Muddasir Ali is no more. It didn’t take even a minute to register who this gentleman was – a journalist who set new parameters in the modern-day journalism and kept the supremacy of the print journalism above the rest.
I had not met him except for once in the lobby of Broadway Hotel in 2012. But I had heard a lot about him; a lively personality and a journalist who pushed the boundaries of journalism, and enhanced its reach. Two things were clear to me: one, he was in love with his profession, perhaps more passionate than the teenage crush. His loyalty to Greater Kashmir was absolute. May be first was second, and second was first. I could never make it out. And how much Greater Kashmir loved him was found in abundance on its cover on Saturday: “Greater Kashmir bereaved Muddasir Ali is no more.”
This is not only a loss to the newspaper but to Kashmir journalism that has grown over the decades, navigating difficulties of all sorts.
Among the stalwarts, I remember was R N Kak. During 1987, he taught me cautious use of words and then there was Shyam Kaul who knew what to say, and say it effectively. That is a gone by era.
The living legend is Mohammad Sayeed Malik who believes in independence of journalism and shares that art with the young journalists of that era.
The real struggle, however, was for journalists like Zafar Meraj and Yusuf Jameel who rose to the levels with the dint of their hard work and their source building capacity. In journalism of our era, if you had good sources, you were the king.
Why am I talking about all this? I am not writing an obituary for Muddasir Ali, I am talking how his work can serve as a lesson for all those who are in the profession, irrespective of age and experience. We can write reams, but when it comes to writing an obituary of a young colleague it is like father lifting the coffin of his kid.
It is very difficult to say goodbye to young colleagues – Mushtaq Ali in 1995, Izhar Wani in 2012, Shujaat Bukhari in 2018, Recently, we lost another young colleague, Javed.
I am writing all this to say my gratitude to the journalists of Kashmir who have faced very difficult situations all these years, in the line of duty. They recorded history of Kashmir for posterity when there was no internet and landlines were dead more often than not. But all of them knew the art of story telling.
I have worked with some of the youngest journalists in the Valley, always found them sharp, blessed with extraordinary knowledge and keenness to learn more and more. They set new trends, and their innovative work is an example for the rest of the fraternity elsewhere as well.
It has never been a crisis-free situation for journalists in Kashmir. Surviving in crisis situation is an art in itself, but creating opportunities out of the crises is an art perfected by them. That requires moral courage and devotion toward the profession.
Here, I must mention that the young journalists have developed their own ways of covering news and relaying it to the world. Kashmir’s photographers were always first to reach the spot and brought back stories of thousands of words. Their cameras captured pictures 24×7. Many a time, they had to wait for several hours for the perfect shot. And, they gathered such a treasure that world would love to have. They risked their lives, and one of the survival tricks I was taught by ace photographer Meraj-ud-Din was that one can survive if caught by the militants or security forces in hostile situation, but never get caught in a mob, your fate is worse than of a football.
Does this sum up the story of Kashmir journalism? No. Given the challenges, let me say that there are never two comparable situations, but spotting the difference and telling the story is always a severe challenge. It is an endless work in progress.
As I have seen myself that some of my colleagues, who out of their determination to get the story and file it, overcame the almost impossible situations to report. It happened time and again; in 2008, 2010 street protests, 2014 floods or 2016 era of stones and pellets. And, of course after August 5,2019, which someone described as “big bang”.
Muddasir Ali recorded many of these events. Legends are not determined by age, but their work
The British poet John Keats, whose line, “a thing of beauty is a joy forever” is etched on our minds. Had died at the age of 25. But his legacy lives on.
Muddasir Ali was John Keats of Kashmir journalism. Your beautiful work will live on forever, Muddasir.