring and a fearless person, voicing the plight of distressed people who were subjected to cruelty. This was the truism of his speech.
A conscious and sensitive poet, he kept on reflecting upon the turmoil and its effects on Kashmir society and would never spare those who would challenge peace of the valley. He was a radical poet in the sense. His life and death is mired controversy. He was a poet of Kashmiri resistance. His politically changed poems made his words resonate in every corner of the Kashmiri culture. His Kashmiri poetry won laurels for presenting Kashmir, a political problem, political situation, the sufferings of the people, culture and beauty. His son, Nazir Ahmad Qureshi says “my father would often lean against the wall cup his cheeks in his palms and keep thinking about the ghastly bloodshed caused over day everywhere in, innocents were getting killed relentlessly which had deprived him calm and peace” His three poetry books under three genres, which include elegy poetry’ (Hussaini Marthiya) “Khooni Khoon” Natiya Poetry and a collection of Ghazals “Cheani drei” are yet to be published
But a spiritual person knows the sins. Shahbaz knew that he have to go to the heaven of Allah and wrote quickly before the hour of death:
“Katilan Inssaf mangow kiyah mangow
Kathsai path gardhan jukaawoo dostoo
Kabreepeeran buzdilan kyashai lakhun
Shahbazie kunsai hayoo dastoo”
As many a sensitive poet, his heart was pained to see the bloodshed and miseries inflicted upon the masses here and all he could do was to write about it in the most perfect satirist manner. He commented upon every type of political upheaval and spared none. Fortunately his legacy seems to have passed to his son, Nazir Ahmad Qureshi and grandson, Amir Nazir.
Alas, our government as well as the cultural organizations tend to forget people like him and keep our future generations unaware of jewels like this great man! This is certainly not going to hurt his reputation nor it is going to cast a shadow over his contributions-the language, our language, and the finest trends of poetry that we have had.
—The author can be reached at: Fidafirdous8@gmail.com