I met Prof. Hamidi Kashmiri a year before he bid adieu to this mortal world, as we all must, sooner or later. The state of his health was indicative enough of the final phase of an illustrious life. He was stricken with Parkinsonism, a disease that affects posture, gait as well. Tremor is a marked feature of the neurogenic disorder. The speech stammers. In spite of the handicap, the learned scholar was trying his best to get across. Monosyllabic mostly, the speech deficit was adequately covered by his adoring wife—Misra Mariam. I was accompanied by my brother-in-law-Bashir Ahmad Siraj-a British Kashmiri,cousin of Misra Mariam. Amidst an outpouring of emotions, on seeing a relative after a long time, the professor was virtually scanning his career of many shades. In-between, he was relating to my work in Greater Kashmir. It was apparent; nothing escaped his keen eye, even with a neurological handicap. The spirit lived.
My mind strolled to decades back, the tryst with Urdu surfaced. It was a common trait of the generation, I belongto. Whatever the academic discipline we adhered to-scientific field or a social science, Urdu was a common love. 'Biswei'n Saddi' the Urdu literary magazine formed a part of must read. The magazine carried short stories, the Urdu literary genre 'Afsana' of known writers of the subcontinent. Prof. Hamidi Kashmiri had a privileged position in it. Through his Afsana, Hamidi endeared himself to an entire generation of Kashmiris. The romanticism of 'Afsana' is appealing. It has a flavour, which short stories in other languages could hardly match. While Urdu poetry is the most appreciated genre of the language 'Afsana' enriches it further. An additional feather was Kashmir in the backdrop of Hamidi's literary work. It added to the romance, besides earning for Kashmir, an added status in Urdu. Prof. Hamidi held his literary ground amongst a plethora of 'Afsana' writers of the subcontinent. He had a rich trail to follow.
Kashmir's tryst with Urdu is long and varied. The moving spirit of Urdu literature, Allama Iqbal had Kashmir ancestry. His deep attachment to the land of his ancestors is spread over his Urdu and Persian poetry. Iqbal's love for Kashmir did not remain restricted to literary work. As Kashmir's political uprising began in 1931, Iqbal related to it in many ways. Agha Hashr Kashmiri was an eminent Urdu poet, playwright and dramatist. He is remembered as Shakespeare of Urdu. Brij Narain Chakbast, proud of his Kashmiri roots was a poet of note. Rattan Nath Sarshar enlivens the place of Nawabs and courtesans of Lucknow in captivating prose. Sarshar, yet again was a Kashmiri with a marked contribution to Urdu literature. All these exponents of Urdu, masters in their own right, added lustre to the language in later part of 19th and early decades of 20th century. Besides the sons of soil, there were other masters of the language, who related to Kashmir intensely. Here we relate to, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Hafiz Jalandhari and Mohammad Din Taseer. This was thus the grounding that nurtured the language in Kashmir. In the latter half of the 20th century, for a sensitive soul like Hamidi Kashmiri to relate to the rich past of Urdu in Kashmir was natural.
Urdu in spite of being the official language of JK state has got a step-motherly treatment from official quarters. In its phase of despair, masters like Prof. Hamidi Kashmiri did not let the soul of the language lurch. They enlivened it.Besides Prof Hamidi, we may count Noor Shah, another exponent of 'Afsana' and Wahshi Syed. Prof. Hamidi besides his work as exponent of fine art was a teacher of repute. He nurtured number of students in post-graduate studies, besides guiding scholars in doctoral studies. He was more than a teacher, his students recount. His work in the language provided the inspiration. In time, he was elevated to highest office in academia: Vice-chancellorship of Kashmir University. The administrative overburden though taxed his literary exposition. Prof. Hamidi besides his work in Urdu related to other languages, such as English, integral to our educational set-up, global lingua franca. However, Urdu remained his lasting love; it earned him loads of laurels. With the passage of time, he glowed in it, the radiance reflecting in other literary fields related to language.
Hamidi Kashmiri proved his linguistic skills in poetic artas well, leaving a rich collection. An added value to his linguistic repository remains his role as literary critic.There are works related to literary criticism. His sojourn with varied genres of Urdu had him author as many as 35 books. As he took us on a round of his library, the day we visited him, I was struck by his varied literary taste. It was by any account a dream collection. There was yet another striking note. Prof. Hamidi Kashmiri and Misra Mariam were by any measure made for each other couple. Perfect harmony ruled the abode, they lived in. They related to each other to an extent, where the two physical frames became a single soul. Prof. Hamidi could hardly have asked for a better literary critic for his works than Misra Mariam. Her published work 'Hamidi Kashmiri: Hayat Aur Shairey' carries an assessment of Hamidi's life and his poetry.
Our visit to Hamidi abode ended, with a stroll through lawns. He showed us the land marked for the graves of the adorable couple. In one of those graves, he rests, having admirably filled the role, he was designed to.
Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]