The English teacher who modernised Kashmiri poetry

According to Khayal, Firaq’s greatest contribution to Kashmiri literature has been his Kashmiri translations of the works of Oscar Wilde, Shelly, Marlowe and others.
The English teacher who modernised Kashmiri poetry

Recently, during a function to mark the first death anniversary of eminent poet, writer and an educationist, Professor Ghulam Nabi Firaq, when another stalwart and his friend Ghulam Nabi Khaayal was asked to sum up his personality, he uttered the famous Urdu couplet penned down by a legend of the same name, Firaq Gorakhpuri.

Aane vali nasle tum par naaz karengi ae logo

Jab tum unse itna kahogi hum ne firaq ko dekha hai

(Oh people, future generations will feel proud of you

When you will tell them that you had seen Firaq)

Khayal had the privilege of being a friend of Firaq for over fifty years. Together with Prof Rahman Rahi they were the products of famed Progressive Literary Movement of Kashmir that had swept the valley in the mid 20th century.

"We used to have weekly meetings at 3 pm wherein poets would recite their poetry and writers their stories and other creations. After that there would be discussion and literary criticism on it," said Khayal. "It was the job of Firaq to dutifully listen and write everything that happened in these meetings. He never faltered in his job. He would come first and leave last."

The weekly interactions honed his own literary skills and with the passage of time people realised his work. Of the Progressive Literary Movement currently only Khayal and Prof Rehman Rahi are alive. Apart from being poet and writer, Firaq had the privilege of being an academician, keen researcher, critic and cultural activist.

Firaq's personality always came with different facets. When he wrote poetry and prose, besides traditional ones he experimented an excelled in several poetic forms including blank verse, free verse, sonnets, quatrains, metric poems and lyrics. He knew the pulse of his readers and delivered the words close to their hearts. 

Mokh Pron Bar chaav Subahaai Subahaai

Oundh Pok Mushkyaav Subahaai Subahaai

(The pretty face visited me early, too early in the morning ..

The fragrance has spread, too early in the morning ).  

When Raj Begum sang this song written by Firaq it was an instant hit among masses. He was soon a sought after lyricist, and every known singer has sung his song and continue to do so. His poetic  collection  "Sada Ta Samander" won him the prestigious Sahitya Academy Award elevating him to a league of elite poets. 

Firaq, who was born in 1922 (some say it is 1927) in Fatehkadal, lost both his parents earlier in his childhood. It was his brother who took care of him. It was the time when Maharaja of that time was possessed with educating his people even at gun point. For this reason he had opened schools popularly known as Jabri Schools, where students would be forcibly brought and made to study. Firaq was admitted in one of these schools where he soon excelled. 

Firaq had the privilege of being associated with famed translator, critic and former principal of S P College, Prof Jia Lal Koul. It was Koul who recognised the talent of Firaq and offered him library post which the later accepted. Firaq worked as librarian in Anantnag Degree College and in SP College even as he continued his studies. After completing Masters in English from Kashmir University Firaq was appointed as Lecturer in English at SP College. All through the readings in library and during his Masters he explored the enormous world of western literature and he continued to study, analyse and compare them with Kashmiri literature.

According to Khayal, Firaq's greatest contribution to Kashmiri literature has been his Kashmiri translations of the works of Oscar Wilde, Shelly, Marlowe and others. "He introduced the world literature to common Kashmiris in an attempt to broaden their vision," said Khayal.

Vanhaai bi dilluk haal beparvaai vanaai kyaa

Jazbaat haran lafz Gatchhun Zaai Vanaai Kyaa 

Carefree! I could express feelings of my heart to you, but what should I say 

Feelings go waste, words may wither, what should I say

His translation of English Classic Doctor Faustus was recently released in Srinagar. Firaq has till date published 14 books and 18 of his books are still unpublished. His son Nasir Mansoor said that they are trying to get the books published so that people will be benefited.

Some of his books include Yim Sane Aalave (Collection of poems), Vyur: Kashmiri translation of poems of S.Nandan Path, Nav-Shar-e-Sombrun, Adbi-Istallah (A dictionary of Literary terms, published by University of Kashmir), Kath Insan-e-Sinz (Story of Man), 

Sada-Te-Samandar (Collection of poems) –Sahitya Akademi Award Winner, 

Rang Nazran Hind (Translation of famous poems of English, Urdu, Bengali & Persian), Wudav Fikri Hund: Literary Criticism, Parnai –Pate (Critical Literary Essays), Su Akh Sada Te- (Poems in Kashmiri) and others.

The poems of Firaq often had the element of loss and tragedy with them that made them appealing. Some of the experiences came from his own tragedies. In 1987 he lost his wife within six months as the doctors couldn't diagnose her disease properly. It was the incident that broke Firaq. The pain is evident in his unpublished book Dazwun Naar (A Long elegy he wrote on the death of his spouse).

During mid 90's his health started to fail him and he had to get a pacemaker. But he continued to write and in 2013 despite his ill health he released three books Kher-ul-Bashar, Ravan Teol, Kashir-e-Watchnuk Safar.

Firaq retired as Principal of SP College in 1977 but his work remained uninterrupted. Just before his retirement he along with some of his friends established Standard Public High School that later became a group of schools. During his career as a teacher he touched the lives of thousands of people both in Kashmir and in Jammu where he was posted for around three years. Some of his studying confiding that he never took money and instead refunded the same to their fathers with instruction that some good books be purchased with the money. His exercises to invigorate creativity in students by various activities were way ahead of his times.

Despite being well proficient in English Firaq preferred to write his poetry in his mother tongue. He had the fear that if there are no interventions made in Kashmiri language the society may lose the rich heritage. He evaluated the Kashmiri poetry of half a millennium and sought ways to propel it to the new heights by using its dynamic character and inclusive nature. He held a high regard for power of expression displayed by Kashmiri language and it was this character which he tried to exploit. From his vast knowledge of English, Urdu and Persian literature he chose and successfully accommodated the models of blank verse, free verse, sonnets, quatrains, metric poems and lyrics in Kashmiri language. It set the ball rolling and other poets continued and further refined the trend. His articles on various facets of Kashmiri poetry and old poets constitute a treasure trove for Kashmiri literature as his research qualitatively preserved it for posterity. These well written papers have become a  reference material for future scholars. 

Yettie Chheaenaa Saayil Khaalie Neraan

Aeish Pheiir Kenh Chhiyee Hargaa Lagaa-Naai

Petitioners do not leave this place empty handed ,

I do possess some tear drops ,

Take them should these be of any use to you..

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