Among his siblings he was the one his parents could least rely on, because of his blindness, but Wali Mohammad not only became the first to earn, but heads a music group, and supports his family of three. Hamidullah Dar reports.
At a time when physically fit people find themselves challenged by unemployment, 50-year old visually impaired Wali Mohammad of Sirigam Lolab makes a good living by his music.
He feeds a family of three that includes his wife and a son.
Wali was born with an impairment, but would take the challenges boldly.
“In my childhood days I noticed that if I will not stand on my own nobody is going to help me in the future. I told my father to send me to a school where blinds are taught,” says Wali.
He was admitted in a school meant for physically challenged persons at Kathi Darwaza in Srinagar. He completed middle standard from the school in 1975 but could not continue his studies.
“The school was closed when Sheikh Abdullah took over as chief minister in 1975 and I had to discontinue my studies. We were sent to Abhinanda Home where I learned music from two teachers, Makhan Lal and Gopi Nath. Once out of the Abhinanda Home after four years I joined a music party thus earned a few bucks for the first time in my life,” says Wali. The small amount that Wali got from the music party head boosted his ambition and he worked hard to learn playing harmonium. “Finding that I can be a good singer and musician, I started working on my infirmities so that they are removed. Simultaneously I learned singing and music which imbibed confidence and also fetched me money.”
As Wali began to earn, much earlier than his normal brothers, Wali’s parents were relieved of apprehensions about his future. Wali got a boost too. “Earning at my own made me confident and after 15 years I was able to have my own party. I always headed the party wherever we went,” says Wali. In a poverty-stricken area like Lolab valley Wali became a local hit for his sheer courage and determination, and that helped him earn a decent living.
Seeing that he was now able to feed a family, Wali married Zareefa. The marriage soon started becoming a challenge for Wali as his physically normal wife would tease him one way or the other. Wali avoids any question about this. However, his neighbours tell an interesting story. The bickering at the home dishelved Wali and his ambitions. “One evening Zareefa went to bed with her eyes normal but woke up in the morning without visual sense,” says one of Wali’s neighbours.
It was hard time for Wali as his wife also lost her eyesight. This made his wife pliant and now Wali was to help her.
Wali formed a music party and they went to sing anywhere when people needed their services on marriage parties or for sheer musical gathering. Wali sings the poetry of all Kashmiri poets but has a personal liking for Lala Aragami’s poetry. “Lala Aragami is my spiritual guide and I prefer his songs that have a deep spiritual under-current. Also I feel as if his every word touches my heart while consigning my voice to them,” says Wali.
Prior to 1990s Wali used to sing for Radio Kashmir Srinagar too. However, as situation changed with the arrival of armed militancy in 1990 he could not move around freely.
“Some ten years went by without much income. In this period my brothers were running the family expenses. In 2000, I resumed travelling to other places and districts for singing and money started coming in again,” says Wali. From 2007 Radio Kashmir started booking him; so did Doordarshan Srinagar. “We have a programme on Radio Kashmir on April 7, and one more booking on the Doordarshan in May. Outside these establishments, we have many private bookings and they will keep us busy this year,” he informs.
Wali has also memorized three chapters of holy Quran. “I am a practicing Muslim and have memorized three chapters of holy Quran,” he says. Wali’s house is pecked high on a hill and for small things like purchasing bread he has to walk down about half a mile which he does without anybody’s help.
“I wonder why normal people just sit idle in wait for a job when they can do anything they want. When a person like me is happy despite all the odds and ekes out a respectable living why can’t they?” he remarks.