Ashraf Aasari: Doctor with a difference

Even as he started attracting more patients, Aasari could never let go of his passion for writing

Haroon Mirani
Srinagar, Publish Date: Nov 17 2017 11:18PM | Updated Date: Nov 17 2017 11:18PM
Ashraf Aasari: Doctor with a differenceFile Photo

Few years back a Molvi (cleric) visited Ashraf Aasari, a homeopath by profession, for some consultation. During the conversation the Molvi told him about his recent visit to Punjab. As Aasari listened with care, the Molvi told him how at Sirhind Shareef a Sikh woman invited him to his house to take shelter from sweltering heat. Inside the house the Sikh woman called her son Ajit to accompany Molvi to washroom for ablutions and then to a room for prayer as it was time for Asr. Inside the room, which was different from rest of Sikh house, the Molvi was stunned to find the pictures of Kaaba and everything needed for offering Nimaz. After leaving the house, the Molvi asked one of the neighbours about the truth and he came to know that the woman was actually a Muslim who was left behind during Muslim exodus in 1947 Partition. She got married to a Sikh man who gave her complete freedom to profess her religion.

Aasari, a writer by hobby got what a writer always looks for, an inspiration for his next plot, story. Days later Aasari came with a story on the incident which was published by prestigious Aiwan-e-Urdu of Delhi Academy. “On the day, it (story) was published my phone continued to buzz entire day. The story made an emotional connection with readers all across North India and people recounted their own experiences,” said Aasari. “Couple of weeks later Hind Samachar reproduced the story on its front page and the response was even more than the earlier one. I got a call from an Imam in Jallandar who said that there were many such cases in different parts of Punjab where abandoned or left out Muslim women of partition era were married to Sikhs. And every story is more emotional than the other one.”

Being a doctor has been a boon for Aasari, who is also a writer par excellence. “I must confess getting ideas has been fairly easy for me. Everyday I get patients from varied backgrounds. They have new stories to recount and it is like reading an unread book,” said Aasari who has a clinic at Hazratbal. Most of his stories have a close connection with what he heard from his patients.

Born in 1954 to a literary family in Hazratbal, Aasari had drawn towards Urdu literature in his college days. “My father Peer Ahsan Shah was a writer whose Kashmiri poetry collection Bagh-e-Wahdat was published before I was born,” said Aasari whose real name is Mohammed Ashraf Shah. He took the pen name of Aasari which is inspired from Aasar-e-Shareef, Hazratbal. At Islamia College Aasari was greatly influenced by a novel Baram written by Ishrat Kritpuri. Gradually he took the pen and started writing poetry. Encouraged by his teachers he submitted the poetry to local newspaper Aftab and then to national publications. The quality material was published in many of the reputed publications. Besides Kritpuri, Aasari was highly influenced by Shair-e-Mazdoor (Poet of the workmen) Ahsan Danish of Pakistan. His work confirms both the influences. Most of his poetry was fine-tuned by Kritpuri who was regular visitor to Kashmir and Aasari.

Aasari later did Master in Arabic primarily due to his family’s high religious background, where Quranic Teaching was a must. During his visits to Kritpuri in Ghaziabad, Aasari was fascinated the local Homeopathy charity clinic where a renowned doctor Fitrat Ansari was said to have cured number of incurable patients. Aasari helped the clinic at the front desk and gradually he started having interest in the homeopathic form of medicine. He later enrolled in Homeopathy course and came back to Kashmir to practice. His pursuit of Urdu literature led him to homeopathy and in the later stages both complimented each other. Aasari is credited at popularising the system of medicine with his thorough knowledge.

Even as his career started attracting more patients, Aasari could never let go of his passion of writing. He went on to author five books on Homeopathy. “In fact my first book to be publish was on the homeopathy. Later I took many more topics like asthma, leucoderma, prostrate etc and wrote about them in the light of homeopathy,” said Aasari who has authored five books on Homeopathy. His case studies have been published in various international journals of Homeopathy.

In his parallel career of literary writer, he continued to publish critical essays, poems, short stories which were published by reputed journals like Ajkal and even in Takhleeqpublished in Pakistan. His first collection of short stories Afsana Likh Raha Hu was published in 2013 which was followed by Asri Adab Ke Rang va Aahang and Allama Iqbal our Mirzayiyat.   

Asri Adab ke Rang o Ahang is a collection of critical essays where the author has tried to decipher the literary value and impact of Urdu poets like Ghalib, Iqbal, Pritpal Singh Betab, Kachu Asfandyar, Hakeem Manzoor, Hasan Sahu and Noor Shah on the current trend of Urdu literature. The book contains thirty six critical essays.

Allama Iqbal aur Mirzayiyat has been the most talked after book of Aasari. It is in fact the first such book in its genre. “Before my book, there was just one small essay or booklet of 10-15 pages written by Shoorish Kashmiri, an eminent writer of Kashmiri origin based in Pakistan,” said Aasari. “There have been many attempts by certain quarters to malign the image of Iqbal and term him pro-Qadiyani. But with research I have proved that it was not the case and infect a conspiracy against the tallest poet.”

The book also contains the letters of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to Iqbal while teasing him on pro-qadiyani philosophy and the reply of Iqbal which made Nehru eat his words. The book is a treasure for students who wish to do research on the subject. Alama iqbal aur mirzaiyat manifests Asari a staunch Iqbal-lover and scholar who can confront anybody with his immense knowledge of Iqbal’s poetry and philosophy,” says Professor Muhammad Aslam former HOD English KU in an essay on Aasari’s books.

Aasari has the distinction of being the author whose books in both the genres have received immense feedback. Former KU HOD Arabic Mufti Abdul Ghani Azhari was so impressed by his book that he ensured the distribution of his books in all libraries of North India. Aasari has been a subject of two MPhil studies, one has been completed by a scholar at Hyderabad university and another is undergoing at Rajasthan.

Aasari has also acted as an additional unofficial guide to around a dozen PhD students pursuing the doctorate in medicinal plants. He is known as an authority on medicinal plants in Kashmir and has identified over 100 valuable medicinal plants and drugs in Kashmir. He has been consulted number of times by SKUAST, research laboratories and KU experts to get the final opinion on the identification of some medical plants. His thorough knowledge of Arabic has been an added asset as he can correlate the old plants from Arabian manuscripts with current ones.

His Kashmir Homo Remedies cultivates herbs, manufactures and supplies over 100 drugs to various companies outside Kashmir. The drugs include anti-cancer drugs too which are always in high demand. “We are sitting on a goldmine of medicinal plants but unfortunately in absence of any policy every years hundreds of crores of medicines are getting lost as nobody exploits them,” said Aasari.

When asked how he managed the two varied fields, Aasari laughs with the assertion that the hard work has been like that for ever. “I used to read and write a lot and the two fields often help each other,” said Aasari who is currently working on three more books including a poetry collection. “Though I started with writing poems but unfortunately I could never publish them but now I am compiling them.”

Aasari’s latest short story Soot Ka Gola, depicting the scourge of old age homes and new generation has received wide appreciation. His stories on contemporary situation is Kashmir have also made an emotional connection, be it Gumnam Kabristan or Yadoon Ka Daftar, every story has documented the pain inflicted on Kashmiris.

These days Aasari is working on annual issue of Nagina Magazine too, where he has job of reading and reviewing almost 15 books in addition to writing letters and the hard task of editing the renowned authors.