Mohammad Ahsan Ahsan was born on 20th of June, 1937 at Parra MohallaHajin.He was admitted to a local primary school for the primary education. He joined Islamia High School Srinagar for completing his matriculation and F.Sc. Ahsan did his graduation at the SP College, Srinagar where he even got the opportunity to act as the student editor of the PratapMagazine. He further improved his qualification by doing BA Hons. in Kashmiri (Private),B Ed. and MA in Kashmiri from the University of Kashmir with good marks thereby establishing a good academic base for himself to serve as an activist of Kashmiri language and literature in the days to come at different plateforms.
With this sound academic base during those times, Mohammad Ahsan Ahsan was fortunate enough to grow under the shadow of his scholar and famous academician cousin, Professor Mohiud Din Hajini whose name is popular among all the generations of academics since 1940s.
In1957,Mohammad Ahsan was appointed as teacher in the school education department of Jammu Kashmir government. After serving the Department with full zeal and zest for a few years,Ahsan joined the State Cultural Academy as Assistant Editor Kashmiri.As Assistant Editor Kashmiri at the Academy, Ahsan contributed to the compilation of Kashmiri Dictionary and Encyclopedia of Kashmir, projects which speak volumes about his skills as editor and compiler of scholarly entries required in the same.
Apart from being a versatile and highly skilful teacher and editor, Ahsan was a poet also who would sing in his solitude unmindful of whether the world should know of it or not. His poetry reflects the changing socio-political landscape of Kashmir also.Humor being an essential element of Ahsan's temperament, his poetry has enough of it.Ahsan showed his interest in literary activities since his early youth when he would participate in different theatrical activities at his village.
Among his contribution to theatre and drama, works like "Gulrez", "Grayi ta Paye", "Himal ta Nagrayi" and "Aka Nandun" could be counted as some of the most successful and effective works.Mr Ahsan would contribute, apart from poetry and drama, through prose work also to Kashmiri language and literature as he was basically a serious researcher and knew the value of words and facts in language and literature.
Many a lesser known poets would approach Mohammad Ahsan and show their poetry to him for editing, corrections and technical modifications which he would most willingly do thereby helping them in publication process with all smoothness and ease.
Kalam-e-Nabir Mir, Kalam-e-LalTantray,Kalam-e-RamzanBhat,Kalam-e-Ahmad UllahHakabari,Kalam-e-Ab Aziz Miskeen and Kalam-e-Mohammad Khar are some of the collections of poetry compiled,edited and introduced to the public by Mohammad Ahsan Ahsan at Halqa-e-AdabSonawari,an institution which would serve as a platform for artists, poets,scholars and researchers for working for the promotion and propagation of Kashmiri language and literature.
At the State Cultural Academy, Mohammad Ahsan published his translation of Allama Iqbal's famous poem "Talu e Islam" in Partaw-e-Iqbal,thereby establishing his translation skills from Urdu into Kashmiri.
Besides essaying at poetry, drama and prose writings, Ahsan took pains to collect and compile the epic written by NematUllahSafapori titled Gul-e-Bakawali. He was for many years on the editorial board of magazines like Mashaheer-e-Kamraz and Prave published by AdbeeMarkazKamraz and the research journal published by Halqa-e-AdabSonawariWulrak-e-Malar.
