A Pandit Poet Teacher

When Pt Pitambar Nath Dhar Fani died, on January 10, this year, the scenes of morning assemblies at Islamia High School started unspooling before my eyes

ZGM
Srinagar, Publish Date: Jan 20 2018 11:42PM | Updated Date: Jan 20 2018 11:42PM
A Pandit Poet TeacherRepresentational Pic

Sometimes, for ‘angelic pureness’ of our times, I start believing that we were children of the medieval times. That lived in kinship with nature. The sun rising behind the Zabarwan peaks splashing everything with gold and through latticed windows stealthily entering into our bedroom, woke up my siblings and me. The ringing bells of goats and ewes and herdsman calling loudly goat’s and ewe’s milk for two annas two ounce reminded us; it was time for preparing for going to school and made us toss aside our quilts and rush to Daan-i-Kuth- kitchen for a quick brunch that mostly used to be  roasted maize flour, a bread and a cup of salt tea. For fear of suffering a corporal punishment, slapping and spanking for untidiness at the morning assembly my brother and I took extra care and more than often wore a starched uniform- Khaki pants and sky-blue poplin shirts. To prevent morning winds playing with our hair and dishevel them, we profusely oiled our hair. Thank God! My brother and I never ever were subjected to slapping or other corporal punishment under the full gaze of all students at the morning assembly and Noor Sahib, the theology teacher never bathed us at school tap in full of view of jeering students. 

On reading a fifty-word story in a newspaper on January 10, 2018, that Pt Pitambar Nath Dhar Fani, a well-known poet died at 99 in Gurgaon New Delhi on Tuesday, the scenes of morning assemblies in Islamia High School, my alma mater started unspooling before my eyes like those on a cinema screen. He was one of the four great teachers of the school, who at the morning assembly kept the boys spellbound with their eloquence, the other three were headmaster Ghulam Mohammad Khadim, Molvi Noor-U-Din, and Ghulam Ahmed Kamali. From morality to self-discipline, from hygiene to principles and from the religious obligation to world affairs, they talked on almost every subject. Silence reigned supreme on the vast school compound, even the most mischievous in us dared not to twitch their eyelid when these teachers spoke from the finely chiseled stone stair-landing leading to the main hall of the school- then one of the biggest halls in the city. Tall, lean, curly-haired, bespectacled Pitambar Nath Dhar Fani distinct from them in as much as he was a multi-lingual eminent poet of our land. He composed poetry in Persian, Urdu, and Kashmiri, as someone has said, ‘with honeyed words, with the best possible meaning, in the best possible order, with the best possible structure, and in the best possible way.’  For his devotional poetry- poems praising Prophet of Islam, elegies commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Hussain and his companion and prayers for morning assembly, he had endeared himself to the students. The school then published a ‘book of prayers’ containing as many as twenty poems by eminent poets of the subcontinent including, Iqbal, Hali, Maulana Zafar Ali Khan, Ghulam Ahmed Mehjoor and of Pitamber Nath Dhar Fani. It cost two annas, and every student had to buy it. Most of us parroted the prayers contained in the book- those with melodious voice led the prayers at the assembly. Like the two theology teacher Molvi Noor-u-Din Sahib and Kamali Sahib, who were known for their religious scholarship all over Kashmir the Pandit- poet- teacher spoke with the same degree of scholarship on the life of Prophet Muhammad and importance of the Battle of Karbala and martyrdom of Imam Hussain in the history of Islam. 

Like scores, of other teachers in the school he too was highly committed to the students. Decades after many of his students, remember him as a teacher who besides routine class work also took what was called as ‘vacant periods’ that is when concerned teachers would be on leave. From class six to ten he taught Arabic, Persian, Urdu and at times theology also. Besides, on the school compound, he was a walking encyclopedia on Iqbal, Rumi, and others- ready to share his scholarship about these great poets with students.