IN CONVERSATION WITH Dr. AZIZ HAJINI
Dr. Aziz Hajini, was born in 1957 in Hajin, some 33 Kilometers from the capital city of Srinagar. He was a cherished child for he was born after six daughters. Despite all odds his parents tried their best to nourish and fulfill his wishes in every possible way. He didn’t belong to a wealthy family but was like any other peasant family of the vicinity who would work in fields, day in day out, to make a living.
He did his preliminary schooling in a Government Primary School of the locality and completed secondary studies from High School Hajin. For further studies he joined GDC Bemina where he completed his graduation. He did honors in Kashmiri Language from Kashmir University and was the first person to get 1st class 1st division. He is the first Gold Medalist from Kashmir University for qualifying this examination in 1st class 1st division. After getting a job he qualified NET and is the only person in that category who has qualified this examination. In 2007 he completed his Ph.D from Kashmir University. In 2015 he was appointed as Secretary J&K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages and retired from academy services on 31 March 2019.
Here is the excerpt of my conversation with Dr. Aziz Hajini.
- How the journey towards poetic realm began? How did you discover the genius of your poetic being?
Hmm, it’s a beautiful story and would love to share with you. I was in Class 10th when our English teacher made us note down an essay on‘Spring in Kashmir’ and directed to memorize it on the tip of tongue.I still remember a sentence of it ‘during spring season birds sing and brooks dance’. After school I reached home and rewrote it tidily on my notebook so as tolearn by heart. I had just completed the essay when my father asked me to check if our paddy field had enough water or needed to be refilled. Fields were just at a distance of half kmr from my house. There was analluringwatercoursegushing besides our field utilized for irrigation purposes also and on its bank was abeautiful green leafy tree. After I drew the water course towards the paddy field, I sat under the shade of that tree for a while and started to recount the essay. When I reached to the line ‘during spring season birds sing and brooks dance’ it struck my mind, it felt like these lines have come to life. I could sense the life in these words. It seemed like the birds were actually singing over my head on the boughs of tree and the water of stream was jumping and dancing and fondling in utter delight. After this incident I composed my first Ghazal. It was a coincidence but proved to be my first experience with creativity. I have also mentioned it in my recently released book ‘Me and my animal’.
If my family had no connection with literary field but the society in which I lived was brimmed with great scholars, writers, poets and critics like Prof Mohi-ud-Din Hajini, Mohammad AhsanAhsan etc. They had started an association founded in the same year when I was born. At that time they had a beautiful office, even they still have. Every evening they used to assemble in the office. Prof Mohi-ud-Din Hajini would attend himself daily with new poets and writers of the locality. These meetings were of utmost eminence and a great deal of literature would pass in the discussions which could fecundate even the barren lands. It was my first schooling towards literary world. To sit and watch stalwarts like Prof Mohi-ud-Din Hajini speaking was in itself a great honor. When he used to speak even chief ministers of the time would keep calm and that was the essence of his majestic persona.
- How was the excitement when you first poem got published?
Actually in initial stages my poetry got broadcasted on radio and after some time TV was introduced in the valley. With the advent of TV in the valley Doordarshan had started to shoot some programmes. Someone told me about it and I went. It was absolutely a new experience, there was a set and camera and lights, we were thunderstruck to see this latest face of technological world. They had started some kind of programmes in connection with youth so I too read a poem. I remember FayazShahriar who is presently Director General Radio also participated. After shooting they told us that it will be telecasted at 8 pm on TV in next week. We had not seen TV till date so it was impossible to watch this programme.
I had a Murshid at that time whom I used to visit frequently. So next week I decided to see him. With my arrival I came to know that the village Panchayat had been given a TV set and they showed programmes every evening and fortunately my programme was scheduled to be telecasted on the same evening. There were two excitements together, first I was about to see TV set for the first time and second I was going to watch myself first time on the screen. And it was a coincidence when I reached, our programme started. I had few cousins with me when they saw the programme they recognized me, few more people present in the gathering also got an eye on me. They were amazed to see that a casual person can also be on TV screen. I was treated like a celebrity.
First time I got published in Srinagar Times. They had given a prompt ‘Rum GayemSheshes’ of MirzaGhulam Hassan BeigArif on which poets were asked to write, I was studying in college during those days and I too sent a poem written on the given line. In next issue not entire poems but selected couplets of all winners were published and I had got a place in that. Those were greatly exciting moments to wait for the paper and get published. Srinagar Times had a huge readership then. So it was an honor to get a place in that paper. Then caravan kept going and my many works continued to get published in many reputed newspapers and magazines.
- Our literature is thoroughly sated with Sufi poetry. How do you see the contribution of Kashmiri Sufi poets towards Kashmiri literature?
