It was a joy to have Zareef Ahmad Zareef in the programme Meet the eminent organised by the University of Kashmir this week. More than a writer, a poet and a social activist, what defines him is his biting sense of humour. Zareef translates the grim and the dark into the fresh and the bright. His is not a philosophy you take time to understand, his is a line that hits you straight. Zareef’s way with words is natural. Phrases, idioms flow from him at an effortless ease.
What I don’t like of him is the way he sums up the `glories’ of the past and pits it against the `horrors’ of the present. The point was aptly raised by a noted linguist and critic Prof Shafi Shouq as a panellist in the function. Though ZAZ fairly explained his point that he doesn’t mean denigrating the present, but still there are certain blanks we need to fill. Living in a `glorious’ past is not the story with Zareef only, it’s with many (and perhaps most of our) writers and thinkers. Past is inherently pleasing as it’s no more with us. When pain fades into memory, it becomes pleasure. That is natural. But while analysing our history we miss the point. Why compare the best of yesterday with the worst of today? What if the comparison is reverse? Were our ancestors angels to have descended straight from the heaven? Have the best times gone for ever? Are we condemned to an irretrievable hell of darkness? Have virtues flown to the skies? Does lust define us as a people? Is God done with the noble creation? Then what are we doing here? We may not say a dismissive NO or a wishful YES to all such questions but we are tempted to think beyond the obvious. I don’t deny the degradation we have suffered by and large, but the rub lies in a straight, either-or, simplistic classification of the good and the bad.
Greed is in our DNA. Whichever age we are born to, we are born greedy. What dilutes it is the condition around us. Zareef made a wonderful commentary on the moral training the children of the past would receive from their parents. Yes he is right in saying that family is an institution of character-building and that bond must be made stronger. We have a role to play here we realise.
Ours no doubt is a materialistic age. But that makes our challenge to stay pure even tougher. Unlike us, our saints didn’t have many traps to fall into. Life has not changed, neither has the character. Actually the conditions have changed. Our ancestors didn’t have much to choose from the way we have. I don’t call their piety as a sour-grape righteousness, but in certain cases a compulsion. They too had temptations like we have. They too resisted and succumbed like we do. They too wanted to taste the forbidden – like we want. The difference was in the condition. Today you have enough to pick from, yesterday it was relatively barren.
Jealousy, hate, contempt, malice are as old as hills. It’s a stock market of emotions where things go up and down at an evolutionary pace and predictability. Likewise empathy, fellow-feeling, philanthropy, love, care and concern make us humans. It’s now as it was then. We are all good and bad, nice and nasty, clean and corrupt by turns. I alone don’t deserve TARANGAREE as tribute.