By Er.Shafi Ahmad
He said , “ Maey chi khabar kus dokh wetrovum bovum ma zanh haal (I only feel the torment I went through but I did not make it public). That was his intrinsic agony which he did not reveal but he said a lot about the affliction through the lyrical articulation. And Maya Choudary, the German doctor’s private secretary, described “this disease is always like an unpredictable lover and one can never be sure about anything.” And the man of strength ,valour and grace carried the burden silently and even faced the ‘unpredictable lover’ with elegance.
He was a reputed broadcaster for radio listeners whose enchanting voice mesmerized them , so was he a person with attractive facial beauty whose light smile had magical effect on those who met him in person, he was a good and affectionate critic to those who came to him for guidance. He had complete control over Urdu language which he exhibited during polishing the scripts written by raw hands or set right by even experienced pen pushers. He was beaten to pulp by a mystic saint when his mother took him to his abode for some divine help to cure his dreaded disease. Subsequently ,the saint made him eat Kanti Kebab which otherwise would be unadvisable in view of the severeness of the disease he was suffering from.
They say miracles do happen , some believe some don’t. But in his case it came true when even doctors at AIIMS refused to accept that he was the same patient whom they had written off as an untreatable case. And the saint’s thrashing had miraculously turned the tide in his favour . He continued to live for 34 years more.
He was Bashir Shah the man whom I met twice in life ;once when as a very young boy met him in Radio station with an amateur script, 2nd at the wedding of a common friend’s daughter. During the second event, apart from attending wedding in Delhi , one more thing was common between us that we had published review of a film titled “Sheen”.
As I introduced myself and talked about film review he, despite being very weak due to severe illness, greeted and hugged me tight showering encouraging words like rose petals. In the process of next around three hours he, like an affectionate teacher, gave important tips. It reminds me Bashir Dada’s analysis of Bashir Shah’s acumen regarding Urdu language and broadcasting traits. Dada says , “ He would set the Nok Palak of our writings right the art which over the years has faded. He would advise to study which elements are good in your performance or writing not only the weak ones. Rukhsana Jabeen is another talented person who could match such a quality Bashir Shah possessed and put to genuine use.
In the words of acclaimed writer Professor Shakil u Rehman , “ he carved a space among modern short story writers whose interest is connected to individual , psychological , natural instincts , qualities and psychological factors .Individuals, self or others, find space in his stories. This brings forth the psycho factors of individuals . “
The esteemed teacher Prof.Hamidi Kashmiri analyses the talent of Bashir Shah in the following words, “He is a sensitive and talented short story writer .He faces the realities with open eyes and then has the potential of turning it into a model or makes the dream a perception of reality.”
About himself Bashir Shah says , “ Let me agree that basically I am a romantic person and this happens to be strong as well as weak element of my personality. And one thing more despite being romantic in my short stories a ‘death wish’ breathes within the layers .And this wish occasionally uses the romantic robe…over the last few years I have been writing few line short stories as people don’t have time to read voluminous books like Dr.Zivago ,war and peace or Aag ka darya.
Bashir shah mastered the art of story writing over the years . He wrote what society had changed into and introduced tragedy as an important factor. “In modern story element of tragedy has creeped in and remains pronounced due to changes effected on the societal level .With strife in the societal life and pain in individuals the waves of tragedy have become prominent ,so Bashir’s stories are such where tragedy continues to remain prominent.” writes Prof.Shakeel u Rehman.
Acclaimed teacher at university level and former BBC (Urdu) journalist Ubaid Sidique has worked with Bashir for many years and seems to recognize his talent when he says , “Despite being a high statured story writer he did not get the recognition and acceptance what he deserved. Not him but his profession is to be blamed for this. …….Although people with literary tastes in Kashmir have knowledge about his name and fame but rest of the Urdu world is ignorant of him. “ He further writes , “ Two qualities in his stories are pronounced ;one the language used is sweat, simple and lucid and second his stories keep the reader glued from start to end.”
