Not many people knew Shams-u-Din was Shadi Lal until he began to be seen in Jammu after 1990 and not seen in Kashmir thereafter. Soon after reaching Jammu, he – just like many KP theatre and TV artists – had lost stage, and the stage in the Valley had lost a sizable group of its entertainers. How much was the group loved and admired by one and all has been apparent since the day the news that Shams-u-Din has left the rest of the group behind spread.
Social media has been abuzz with his mention; each person remembering him his way. He had left a happy memory in each Kashmiri, especially the generation that had watched him either as children or youth or adults.
Ayash Arif, who is as much loved by us all, wrote that he had lost his “beloved legendary actor”. In an interview in 2010, Shadi Lal had remarked, “I am more comfortable working with Ayash Arif. He knows me well as an actor”.
“Shadi Lal Koul has been part of our childhood memories. Each member of our family used to be his good fan”, wrote Mehraj Sofi, a social media user. We have lost a legend”, wrote Dr Ashraf Kashmiri, a scholar proficient in Kashmir history. “A sad day for the thousands of his Kashmiri fans”, wrote Shabir Mirza, an ace photographer and ex-principal College of Fine Arts Srinagar.
In another profound outburst, Javed Dar, another social media user wrote, “We lost a smile”. Dr Musaib ul Muntaha, a 1990 born youth said that he was brought up watching Shadi Lal act.
Clearly, Shams-u-Din has had continued to enthrall his own society even long after he had ceased to live within it. That way, Mohammad Yusuf, a name synonymous with adventure sports in the Valley, puts it righty when he says that “it is a terrible loss to the society”.
So much of overwhelming connect for Shams-u-Din, who died in exile carrying remains of a Shadi Lal for thirty years of craving for a stage that he had lost. If this is the connection, why is there a disconnect on collective actions – on the revival of art, culture, shared beliefs, values, wisdom, norms, and practices? For centuries we have nurtured these together; and the same must be craving for that collective attention again.
We have lost bits and pieces of each to conflict, and even after thirty years if we discuss conflict and not culture and its revival, we are not being true to our motherland. Call him Shams-u-Din, call him Shadi Lal or call him Nika Lal, the Koshur in him has lived as a true artist, bringing smiles to all of us despite his personal anguish and loss, which not many know about. A true artist does not live only for his community, he lives and works for his society.
Irrespective of what, leave the first two post-conflict decades aside, we have lost the last decade to inaction. Ten years was enough of time for all of us to recreate the magic that was Kashmir – on every front; be it education, be it healthcare, be it art forms, or be it what held us together through shared beliefs.
Irrespective of KP exile and irrespective of continued chaos pervading the Valley, we could have created ideal types of social organizations to keep our collective culture alive, got our young join the same, taken them through presentations on our rich legacy and heritage and even organized interactive tours or sessions with likeminded children in exile. We all have failed.As part of our useless penchant to discuss the past, we have been missing out on a sizable part of our present and future. Should we abstain, for a Shams-u-Din, who died in exile, a Shadi Lal will begin to live again at home.