Monday, February 24, 2014


Akhtar Mohi Ud Din. ( 1928-2001 )

In 1980 , I worked as Teller in the Bank and was posted in Lal Chowk, Amira Kadal Branch . Those were the days when customers would be mostly dealt by Tellers through personalized service. They never felt the need to go to supervisors or the Manager sitting behind .The tellers were the face of the Bank in terms of polite and personalized service .
One such customer who would come straight to me or to my colleague Roshan Lal Haku was well known kashmiri short story writer Akhtar Mohi Ud Din( 1928-2001 ). He was always in hurry and would say something that would make me and my colleague Roshan lal Haku happy for many days . A dialogue , a Brief Story , a kashmiri proverb or some personal anecdote .I would offer him Tea while he stood talking . He drank it partly , talked , collected his payment and would leave saying LASSIV ( May you live long ).No other colleague in the Bank knew who he was . I always felt that he was a sincere and open hearted person .

“ We actually belong to village Frisal , Pulwama . My father married in city and shifted to Batmaloo. I spent my childhood and youth in Batmaloo. I studied in Islamia school Maisuma , National School and S P college. ”

“ How can I repay the debt to Som Nath Zutshi’s wife, a goddess and for me a sister in need . Do you know she single handedly did all the post delivery care of my wife once. Where in this life can this debt be repaid? ”

“ I remain ever grateful to Prof. Jay lal Kaul for encouraging me to write in kashmiri . In fact when I had just started writing , he arranged a reading session in S P college for me and treated me like a Great writer . From him , I also learnt a lot . He was a real gem of a person who had a great command over English and kashmiri . ”

“ Amongst friends , Shamim Ahmed Shamim always wanted me to write in Urdu . He was very happy when my urdu story was published in English translation in New York Herald Tribune and also awarded second prize in this short story competition. Shamim is a reliable friend who thinks much ahead of his time. He is very sharp. You have just to tell him the contours of any issue, he will come back to you with all the details .And amongst politicians , late Sadiq sahib was a real connoisseur of literature ”

“ I regard Krishen Chander as a great writer .His stories and style is definitely a class apart. But when it comes to writing stories based on Kashmir , he has not done justice. He only talks about the hills , valleys , beautiful women and romance . He never lived in kashmiri society . He never wrote on issues connected with kashmiri Society as such .We have similar issues and social problems that one comes across in various other societies in northern or southern parts of the country .”

“ Is Shambu Nath ji ( Late S N Kaul from Bandipore kashmir who was a saintly officer in the Bank ) fine . Convey my Namsakar to him. I am in a hurry this time else would have gone up to meet him “

So would Akhtar Mohi Ud Din say to us .

Even after my transfer and promotion from lal chowk branch , I met Akhtar Mohi Ud Din in some functions . I saw him three or four times last being possibly in 1988. And then one day in 2001, when I was posted in Amritsar Punjab , I came to know about his death from a Newspaper . Kashmiri language shall not get another crafty story writer like Akhtar Mohi Ud Din .

I had been reading his short stories since my college days . I always liked his narration and realistic representation of situations and characters .His stories probably evolved from his own surroundings. These stories carry the feel and throb of the living style of ordinary people in kashmiri society . Read him in original kashmiri or translations , he leaves an impression.
My friend Jaswant Singh Saggu from Jalandhar is a great fan of Akhtar Mohi Ud Din’s short stories. Once he discussed “THE MAD WORD ” a superb story of Akhtar Mohi Ud Din which he had read in English Translation .I suggested him to read stories like Daryaayi Hund Yezaar ( Red silk salwar ) and Dand Vazun available in English translation . Sathh Sangar ( seven hill tops ) and Sonzal ( Rainbow ) are two books that contain most of his well known short stories published in 1955 and 1958 respectively . Sath Sangar won him the prestigious Sahitya Academy award in 1958 .

His experimentation with new style and form is visible in some stories lke Lassu Valdi Mahmood ( Lassu son of Mahmood ) , Aadam Chhu Ajeeb Zaat ( Man is a strange creature ) and Gaahe Taaf ta Gaahe shuhul ( Sometimes sunshine and sometimes Shade ). Aadam chhu Ajeeb Zaat was also rewritten as a play for Radio Kashmir .

Doad Dhag ( Sorrow and pain ) written in 1957, was his First attempt to write a kashmiri Novel. Many critics call it a love and lust story woven essentially around three characters FATIMA , RAJA and ABDUL GANI a Munshi with Shamas Ud din A Namda trader .But Prof .Jay Lal Kaul clarifies :-
“ This novel is a painful reflection of the society that we live in. Reading it makes you together sad and happy apart from sharpening your social consciousness ”

Akhtar Mohi Ud Din wrote another Kashmir novel Zuvv Ta Zolaan which was also well received in kashmir’s literary circles .

The recent issue of MIRAAS , a literary magazine published in English from New Delhi , carries Akhtar Mohi Ud Din’s short story “THE HOURI OF PARADISE ” ably translated to English by Prof . Neerja Mattoo . I have been reading Prof. Mattoo’s translations and I salute her for being apt and profoundly to the point . Like Prof. Jay Lal kaul ,her language is also simple and direct .

( Autar Mota 23.02.2014 )

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