My Memories of Jagan Nath Azad Uncle
We spent our early childhood and the entire decade of 1970s in Kashmir Valley, where Papa (Prof Z. M. Quraishi) was the Head of the Department and Professor of Political Science at University of Kashmir, Srinagar. Papa being a restless person and an intellectual, he had a great group of friends, who frequently visited our house at the scenic Kashmir University Campus.
Jagan Nath Azad, who we referred to as Azad Uncle, was one of those friends with whom I remember Papa and other friends had adabi mehfils (literary gatherings). Although we were very small, still in primary school I guess, I have faint memories of most of the incidents when friends like Azad Uncle and Balraj Puri uncle visited our house, sometimes together, and the political discussions would ultimately culminate into informal mushairas (poetry symposiums).
One incident I remember was when he visited us while we were celebrating our birthday wiith friends. Since coincidentally my twin brothers were born on my second birthday, our birthdays was a family function. I remember Azad Uncle, as he walked into the house, was told about our birthday, and he laughed loud and said something in Urdu, which simply went beyond our understanding. All I remember is the room roaring in a loud laughter.
On another occasion, Papa with his friends, including Azad Uncle, Balraj Puri Uncle and a few other friends were sitting and Azad Uncle was reciting his poetry. I was 7 or 8 years old. I barged in complaining to Papa about how my brothers were teasing me. Papa did not like the interruption and scolded me in front of the group. I began to howl feeling embarrassed. Azad uncle called me near and explained to me politely, “Beti aise guftugu ke darmiyan bolna, dakhl dar maqoolat kehlata hai”.
Once again I did not get what he was saying, but abruptly asked Papa, “How does uncle know such difficult Urdu?” |
Papa was a bit amused and he said, “In Uncle ne Pakistan ka taraana bhi likha hai.”
I just ran out again, to play with my siblings.
The word “dakhl dar maqoolat” hung in my mind and, I guess, after several decades later, it was this word, that kept this encounter fresh in my mind.
We returned to Delhi in late seventies, when I was in the 8th grade. I did not see Azad Uncle after that, but his name was often mentioned in our household. Whenever he appeared on TV in some mushaira, Papa would recall the days they had in Kashmir, and always loved his new ghazals (poetry) that he read in mushairas.
Later, when I developed a fancy for Urdu myself, and self-taught myself Urdu reading and writing, I did read Azad Uncle's poetry and his Taraana for Pakistan.
After having got married to a Pakistani, I think there has never been an occasion when I have not quoted Azad Uncle’s poetry - and the pain - he wrote when visiting Lahore:
Teri bazm-e-tarab mein soz-e-pinhan leke aaya hun
Chaman mein yad-e-ayyam-e-baharan leke aaya hun
Teri mehafil se jo araman-o-hasarat leke nikala tha
Wo hasrat leke aaya hun wo araman leke aaya hun
Tumhare vaste ae dosto main aur kya lata
Watan ke subah tak sham-e-ghariban leke aaya hun
Main apne ghar mein aaya hun magar andaz to dekho
Ke apne aap ko manind-e-mahaman leke aaya hun.
And the ever relevant couplet of Azad Uncle which speaks of his love for both lands and relates so much to a person like me who takes pride in being an Indian Pakistani:
Siyasat ne jo khenchi hain hadein qaayam rahein beshakk,
Dilon ke hadd-e-faasil ko mitaa dene ka waqt aaya.
Despite having met Azad Uncle very early in my childhood decades ago, it is his poetry, and his mention by Papa, that kept his memories alive in our household and hearts. After Papa having gone too, memories of him and his friends - these precious memories - have taken a beautiful meaning after reconnecting with his children Mukta Didi and Adarsh Bhaiya. There are not enough words to describe the wonderful feeling that it has brought back.
Dr. Ilmana Fasih