At AdbeeMarkazKamraz, the largest literary organization of Kashmir, Mohammad Ahsan served as the cashier and general secretary for about fourteen years. He would also serve as the controller examinations at this organization for a long time and conducted scores of Kashmiri language aptitude/diagnostic tests at primary, middleschool, high school and higher secondary levels, a regular annual activity at the organization for the promotion and propagation of Kashmiri language and literature among the youth. He was also the president of Halqa e AdabSonawari for a long spell after Prof.Mohiud Din Hajini till he passed away in September 2017.Mohammad Ahsan was also the Convener of Kashmir Chapter of Sahatya Academy of India. As a recognition of his work and credits in the promotion of Kashmiri language and literature, Ahsan was awarded with Sharf e Kamraz in 1998 and was also the recipient of Award ShahbazMemorial. Needless to mention, Ahsan served as the Principal of MD Hajini Memorial Public School for more than ten years after his retirement and was the cashier of the Idar e AwqafHajin for more than twenty years. With such a prolific and active record of literary, academic and administrative activities, this man with a mission passed away with flowers of humor on his lips on 13th September, 2017 at his residence at HajinSonawari leaving thousands of his students, well wishers and friends in a state of deep shock and anguish. May Allah bless him with the best of rewards in his heavenly abode and the hereafter! (ReyazulHasan: 2015, 57, 58)
A serious language activist
Of all the language activists and organizers who I have seen or met so far in my life, Ahsan had the distinction of being sincere, serious and devoted to the cause. Of many qualities and characteristics that a language activist should have, being connected with the common people who speak and write in the target language could be counted as an essential feature.Ahsan had this in abundance. He would not feel shy of speaking in Kashmiri and discussing and solving the problems of those lesser known poets who would visit his residence or MD School thereby disturbing his daily schedule of literary and non-literary activities; but he would never mind it and would do the same with the fervor which he would not even show to his own work. The love of the mother tongue possessed him and this possession gave him a chance to find and discover a class of Kashmiri poets who would be otherwise unknown to the elite class of literary masters and would never get a chance to get their works published at a platform like the Halqa e AdabSonawari which for this very reason may also be called a People's Platform for the revival and promotion of Kashmiri language and literature. He did his work with dedication and devotion regardless of the fact that the publication of such works as shown in the introduction would earn him anything in terms of material benefits.
Kashmiri language was perhaps his first love and he would at times express this love through his interactions with small children at MD HajiniSchool when he would during a vacant period step into a class and start teaching students how to write Kashmiri words and sentences with the precision of a solidier.He would even ask the concerned Kashmiri teacher to be present in the class and see if his way of teaching Kashmiri language would in any way contribute to the improvement of his/her methodology of teaching the same to the students. Although he was quite conversant in English and Urdu languages ,yet I have never seen him interacting or teaching students through these languages as it was his considered opinion that Science ,Mathematics and History like subjects should be always taught in the mother tongue ,reason being one understands the things in the best possible manner in one’s mother tongue only.
Ahsan would speak less but he was a very powerful conservationist as through his humour he would beat anybody during a conversation or dialogue on any subject. He was very simple and down to earth and would never pretend to know. Many a time he would call people closer to him for telling him the most appropriate meaning of a Kashmiri word or expression in English or Urdu.
Similarly, while editing poetry, prose or essays in Kashmiri, if he would encounter a typical Persian or Arabic expression used by the author in his writings, he wouldn't feel shy in asking his friends who he believed knew some Arabic or Persian. In fact, he believed such interactions with his friends opened his mind about human languages and allowed him to understand them to their fullest through their multiculturalism and translation. His sincerity and devotion to the cause of Kashmiri language could be further understood by his attachment with the language throughout his life as beyond Kashmiri language and literature he could hardly think of working or thinking on anything or subject. It was his first love and he died with Kashmiri language and literature as his last love as even at the age of eighty plus his bed would be always surrounded by books of Kashmiri poetry ,Kashmiri prose work ,magazines and journals in Kashmiri and in the company of these friends he would spend his time editing collections of poetry ,dictating corrections to his nephew and closest friend,AbAhadHajini,and talking language ,literature and history of his times to friends and well wishers visiting his home from time to time. If I am asked what is the real contribution of Ahsan to Kashmiri language, Iwould, without any hesitation, say that his own spoken Kashmiri was always a treat for the ears for its humor and ease with which he surprised the opposite side. Had he not written poetry and compiled and edited books in Kashmiri language ,he would have still been remembered and loved by the people for the language that he had been gifted with ,most particularly his humor.
As he was a born teacher before training himself as an editor, Ahsan would always have students in the form of poets and language activists whom he would guide and train in Kashmiri prosody, editing of poetry and prose works and compilation and publishing process of their books and magazines and this sincerity towards the first and last love of his life kept him active and alive till his last regardless of his old age and weakness of physique. As a sincere servant of Kashmiri language and literature, he would never deny access to any body seeking his guidance in the art of poetry and this openness would make him the beloved master of the commonest of common poets hailing from far flung villages of Kashmir.
