Kashmir lost its ‘Master of Ghazal’

by Bilal Handoo

In the 1950s, a freshly appointed Urdu lecturer of Srinagar’s Sri Pratap College observed an intriguing episode recurring in his class. One student would often run away from his class after attendance. The teacher was the ace Kashmiri literary figure, Mohammad Amin Kamil or Amin Kamil; and the student was the young Farooq Abdullah.

Amin Kamil. Photo credits: Web

One day Kamil caught Abdullah off guard before he could run away from class, and asked him: “Why do you often run from class?” The young Abdullah replied: “I run to have my lunch coming from the home.” This angered Kamil, who retorted Abdullah: “Do you think you are a privileged one; or, somebody special than your classmates. Listen up, don’t you dare to run away from my class, again.”

The noted academician Prof JL Koul was then Principal SP College. A few days later, Kamil noticed anxious Koul walking in the lawn. When Koul saw Kamil moving around, he called him up: “Kamil Sahab, do you want to render me jobless?” The very remark baffled Kamil, who replied: “I am not getting you, sir.”

“Do you know,” resumed disturbed Koul, “Begum [Farooq Abdullah’s mother] just rang me up and expressed her anger over your treatment to her son.”

Kamil didn’t reply and quietly walked into the staff room. After a while, the college peon entered the room with the news: “Principal Sir has called you in his office.” Without reading much from the call, Kamil started walking towards principal’s office. When he entered he saw something unexpected: Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was waiting for him in Koul’s office.

“Look, I have come to apologise you on the behalf of my son’s irate behaviour,” Kamil heard these incredible words spoken by the ‘leader of masses’. Sheikh then retorted his son and ordered him: “Just touch your Masterji’s feet and apologise.” But Kamil didn’t allow Farooq to stoop low in front of his father. “Kamil Sahab, I promise you,” Sheikh assured Kamil, “that from tomorrow, no lunch will be coming for my son.”

“Such was Kamil Sahab’s stature,” says Shabir Mujahid, Director Doordarshan, “that even Sher-e-Kashmir came to meet him and apologise for his son’s behaviour.” Kamil Sahab, continues Mujahid, commanded such respect because “he never compromised with his ethics, honesty and pen”.

On Thursday, Kashmir lost Kamil. He was 90.

Born at Kaprin in 1924, a village in South Kashmir, Kamil graduated in Arts from the Punjab University and took his degree in Law from the Aligarh Muslim University. He joined the Bar in 1947 and continued to practice Law till 1949, when he was appointed a Lecturer in SP College, Srinagar.

Amin Kamil.
Amin Kamil.

He was a leading poet, short story writer, editor and critic of the Kashmiri language. His influence was widely accepted by many generations.

“Kamil was a major voice in Kashmiri poetry,” says Bashir Budgami, an ace broadcaster of yesteryears and Kamil’s student. “Kamil was simply a master of Kashmiri Ghazal.”

Kamil began his literary career in Kashmiri in 1953 and within no time, he was rubbing shoulders with literary giants like Akhtar Mohiuddin, Dina Nath Nadim, Rehman Rahi and others.

Like Mohiuddin, Kamil was closely associated with the writers’ movement of that time and under its influence switched over from Urdu to Kashmiri as his medium of expression.

“He never used his pen for trivial causes,” says Zareef Ahmad Zareef, a noted satirist and Kashmiri language poet. “He maintained his credibility throughout his life, a hallmark of him as a writer.”

Kamil critically edited collection of Sufi poetry was widely acclaimed. He also edited the collected verse of Nund Reshi (a 10th-century sufi poet) and that of Habba Khatun (an 18th-century love poet).

In 1958, Kamil’s Gati Manz Gaash (Light amidst darkness) was published. It was a novel inspired by the well-known observation of Mahatma Gandhi in the context of the aftermath of the partition of the Indian sub-continent in 1947. It was in the midst of darkness prevailing everywhere Gandhi had found a ray of light in Kashmir alone.

In this novel, Kamil has attempted to paint a painful picture of 1947 Kashmir:

An educated young Muslim girl (the protagonist) of a distant village working as a school teacher in Baramulla prefers to be Ramkrishan’s widow who had given his life to protect her honour amidst the tribal invasion in the valley. It is the only Kashmiri novel that is based on historical events.

In the mid-60s, Kamil’s highly acclaimed short story, Kokar Jang (The Cockfight) was published which is regarded as the most popular story in the Kashmiri literature. The short story has been translated into many Indian languages and has appeared in Best Loved Indian Stories of the Century published by Penguin India in 1999.

“His poetry has a maturity of expression,” continues Zareef, “something which gives a unique touch to his literary works.”

Amin Kamil durin g his heydays.
Amin Kamil during his heydays.

Kamil joined the state cultural academy in1958 and was appointed the convener for Kashmiri language. He later became Editor for Kashmiri and edited the two journals of the cultural academy – Sheeraza and Son Adab with distinction for many years.

Kashmiri short story was still in adolescence when Kamil brought out a special issue of Sheeraza on this genre in August 1967. The issue was a milestone in the art of modern storytelling in Kashmiri. It included great stories of well-known authors written in the first two decades of the inception of this genre in Kashmiri.

By 1979, when he attained superannuation in the cultural academy, Kamil had edited nearly 100 issues of Sheeraza and more than a dozen issues of Son Adab.

Kamil had the quality of being simple, says Budgami. “He has influenced a whole generation of Kashmiri poets,” he says. “Many have tried to approximate his diction, but he stands alone.”

He won Sahitya Akademi Award in 1967 for his book of poems, Laveh Te Praveh. What distinguishes this book from the poetry of the sixties, says well know Kashmiri literary historian and poet Shafi Shauq, “is the conversational tone producing intimacy.”

He also won awards from the J&K cultural academy, the state government, Robes of Honor from many prestigious organisations, Kashmir University’s Lifetime Achievement Award and Padma Shri from the Indian government.

“Kamil was Tolstoy of our times,” says Mujahid. “It is a great loss to Kashmir.”

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