Kashmir has produced a number of legendary poets like Mehjoor and Dina Nath Nadim whose poems continue to rhyme in the hearts of many people. Sadly, some of them have been rendered to the pages of textbooks. SHEIKH SAALIQ says Tanha Ansari is one of them.
When legendary Kashmiri poets like Mehjoor, Gani Kashmiri, Rasul Mir, Dina Nath Nadim and Ghulam Rasool Santosh, who enjoy a sound reputation with the audience, were being romanticized and adored in public life, many poets were silently writing for their people in Kashmir, away from the public glare. Tanha Ansari is one such forgotten legends of Kashmiri poetry.
Born in 1914, Hassan Ali Ansari alias Tanha Ansari was the eldest son of his parents. He received education in north Kashmir’s Baramulla but his family hailed from Lucknow. They came to Kashmir when Maharaja Gulab Singh visited the valley. As the Dogra rulers of that time visited Gulmarg frequently, the father of Ansari started living in Magam. It was in 1910 when his family migrated to Delina, Baramulla where his descendants continue to live even now. After completing his BA, he was posted as a teacher at Teachers School, Sopore. He was subsequently promoted to the post of the headmaster and achieved two other degrees in Persian and Urdu, Munshi Fazil and Adabi Fazil, respectively. It was in 1932 when Tanha Ansari started writing Urdu poetry which he continued till his last breath.
“Tanha Ansari has been forgotten by the historians of Kashmir. He was a real hero. Through his poetry, he fought against the Dogra rule till 1947. After the partition of the Asian subcontinent, he actively participated in the freedom struggle through his writings and poetry. He was a close associate of Professor Mohiduin Hajini, Ghulam Rasool Nazki, Nazur Lolabi and other well-known personalities of the times.” says Zameer Ansari, his nephew. Zameer writes poetry as well and stays at Baramulla house where once Tanha lived. He has stored the works of Tanha written in Kashmiri, Urdu, Arabic and Persian in a small library and is trying to trace the lost work of his uncle. With very ephemeral information available on Tanha, both in books and on the internet, Zameer is the only source of information.
After the partition, Ansari wrote for many newspapers, in both Kashmir and India, which included Kehkashaan, Kong Posh, Gulrez. Al-Irshaad, Hamara Adab, Aajkal and Taameer. Tanha, who always supported an independent Kashmir, has also worked as a literary assistant to the-then Director Education of Kashmir. Tanha Ansari also wrote two books “Sahee Urdu Boliye” and “Taleem-U-Zabaan” for teachers which are still used in the syllabus of D-ED and B-ED courses in J&K. Ansari is also believed to have met Allama Iqbal when he travelled to Lahore before partition.
Tanha also won a National award in 1960 for the best Teacher of the J&K state and the award was presented to him in Delhi by the former Indian president, Dr Radhakrishnan. He also wrote letters to many well-known poets of Kashmir and in neighbouring countries. His younger brother, Nishat Ansari, compiled the letters in a book titled “Khatire Ahbaab” (Heart of friends). Tanha also got an award from J&K state cultural academy for his Kashmiri poetry collection “Furaat”. He also wrote an Urdu poetry collection book “Shabnamistan” which is still the favourite for the poetry lovers. Both these books were published by his brother in 1971 and 1972 respectively after Tanha’s death in 1969 when he was 55.
Tanha Ansari who is also remembered as a patriot and a hero of his nation died just 19 days prior to his retirement. “In one of the collections of letters to his friends, he told Agha Ashraf Ali, the father of legendary Agha Shahid Ali, how happy he was about his retirement and that now Ali would be free from this fake world and its fake service. It portrays how much he wanted to contribute to his nation by not being the part of it,” says Zameer.
Zareef Ahmad Zareef, a noted Kashmiri writer and poet, also considers Tanha as his inspiration. “Tanha Ansari is an inspiration to me. He was a man of Honor and his work has always been close to me. He was not only a true Kashmiri but a noble soul too. On my first ever stage performance, I read a Marsiya and dedicated it to Tanha Ansari,” says Zareef. “Tanha will be always remembered as a pure Kashmiri poet and an honest person ever born in Kashmir,” he adds.
Tanha Ansari who is considered one of the best in Kashmir has, sadly, not received as much recognition as he deserved. He not only wrote but has also contributed to academics in Kashmir. Ansari, who is credited for portraying the real image of Kashmir through his poetry after the partition, also delved on the beauty of Kashmir through his poems which continue to rhyme in the hearts of his few lovers. With Tanha’s writings getting not much recognition over the years, many poets believe that Tanha’s poems will get a wider audience soon. “It is just a matter of time when we shall witness how profoundly Tanha will be remembered. The spring of his poems is yet to come,” says Zareef Ahmad Zareef.