A word on his humor
Some people are born with the gift of an artistic use of language, and by virtue of such a powerful and creative use of language they leave the impressions of their wit and humour on every mind they encounter with. Human beings use language for different purposes : for the expression of their feelings ;for sharing their information;knowledge and wisdom with the world;for developing social and cultural bonds and affiliations with the people; for recording their worldviews and impressions of the world ,and for a host of other purposes. There are people who are introverts with reference to the use of language; and, there are people who are quite expressive and extroverts with reference to language. While the introverts in language use fail to make an effective impression on the minds of people living around them; the extroverts in language make the world around them alive and charming with the magic of their linguistic skills. Shakespeare has quite rightly stated in his famous drama King Lear: "Mend your speech; or you may mar your fortunes”. Such a statement with reference to the use of language makes it amply clear that language matters in our day to day life as it is with the help of language that we human beings either do many things or we get many things done through language. Language is everywhere even in the wilderness when we are alone and all of a sudden we start talking to stars or to ourselves or to the immediate surroundings in order to minimize our fears created by the wilderness. One may just end up saying that we human beings are condemned to speak.
Among many fellow Kashmiris who I have been associated with so far in my personal or professional capacity, one man whose wit and humour in Kashmiri language has impressed me the most is Mohammad Ahsan Ahsan who passed away on 13th September 2017.He would look out for an opportunity to say something lively to the people around him but that act of speech would be relevant and educational in its nature.
Here,the author would collect and comment on some of the instances of wit and humour that are attributed to Ahsan Sahib thereby showing his powerful command on language and its meticulous and purposive use in different situations.
One day, we, the staff members of the MD Hajini Memorial School, are in the office with the Principal of the school, Ahsan Sahib. He was having a cup of tea. Everybody was so silent till Ahsan sahib himself broke the silence addressing our Science teacher who had done Masters in Zoology. "Tuhihekwa me wanith Panini jismakhitemihisukhnawayathkashirismanzmukhtalifjayenmukhtalifnawache", asked Ahsan Sahib to the teacher.It was such a common place thing but the way he asked it forced everybody to think so seriously about it.There was a silence of about ten minutes.Neither the science teacher nor could anybody else say anything.The silence looked terrific now.Our egos were down. Ahsan Sahib could sense it and so decided to break the silence. He again in his typical style asked the Science teacher. "Yethkyawanan?" while pointing to hairs on his head. "Mas haz" áhairs,sir),said the teacher.Ok,go down and what is it called here pointing to his eye brows and then to beard, to moustache and coming down and down till he himself turned silent and all other gave a hilarious laugh as some sensitive places were going to follow soon. Ahsan Sahib was silent. He then said, "Human language is a marvelous thing. Don’t you see how we have named one same thing differently at different places by just seeing to its place value?
One day Ahsan Sahib went to a Medical Shop at theHajin market for checking his blood pressure. My friend Zahoor was at the counter .He had of late grown some beard on his face.Ahsan used to talk to Zahoor fondly and affectionately.He asked Zahoor, "Tchekathsapethchuireshthoumut?" Zahoor,who knew Ahsan Sahib well used Ahsan's weapon against Ahsan sahib and said "Buthispethhaz".
Ahsan Sahib turned silent for a few minutes and retaliated with one more question "Tchahekkha me wanithathasmanzkatchangji chi?" Zahoor said "Dah haz"(ten fingers).Ahsan Sahib had caught him by his neck as he asked him to go on counting to find only eight fingers as the two are called (neth meaning thumbs) according to Ahsan Sahib.
He would create such a situation with colleagues and friends thereby amusing and informing them also through a humorous and witty linguistic or moral or social construct.
One day Ahsan Sahib was on a day long excursion with his colleagues at Halqa e AdabSonawari.Ahsan Sahib was a chain smoker and so he smoked in the bus. Many other colleagues in the bus were also smokers but none of them dared to smoke in front of Ahsan Sahib. Nevertheless, they took liberties vis-à-vis joking and laughing on many things which at times would even blush Ahsan Sahib.
In order to silence them, he said "Tuhikezchuna me thicigerretechewan".They all turned silent. Then he went on saying "Ba chuspanacigerretechewan,lehazagachetuhund to methi cigarette biladaregchun;wungu non-veg joking shayidchus nab a ye panakarankehn"thereby hinting that you should not take liberties in certain things that I myself do not do.The remark left everybody silent and so changed the course of action in the bus. He was very precise and serious and his words would have an immediate impact on the people around though he never used a harsh tone and aggressive preaching on the subject.
