“Rafi gets depressed whenever he gets to watch his previous work as he used to consider himself a quality artist. For Rafi socially oriented creative work mattered the most.
‘You can take out an artist from a stage but can never take out the stage from an artist.’ This saying aptly goes for prominent humorist, writer, folk artist and actor Seith Rafi who despite battling a half paralytic body after decades of living a creative life has not lost the love for art and culture. Writing, radio, drama, TV and performances meant a whole world to Rafi till the ill-fated day in Feburary 2015, when he suffered a stroke that rendered a part of his brain dysfunctional.
Unable to speak, Rafi has become completely dependent on his wife Qudsia Seth. She is like a shadow to him, now. Recounting the day Rafi suffered the stroke, Qudsia breaks down. “A day before the incident he accompanied us to GB Panth Hospital to enquire for a relatives new born baby, who was admitted there. He drove that day. In the night he watched TV and jotted down something but when he woke up in the morning he had suffered a stroke and was unable to speak properly,” says Qudsia.
A man who always played with words was now just able to murmur and had to be rushed to several hospitals but to no avail. Winner of several state and national awards, Rafi was now restricted to indoors.
“Instead of writing and theater performances now life for Rafi was just about physiotherapy sessions but gradually he started watching TV and reading newspapers,” says Qudsia. Resident of Mustafabad near HMT, Rafi is known for his robust performances and poignant passion even during 1990s when art and TV had taken a back seat. An innovative and full of life person now stands challenged by a medical complicacy he never expected to happen.
“He used to return back home late in the evenings and devote most of his time to art and culture. Shaherbeen was one such radio programme for which he gave creative inputs and just lifted the show. He was even known for his radio programme ‘Dabe Peth’,” says Qudsia. Soon after the stroke, Rafi’s right arm was completely crippled but now with help of physiotherapy at Shafaqat Rehabilitation Centre, Bemina he manages to straighten it to some extent. “A good Samaritan who is also an artist has anonymously sponsored our physiotherapy sessions and we are thankful to him. Some help has poured in from friends and relatives but that has not been enough,” says Qudsia.
Qudsia says apart from physiotherapy, Rafi spends time watching archives of his own performances and he even visits the room where he used to do his writing work. “He quite misses those days and gets depressed whenever he gets to watch his work as he used to consider himself a quality artist. For Rafi socially oriented creative work mattered the most. He has delivered several performances at Kashmir University and people there are all praise for him,” Qudsia says. Rafi who has a creative lineage even misses his father who used to be a writer and is now hopeful that his two daughters will make him proud one day with their achievements. “Despite suffering from this dreadful illness he has proved to be a strong man. Recently we went to Jammu for a check up and he showed us all road directions there. He is still cheerful despite the illness,” she says.
Also known for his children-related radio programmes, Rafi in his career was deeply affected by the bureaucratic hassles in Doordarshan and All India Radio in New Delhi, says his wife. “He is a kind human being but could never bag commercial contracts due to red tapeism in Delhi. Dozens of his dramas are lying untouched and we hope they are put into some use. His works not becoming commercially viable was also a reason for his paralytic stroke as he had taken this to his heart,” says Qudsia.
Having written a book “Aakh teh Ayeen” – a collection of his dramas in 1998, Rafi was also closely associated with the folk artists of Wathoora and has been popular for being a songwriter as well. According to prominent poet Zareef Ahmad Zareef, Rafi is a man with a clean mind and heart who was always ready to help people. “He is even related to me and I hope that if not acting he can make a comeback in writing soon as his health improves. I will try my level best to help him out since I sincerely want him to evolve once again as a multitalented artist,” Zareef says.
While several members of the art and culture fraternity have extended moral support to Seth Rafi, a financial support announced by the Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages is yet to reach the family. “It was announced several times that some help would be provided but nothing has reached us,” she says. Recollecting Rafi’s works, Qudsia says his drama “Rong Manz Kong Phol” has been produced by prominent producer and director Tariq Javed while his drama “Karim Nanwor” has also been critically acclaimed.
Qudsia says their entire family was depressed till they saw fate of other people at Shafaqat Rehabilitation Centre especially those with spinal injuries. “Thank Almighty atleast he can walk by himself. He gets nostalgic whenever he gets to see people performing and we are hopeful that he will recuperate soon,” Qudsia says. Such is his passion for art and creativity that first time Rafi was able to climb stairs, he went to the first floor of the house where his work terminal is located.
“Even on the day he received the stroke, he was sleeping in the same room where he used to write. He has an exact idea where all his writings are placed in the room,” says Qudsia, who also recounts that Rafi’s drama “Reshwari Hend Posh” won him a national award. “On many occasions he was offered jobs by people abroad but he refused. His love for Kashmir and Kashmiri is immense and I hope Almighty listens to our prayers so that he is healthy and hearty soon. His desire for entertaining people is deep and he hopes he is able to make a come back into the entertainment industry,” Qudsia says.