The style adopted by Bashir Shah in his story writing ,the lucidity and the choice and treatment to the content appeals to one and all. Famous story writers and critics have words of appreciation for him. Ace story writer ,film maker and director Faruq Masudi puts his view in the following words, “without entangling the reader in the technical jargon the writer puts his heart out and the readers like the style. Like an experienced writer not only he balances the word content but treatment of linguistic approach of the language and aesthetic outlook is evident in Bashir’s stories. Personally some of the big names of Urdu literature come to my mind reading Bashir’s stories.”
Bashir shah faced and passed through the positives and negatives of belonging to well known family of writers. He was tested in the crucible of being sibling to authors like Noor Shah and was expected to produce literature of that standard.
Noor Shah is an established name in Urdu literature particularly the fiction . And through this he introduced his birth place Kashmir to out side world . That is the reason many non Kashmiri authors including Ismat Chugtaie ,the doyen of Urdu literature mentioned ‘we have known Kashmir through the writings of Noor Shah’. That is the power of this frail man’s literary strength who was advised by no less than a literary giant like Ali Mohamad Lone to shift to Urdu writing than in mother language Kashmiri. And when he wrote Kashmir, the paradise on earth, was introduced to outside world.
Paulo Coelho wrote in ‘ The Alchemist‘, “I love you because the entire universe conspired to help me find you .” Shah has another credit that he wrote romantic stories not only in his youthful days but present age also because after all whole of universe conspires in the matter of love. He experienced the beautiful landscape around his birthplace and penned stories of love be it whole Kashmir or water body like Dal lake, verdant like Pahalgam and Gulmarg, mountainous region like Sonmarg and Zabarwan . Noor Shah wrote stories of forlornly of Kashmir, the society having gone to the lowest ebb of human values and the tragedies of border residents caught between the roaring guns of warring armies.
As such Bashir had to walk on the double edged sword and to carve out a name for himself in such a competition, though dormant, from his own siblings. “In fact Bashir took some time to arrive at the literary scene .Being a younger sibling of a celebrity in any field is an asset .And liability especially if one goes in the same field. …….with writing of Post Card Afsanaas Bashir emerged out of the shadows of his illustrious brother and created his own space for the first time. His life thereafter remained a very fruitful journey in producing creative content for various media and varieties and characters in structures and orginalities that have illuminated many souls in our beautiful vale and beyond. “ writes famous author, poet and TV personality Farooq Nazki.
“There is no doubt that Bashir Shah is an expert short story writer and he is adept at the craft of story writing. In his stories the narrator props up, it continues in the form of curiosity and characters of the story events .He keeps the story status in tact.” Opines the critic Prof. Hamidi Kashmiri.
Apart from short story writing Bashir Shah chose another genre to express himself and that is drama. While he worked on scripts two of his plays gave him recognition ;one Tum meray pass raho and another Cancer Ward. Tum meray pass raho was a drama revolving around a beautiful girl who was under the treatment for some internal problem but during the treatment her hair fall puts her in deep trauma and depression ;she, every second, visualizes how her hair fall will make her ugly and she will finally become charmless. In his radio play ‘Cancer Ward’ he almost narrated the story of his own dreaded illness.
In 1976 Bashir was diagnosed with dreaded disease and from Srinagar he was later shifted to AIIMS Delhi where he spent few months and when allowed to leave for his home he was invited by journalist and parliamentarian Shamim Ahmad Shamim and veteran journalist Mohammad Syed Malik for dinner. It is believed the event gave them jitters with the thought that they hosted a final dinner for the man. “34 years later this event was narrated to me by Malik Sahib at the graveyard after Nimaz Jinaza of Bashir Shah .” writes Farooq Nazki in his obituary.
Post Script :- Juz Marag Elaaj is one of his 3-line micro fiction.
‘…….and then the dream which had many directions, many dimensions…….which was boundaryless and kept me awake for years together , I made it eat sleeping pills in a large quantity ,so it would never wake up.’
Alas ! he died very young and deprived the community of authors of its valued treasure.
Er.Shafi Ahmad is a writer and columnist, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and contact on 9419009169.