When angry, Ahsan Sahib would be absolutely silent and his silence would last for hours thereby killing alive all those around. One day it so happened that one of the teachers at the MD school lost his temper at Ahsan Sahib and he started literally shouting at him. The teacher was literally cursing Ahsan Sahib for he felt that the salary was not sufficient. We somehow managed to get the teacher out of the office and tried to not allow him to cross the boundaries. Ahsan Sahib throughout the episode just listened to him silently though everybody could sense that he was angry with the young man.But he was just silent.He didn't say anything and he didn't take any action against the boy though he could have because he knew that the young man is desperate and in desperation has lost the cool of his temperament.After some days, he asked the management committee of the school to go for a comprehensive review of the salary of the staff.Though he was very precise and effective in his speech, he was silent in the times of crisis and anger and would never lose his temper against his adversaries whosoever that be.
I had years of association with Ahsan Sahib as a teacher at the school he was heading after his retirement. He would never judge a teacher by his/her political affiliations or ideology even though there might be some manifest and visible differences of opinion or political orientation between him and his faculty member. Professionally, he would always mean it to practice a kind of neutrality and objectivity in his comments on the ongoing political positions of people. It is only once that he could say something like "Dapantuhichudalith" with reference to my political affiliation in the context of a certain election in the valley ,thereby ,in other words ,telling me that our political association did not fall in the same line. When in reply to this comment, I just said "Sir, I could not understand”, he just chewed up the explanation and left it unsaid obviously trying to not to interfere in my political aspirations and beliefs.
However, I had fully well understood what he meant by "DapantuhichuDalith" and its discursive features. Was there anything subversive against me, I never took it like that? Did he take my political position as something subversive against him, I am sure he too had not taken it like that? Nevertheless, his open-mindedness forced him to just express his disagreement with my political understanding by just saying "DapantuhichuDalith."Very brief, precise but speaking out all that one could understand with being explicit. I might have then taken his comment as a criticism of my own political orientation but just after some time my mind would get cleaned of all such perceptions about Ahsan Sahib when one Friday afternoon he asked me to sit beside him in his office and surprised me by offering me the position of head priest of the Jamia Masjid Hajin for Friday sermons. It just nullified all that I had started presuming after that comment "DapantuhichuDalith" as the bigness of his heart and openness of his mind on making such an offer to me
A silent and sensitive soul
Ahsan was always silent but sensitive to all the things that he saw around him and would respond with a poetic grace to each and everything. I once asked him if he had written anything about the present turmoil of Kashmir or just come up with a poetic response to the same. He paused and read out a poem by the title "harisaath".
Although I haven't read the written text of this poem, yet what I still remember is that the poem reflects on what happened to a common Kashmiri amidst the present wave of violent turmoil and how he/she was caught between the devil and the deep sea. The identity card found in the dead body of the character of his poem is the identity of every common Kashmiri of the present turmoil. There is a silent protest in the poem and if published I am sure it would definitely find place in the literary response to the present turmoil in Kashmir. I wish I could have the text now to deliberate on the poem in order to exposit it as one of the masterpieces of Ahsan Sahib.
Since he was a man of silent poetic constitution, he would never make loud political statements .Instead, his was the way of living another day with grace and poetic composure and it worked well for him as long as he could continue his journey in this world of hue and cry.
This silent poetic composure and grace would come to his rescue even when people would target his administrative acumen and try to uninstall him from the administrative positions he held for long at his native place because nobody would actually dare to question him and doubt his credentials and so he would enjoy the whole sound and fury all around with the same poetic grace and silence thereby giving a lot of psychological torment to his rivals and competitors.
Nevertheless, he was always accommodative and magnanimous towards one and all and would never allow the personal differences come in the way of his relationships with the people because there again he had the poetic grace to handle pressures and get the people along.
One day I found a colleague shouting outside his office and saying the things uncalled for; but Ahsan Sahib never took it personnel and didn't hurt the prospects of the man at the school. He always treated him like his son and allowed him to grow and evolve like all others thus maintaining the administrative protocol of doing the things professionally and handling all the criticism professionally also. However, this doesn't mean that he would never get angry. When he would be angry, again he would turn silent and wouldn't talk to the person for a while. Next day, it would be again as if he had never been angry with the person.
