A year without Izhar

We need to know our story:Izhar knew his

APRIL 3:ANNIVERSARY

SHOWKAT SHAFI

They say loving  the people we know allows us to know the people we love. And I  would say  Izhar Wani, had mastered this art.  With his early demise from the life’s  stage one year back this day, Izhaar, the  Agence France-Presse (AFP) bureau chief in Kashmir, left his friends and relatives in pain, because he loved  them,  and  they knew it.
Unbelievable, painful, shocking. Thus poured in the reactions from all sides. The man who cheered   the Srinagar newsrooms for  nearly two decades decided to call it quits  at 46. What a shock! Two things made izhar  big. He grew up in his profession  rather than just  growing old with it   and  second he shared his skills with  youngsters empowering them and became their leader. That is  what  twenty first century mantra for leadership is all about.
They call him media guru in Media Education Research Centre, Kashmir university. Yes you are right, Nasir Mirza (he has been teaching there from the last 26 years now ). Shocked, he  exclaimed to me. How can it happen Showkat. And later two weeks after he narrated  the way how Izhar was a symbol of  discipline in the class when he taught him way back 1987 at MERC. He was  focused, listening, obedient  and  ever smiling, Mirza  uttered the words fumbling. The shock was still visible in his feelings  a the time he spoke these words.
 I met Izhaar in 1989 when I joined MERC for my Post graduate course in journalism.  Izhaar was in the last leg  of  his course and  he and his batch mates were  little free. One would see  them  after their classes either in the MERC  library scanning different magazines, or  in the Naseem Bagh canteen, a favorite of  all media students then.  Those days MERC was housed in a  single storey wooden structure in the historic Naseem Bagh of the university campus,  and despite total lack of infrastructure  the centre was bubbling with life.  Thanks to the great  leadership qualities of its founder Head, Manzoorul  Amin.
Izhaar impressed me the most  during the introduction session  we had from this senior batch.  He really impressed me with that infectious smile and sense of belonging.  We soon became friends. And today when I am writing tribute to that friend my heart goes out to thank his other batch mates of his small group of five who  guided us during our first semester at MERC.
Then I used to meet Izhaar  at court road  Srinagar every afternoon after 4 pm in  the  office of  an  English weekly “Submission”. That  was it and few other weeklies  in English, which could have been at that time called the platform for MERC students. We had some popular and  prominent  broadsheet newspapers then in Urdu, but MERC pass out were most inclined towards English journalism or television only.  Izhaar would write the cover and other prominent stories for  the weekly and me AND  some of my batch mates would  handle subjects like society, culture and other narrative pieces. This was December 1989.
This was the time when  the seeds of English journalism were being  sown in Kashmir. Izhars batch mates on the other side of the court road in Bharat Hotel came out with “Global Topic” a monthly current affairs magazine. There was jubilation at  MERC when we saw the first issue. It was discussed and shown to us in the class as well. Then came Mountain Valley the multi colour magazine and then weekly Srinagar Flash. It was all in bits and pieces till  came 1993. This   was a big leap forward  in English journalism in Kashmir.  “Greater Kashmir” which was being published as a weekly in tabloid format from 1987 turned out to be a daily. Izhar was among the pioneers  there to work with. This was followed by the Mirror of Kashmir, the Kashmir Monitor, Kashmir Observer, Kashmir Images one after the other. The standard of these broadsheet newspapers was good as most of the people working with them were professionals or at least pass outs from the MERC Kashmir University. Things  grew, and today English journalism in Kashmir has come up well, struggling to be there.
  And Izhar is  not a witness only to its two decades of growth, but an active  participant to help it grow.  He services and guidance were needed everywhere. I was with him at “Mirror”  along with some other batch mates  and  there  I can never forget the way he would make the newsroom lively by his soft jokes. He would always prefer to refer or call me by my second name Shafi, I never knew why, but I loved it really.
 In the newsrooms Izhar would hardly raise his head till he finished his story. He would joke even while keep on typing which showed his professionalism. We had,  what were called (I do not know why) 386, 486  computer systems those days run by  Microsoft disk operating system MS(DOS) system. Those days unlike today saving your inputs on computer was a task you had to give your attention to,  unlike today where things can work for  even a chronic  `adikayur' (lazy man )  like me. Thanks to  Microsoft windows  95  and it subsequent versions from the last 16years. And I remember  Izhaar would often turn his head abruptly towards me and other colleges and say “ save karsa baya saeet saeet (keep saving simultaneously.) ”. It may sound simple for others today. But I knew the value of these words, given the agony one would face  if we lost the data   and if we had to do our work over and all again.
Izhaar never stopped after this. He had offers  from many quarters asking people to have his services, but he choose to work  with the local bureau of AFP as a reporter primarily and headed it finally. And  frankly speaking I don’t find better words than one spoken by his boss, the Director AFP South Asia Giles Hewitt while paying tribute to the prominent journalist on fourth day funeral held in his home at  saffron colony Zewan  residence Srinagar. “Izhar Wani was quite simply one of the most decent, wise, unassuming and life-affirming people I have ever met. He was a terrific journalist. His death is a huge loss to Kashmir and to AFP” True it is. An then these words from Giles. “I just mean that he put his effort and energy into the important things in life -- his family, his work, his colleagues, and his friends… his many many  friends,”    This was Izhhars real story. which he new well. Do we know ours.

(Showkat Shafi is Assistant Dean, University of Kashmir)

Lastupdate on : Wed, 3 Apr 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 3 Apr 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 4 Apr 2013 00:00:00 IST




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