He is a banker who thinks in verses rather than ones and zeroes. Shakir Mir talks to poet Mohammad Zahid to piece together his journey to the world of literature
During his college days, 37-year-old Mohammad Zahid , a science student, was a book worm. But it was not the science that kept him engrossed, Zahid was an avid reader of poetry. From his very formative years, Zahid’s infatuation with words and expressions was uncanny – something that distinguished him from his cousins and relatives of his age.
His father was an English teacher and his mother, a student of Persian. Born in South Kashmir town of Islamabad, Zahid was introduced to a variety of literature from his very childhood in wake of his family’s multi-lingual background.
It was thus he developed a narcotic obsession with literature. He has a library in his home with over thousand books, mostly fiction, placed on the shelves. “Reading was not forced on me,” he says in a chaste British accent belying his rural background. “It was in-built.”
Zahid did not articulate himself through words until he reached college level. “But then, in those teen age years you don’t have that confidence about what you are writing,” he says. “You don’t really know whether you are right or wrong.”
He spent time scribbling down poems in dairies, away from the gaze of his family and friends. Like many other fledgling writers, Zahid too suffered a reluctance of sorts to show his writings to anybody. “I ended up writing some 300-400 poems covering three dairies,” he says, beaming.
But once fine day he mistakenly left his dairies in the same room where his father sat. Curious about the presence of books, his father laid his hands on them and opened. “He just flipped through the pages,” Zahid recollects.
Being a fervent advocate of English learning himself, his father’s happiness knew no bounds when he came across poems written by his son. “On that day, he looked at me and said, ‘now there should be no turning back,’” he recalls.
Ever since, Zahid has made rapid strides. Even though he is a successful banker and engaged in work which demands painstaking attention, he nonetheless manages to steal time to live his poetic ambitions.
Zahid’s has been writing for many literary journals across India and his contributions won him an invitation at Hyderabad Literary Festival some years ago. “I was invited twice as speaker to the festival. First in 2010 and then again in 2012,” he says
Many of his poems earned him several accolades besides enthralling the audience at the festival when he, as a speaker, recited some of them on the stage.
Zahid soon established himself as a well-known name in the literary world. His poems were widely appreciated and many avid poem readers across the world e-mailed their “encouraging” feedback to him.
His emerging literary profile led him to International Poetry Festival, Guntur in Andhra Pradesh in 2011 where he rubbed shoulders with literary giants. “There were poets from different nationalities,” he says.
His poem Anante Egare was awarded Special Mention Prize in the Unison Publications-Reliance Time-Out Poetry Awards Bangalore in 2011. The poem became an instant hit and was subsequently translated into French language by Alliance Française de Hyderabad.
Zahid has also featured in TIMESCAPES, a collection of poems by 22 Indian poets released by Unisun Publications and Reliance Timeout. His poems were published in MAJELL (Maulana Azad Journal of English Language and Literature), a peer reviewed journal of Maulana Azad National Urdu University Hyderabad. His poem The Voice of Silence won the Heart College poetry competition. Zahid has also been included in the Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts as a poet and photographer.
This year a US –based The Ghazal Page, an international journal which specializes in English language ghazals has shortlisted Zahid’s poetry for its summer and winter issue.
“In poetry”, he says, “You are basically able to hear to your inner feelings. You are sensitive enough to feel subtle things around you or even the powerful triggers that touch inner chords so that you ultimately come out with a poem.”
Apart from these recently attained laurels, Zahid had already made his mark way back in 2002 when the prestigious International Library of Poetry Florida, USA published his poems in one of their major compendiums.
The Library selected his poem The Addicts Lament in their program ‘The Sound of Poetry’ featuring 33 poets from all over the world. In the following year, his poem Panacea featured in an anthology ‘The Best Poets and Poems of 2002’ published by the same organization. Impressively, his two other poems, Posterity Prays and The Crimson Dusk were selected as Editor’s Favorite Poems.
Zahid has also been published by the Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art Culture and Languages in several issues of their quarterly journal Sheeraza.
His poetry also featured in on a popular poetry website Muse India where his works received rousing applause from the fellow contributors. Right now, he acts as contributing editor with the portal. “Too much for a banker!” he chuckles.
In 2013, Zahid launched his flagship anthology titled The Pheromone Trail which firmly placed him in the club of the most sought after poets from the region. Writing in the foreword to the book, Prof GR Malik, former head of department of English literature at Kashmir University describes the poems as soul stirring and eye-opening. The foreword was later published in Srinagar-based English daily, introducing the “poet philosopher” Zahid to the wider audience.
“Poetry is a capacity to listen to your inner feeling and convey them to the outside world,” he says. “Spontaneous poetry is very powerful. You can clearly difference between an artificially written poem and a spontaneous poem where there is a certain inner flow which makes it divine,” he says.
“John Keats says in one of his saying, ‘if poetry does not come as naturally as leaves to a tree, it had better not come at all.’”