One day, it was 2010, massive protests were going on in Kashmir over the burning of the Holy Quran by a crazy pastor in the USA and people in Hajin too came out in hundreds and thousands to lodge their protest against the uncivilized act. On that occasion as I remember people demanded that the members of the Awqaf too should join the protest rally and then one by one address the people regarding the whole issue. Ahsan Sahib too spoke on the occasion but not in the plain rhetoric that generally suits such occasions; he rather chose to speak through a poem that he had written long before but had the connection with a similar kind of situation. He knew he should not raise the passion of the people, so should instead speak to them through an idiom that they understand and take it upon themselves to think and ponder about.
Sometimes, when I just try to recall Ahsan Sahib I just forget to judge and evaluate him as judging after all is the prerogative of the God and in Ahsan Sahib it was the feature of beauty that most of the times dominated the scene s. The thing that he had poetic silence and poetic grace sums up it all as the thing that has the attribute of silence and poetic grace after all achieves a high degree of beauty in the eyes of those who look at the same through a humane glass on eye.
Many a time,I would see in Ahsan Sahib's eyes that element of humaneness and humility which would add to his poetic grace and beauty; and, undoubtedly, consequent upon insistence of unnecessary nature from the circles that he had, he too would tend to fall to the temptation and not budge an inch from the position he held and which his opponents wanted him to quit.
But ,there again in such moments of rigid control he would not make loud statements and resort to rabble rousing but silently wait and watch thereby allowing the things to follow a natural course of rise and fall, something which obviously showed his understanding of human psychology ,most particularly the class of people he dealt with.
At MD HajiniSchool, he was always of this opinion that there should be no unnecessary fee hike as it was a public school and so it should be accessible and affordable for the common people of this area. Even MD continued to have the same color of Uniform for the whole of his tenure for the simple reason that such changes should not in any way cause any discomfort and inconvenience to the common people of the area. This is how he never tended to convert MD school into a Capitalist enterprise where only a select class of people could send their children for education. When he got a cheque of Rs twenty five thousand as CP fund from MD school after his retirement, he donated it for the development of the school and instantly gave it to the incumbent administration.
A brave heart
Hundreds of people retire every year from their active government or non-government services and spend their earnings on the marriage of children, construction of a beautiful house or in performing the Hajj and then take rest from all engagements. Ahsan Sahib continued to work in different capacities as if he never wanted to retire. Many people in the area would complain that the man just does not want to accept the reality of his old age but those people could hardly understand that the man wants to live his life to its fullest and till the last. If this would not be an exaggeration, Ahsan Sahib worked more after his retirement than he could have before it as he had now more assignments and life in its real form with all of its challenges to face which he did with a brave and open heart as the realities of social engagement are always bitter and tough to face.
With administrative engagements at different literary and non-governmental organizations after his retirement ,he continued to receive assignments from different literary forums ,edit the works of writers and help aspirants in improving their poetry and art of writing thereby keeping himself busy with the world of letters and thus not allowing his mind and heart to retire and rust .Ahsan defied the dictates of physical aging and let his mind grow younger day by day thus leaving a message behind that whatever time one has got in this world ,it is to be spent to its fullest by keeping oneself busy and active in some substantial and fruitful work. Though many people would say that he should take rest, yet he showed them the path of making the post-retirement life more active and joyful by creating new avenues and opportunities for oneself through ones association with books and thoughts of different people.
Ahsan was a prolific literary figure who tried his hands on drama, poetry, criticism, translation, editing and directing people towards improving their art of writing poetry. He was an organizer of highest repute among the literary circles of the valley and was an excellent administrator also. Above all these things, he was a nice human being who would love to help the needy and do things for others.
Ahsan was blessed with a language that mesmerized one and all and would charm up everything by his wit and humour.
With his sad demise, Kashmiri literary landscape lost one of its selfless servants and silent but hyperactive lovers. May Allah grant him JannatulFirdous and fill the vacuum that his death has created! Amen!
Author teaches English language and literature at Department of English, North Campus,University of Kashmir