I heard my mobile phone buzzing at the very crack of dawn. I woke up and before reaching to pick up my phone, I had a foreboding that someone had waited for the night to pass, was to call me now at the earliest to convey something ominous…Yes, I was right.
The message was clearly conveyed to me, “Sir, our beloved friend Hajini passed away yesterday night at 10.45 pm.” Our common friends like Dr Zaman Azurdah and others from Srinagar thought that I must be informed. The news came as a bolt from the blue… to me the morning twilight turned into darkness again.
The news shattered me and I felt as if all my emotions had frozen. The trails of memories of the time spent with Hajini in Delhi, Srinagar and elsewhere in the country came in flashes before my eyes giving me a peculiar feeling, an admixture of pain and relief. What a piece of work was Aziz Hajini! His secular ideology, his nationalistic spirit, his endearing nature, his uprightness, his spontaneous love and affection for people were some of the virtues that had endeared me to him as well as several others close to him. I felt all virtues of life he followed are now left behind as legacies to me and all those close to him.
Initially, I knew Hajini just as a poet and literary critic representing Kashmiri language in Sahitya Akademi. Generally our conversations revolved around the subjects of common interest -- the issues in the literary arena, positive aspects of the writers who could undertake responsibilities and perform.
Hajini always showed his deep concern and well being for my family. In all the years that I knew him, I had never heard a word of self-publicity or self-praise for his poetic achievements or his critical acumen or any of the service he rendered for the development of Kashmiri, literature culture and education or any laurel that he had won.
My curiosity about him grew over time. My journey of inquisitiveness about this interesting man ended at last when I caught up with all his multi-dimensional personality--Hajini as a poet, an essayist, a literary critic, a researcher, a translator, a playwright, a theatre expert, broadcaster, filmmaker, teacher, educationist, academic administrator and above all a life time crusader of Kashmiri language and its culture. Apart from his literary output, Dr Hajini served as Secretary, J&K Academy of Art Culture and Languages, Deputy Director, Academics, J&K State Board of Secondary Education, Research Officer, State Institute of Education, OSD, Cultural Department of School Education, Senior Assistant Professor, University of Kashmiri, Media Secretary, Secretary and President of Adbee Markaz Kamraz, a conglomeration of more than 20 literary and cultural institutions, and members on innumerable committees including Sahitya Akademi Executive Board.
Born in 1957 in a humble farmer’s family in a village called Hajin in North Kashmir, his original name was Abdul Aziz Parrey took on Aziz Hajini as his nom de plume. His innate potential for creativity, his intelligence and interest in Kashmiri language right from his schooldays finally landed him in Abee Markaz Kamraz, a major institution to promote Kashmiri language and culture in 1975, in a junior level from where he rose to become its Secretary and later its President. He made it possible by sheer dint of his hard work and deep commitment. During his tenure there, he tried to identify potential young people from different areas of culture, including literature even from the villages and remote areas. He believed that youngsters who are not even aware of their innate talent must be brought to light. Hajini’s involvement in the movement to popularize Kashmiri language and culture took a giant leap when he introduced and established Kashmiri language in the academic curriculum in education right from the primary level to the university level.
Hajini is essentially a poet. Poetry was his first love. According to him, universal poetry is the expression of basic human emotions common to people on earth. With passage of time, cultural aspects change, objectives change, metaphors change but the basic human emotions remain the same. Hajini strongly believed that poets are the harbingers of peace, love and human values and are the legislators of mankind.
Dr Hajini became a literary critic not by choice but by the situation that demanded at the point of time. The 700 years old Kashmiri literature started with Sheik ul Alam and Lal Ded in the 15th century followed by a long list of mystic and Sufi poets but did not have any critical canon or treatise. Moreover, 20th century was the age of prose, with a formidable surge in fiction writing, including plays and other prose literature in Kashmir language. Dr Hajini realized that a genre conspicuously missing was literary criticism. He took up the challenge to introduce literary criticism, which resulted in the publication of his iconic work Aene Khane, which earned him the Sahitya Akademi award later. Subsequently he won Sahitya Akademi Translation Prize too for one of his translations. As a literary critic, Hajini believed that critic should not pass judgment but should rather deconstruct the text to help readers to appreciate it better.
It is always interesting for readers to learn about a writers’ or artists’ first creative experience. Hajini once recalled to me his first creative experience. “I was born in a village having our own farm land. I was in the tenth standard. My teacher gave an essay to memorize at home and present it in the next class. When I reached home I was told to go to our farmland to water it. After finishing the work, I opened my notebook and read a line from the essay. It read, ‘During the spring season, birds chirp and brooks dance in Kashmir’. I was expected to learn it by rote. Incidentally, I was sitting under the shade of a tree in which birds were chirping and a brook flowing in front of me and it seemed to me to be dancing. I was mesmerized. It was my first crush with creativity. By the time I returned back home, I had memorized the essay and also written a poem on nature.”
Sweet memories of him haunt me again and again. My wife Margaret and I were his house guests for three days soon after a literary programme organized by me on behalf of Sahitya Akademi on folk tales of Kashmir, Punjab, Himachal and Ladakh, at Srinagar. I will never forget how warmly my beloved Hajini, who always called me his elder brother and my wife babhiji, entertained us. We became part and parcel of his family. On another occasion, I remember I boarded a flight from Delhi to attend his son Azhar Hajini’s wedding. I was seated next to Saifuddin Soz, Former Union Minister for State for Culture in a flight to Srinagar. As we got into conversation, when I told him about the purpose of my visit to Srinagar, he was elated to learn that I was going for Aziz Hajini’s son’s wedding and said that he would join me in the wedding reception. He came next day and spent some time with us. It was an excellent opportunity for me to meet almost all political leaders, local ministers and the Union Minister for Home during the wedding ceremony.
Hajini was a popular personality in Kashmir. He was widely known elsewhere in the country too. He maintained an excellent rapport with almost all Indian writers from 24 Indian languages. I am sure even after his demise he will continue to enjoy the same popularity for the monumental service he rendered in the fields of education, culture and literature in general, and language of Jammu and Kashmir in particular.
With deep pangs of separation, I bid tearful farewell to my beloved friend and brother Aziz Hajini … a breezy name to chant.