'I am a poet'! Whenever I walk through the streets of my birthplace – the streets on which in morning hours, I chased swallows during early springs. I ran after the single horse cabs (Tonga), and continued to keep pace with the galloping horses until I breathed heavily; or, the cab driver forced me away with a lash or two from his tchah'anti, long whip, the Muse living inside me comes to life.
Getting a beat with long piece of leather fastened to the long stick was not that painful as it was being hit by the long thin willow stick it caused the skin turn bluish-green, a painful experience that deterred me for some days to run after the tongas.
These streets of ward-4 'often make me sing song like Longfellow about the 'beautiful town- that many for resonance of Persian hymns many would mistake as towns of Rumi and Hafiz:
The pleasant streets of that dear old town,
And my youth comes back to me.
And a verse of a Lapland song
Is haunting my memory still
'A boy's will is the wind's will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.' –
Two days back, no sooner, I entered gates of my alma mater Islamia College of Science and Commerce, perhaps after four decades all my 'boyish dreams' started dancing in ecstasy – the ecstasy of whirling dance of dervishes that took me on a voyage into the past- the beautiful past that is embedded somewhere in the hinterland of my mind. In the jumble of buildings – some beautiful and some not that beautiful, I felt as if I had landed in an alien land. The landscape, the ambiance, the culture; everything had changed. In this bizarre scenario, I started looking for my class rooms- 'the sniff of green and dry leaves', and roses and Chrysanthemum, for something that would connect me to my fabulous days in this college. Like a 'wandering boy caught up in rows of cedars in deep forests', I was lost in the labyrinth of buildings, I started searching for my most favourite place- the library in the ground floor contiguous to the Biology laboratory. On entering into the library, one would feel that the 'sorcerer of words and key keeper of language', T.S. Eliot and the Bard of Avon were peeping out of beautifully bound long rows of books in glass cabinets. Thanks, to great teachers of English language and literature of their times Prof. S. N. Thusu, Prof. S.L. Dhar and Prof. T.K. Garyalee, the college had a very good collection on T.S. Eliot and Shakespeare. These teachers along with host of other commerce teachers from U.P and Bihar like weaverbirds had collected every straw with great care to make this beautiful nest for fostering new generation of Kashmiris. Compared to other old colleges, this college had a small library but undoubtedly, it surpassed many other libraries for having the best collection.
It was for fear of Principal S.N. Thusu, who strolled in the college lawns to see if boys in their vacant periods were not wandering aimlessly and asked them to sit in the library that I first started sitting in the library, and then it became a habit and later on a passion. I made enquiries about this library; a friend guided me to a reconstructed building and said this is where once upon a time the library existed and it was a gunman who in a fit of rage burnt the building, the library and thousands of books- some rarest of rare. On hearing the stories about the burning of books – of great words tossed as ash in the air, of wisdom sent up in smoke I could only sob and bemoan. The only portion of the building left is wall of green stones, on which once upon a time college flag would be unfurled every morning- the wall looked to me to like a mausoleum with an epitaph- here books were burnt and wisdom cremated.
My friend guided to me to a new library building- what pleased me the most was that library has been named after Mirwaiz Rasool Shah Sahib, the founder of Anjuman Nusrat-ul-Islam and Islamia Higher Secondary… I have no idea about the collection of books in this library….