Yes, undoubtedly, Sufi poetry is the most important chapter in Kashmiri literature. I would say a golden chapter. Our Sufi poets have no comparison. As a student of literature I think Kashir Sufi poetry is heart and soul of Kashmiri literature. Our literature has got its origin from mystic poetess LalDed followed by ocean of all time greatest poets like Sheikh-ul-Alam, Shams Faqir, SochKral, WahabKhar, WaziMehmood, NiamaSeab and our 20th century contemporary poets like Abdul AhadZargar and Samad Mir were of highest quality. I still get goosebumps whenever I get to read their verses. Unfortunately they were never felicitated with awards even they didn’t care about it but from my opinion with due respect, before RehmanRahiJnanpith Award should have been given to Abdul AhadZargar or Samad Mir.
- Which is your most loved poem that you cherish by heart?
Ahhha, it’s a difficult question because a poet, whatever he writes, he loves it. But yes on the other hand sometimes some verses do touch the depths of heart. There is a poem which is very close to my heart and later became the title of my book.
SaariyBasti Nye SahlabanTotiTchiKehtaamBachnichBranth
Flood with it took the whole township but hope of survival still does exit
Some bizarre people are bawling, ‘our land is snaffled by the neighbors’
There are some Ghazals which received fame and appreciation from every niche of the valley through print as well as electronic media. One of them is:
WuchhloalKisSafaras Ander KyaKyaMyaSaarunPyoom
See, in the journey of love, what I had to endure!
Had to broil my heart on griddle in the scorching fire
Ma Rosh Jigar Gosh MyaMa Rosh, Mya Ma Rosh
Don’t be angry with me my heart, don’t be resented
For you I had to cross the fiery flaring ocean
KaitaamKaryoomKrooth Safar Zyoth Safar Tai
Somehow I cut across this agonizing long journey
At close quarters I had to run away, far away
BihaTchus Aziz Hajini Bay YaaroMadadgaar
Forlorn without any friends, I Aziz Hajini am
All the time, for my own address, I had to ask strangers
- You have been connected with Radio Kashmir Srinagar and DDK Srinagar for years. Some important works that you did and would like to share with us?
Yes, I remember once I jotted down a Ghazal and went to my teacher MohammadAhsanAhsan for proofreading and he did some important corrections as was expected. Radio Kashmir Srinagar had started YuvaVani Service and I heard from somewhere that they broadcast the poetry of young poets. Next day I went there with my Ghazal to read it out but wasn’t permitted to enter the gates for couple of days, later when I was allowed I approached the producer who rejected it at the very first instance and suggestedto write something else. These rejections didn’t fetch an end but instead helped me to toilharder and write better.
In coming years I had a great time in Radio Kashmir Srinagar and Doordarshan. I was a newsreader for a long time in Radio. I worked as newsreader cum translator in DDK Srinagar. I have anchored many programmes for Radio as well as for DDK. I did a series with DDK Srinagar to teach Kashmiri language, it was a very popular show and many people learned to write Kashmiri script. First it was started by RehmanRahi, then BashirBashar but mine was the longest season which continued for five years. I have directed many serials for TV and also have made a series on our leading writers like RehmanRahi, GhulamNabiKhayal, MohammadZamanAazurda, MohammadYousufTeing, Prof. Mohi-ud-Din Hajini, MotiLalSaqi, Hakeem Manzoor, SofiGhulamMohammad, Shameem Ahmad Shameem, RatanLalShant, HariKrishanKoul and many others. I wrote a serial for TV ‘VitastaKiSair’, it was a docu-drama series of 10 episodes which was later published in a book (Urdu).
- With each passing day, we create memories, some beautiful, some painful but life goes on and show must go on. In this long and cherishing career there must be many memories, some bitter, some delicious. We would love to hear some important moments that turned out not to be incidents but steps to the ladder too?
Yes, absolutely there have been so many moments and memories which I cherish and are very close to my heart. First of all let me tell you that I wasn’t a brilliant student but fortuitously had some great teachers whom I would never forget like Mohammad AhsanAhsan, ManzoorHashmi (he was great writer and teacher) and Ghulam Hassan Taskeen (who used to teach me at home also).
I was in 10th standard when our school organized a function in which a drama segment was included. There was another teacher M.K. Raina who insisted me to act in this stage drama and play the role of Mahjoor (Shair e Kashmir). I was a very shy boy who would not even talk to his colleagues. I was a pretty much reserved lad but he somehow managed to motivate me and I played the role of Mahjoor. Then we didn’t have halls and auditorium but the whole show was performed in open air. I remember it vividly there might have been almost ten thousand people watching our play. The show was a hit and people started to recognize me. It was first break of my life. Some people used to call me Mahjoor, even today after decades have passed some people still call me by this name.
Another incident which I remember, I was a student of Govt. Degree College Bemina which was then called as GhamiCollege (college of villagers) because it was a newly established college and most of the students admitted were from villages. This college gave me a big break; I would say recognition to some extent. Every year college used to have an election for Secretary of students and some of the students proposed my name. There was another student Nazir Be Nazir, a local boy from Downtown Srinagar. His name was also proposed, he was very influential student so obviously had good fan following. I don’t know how but students got divided into two groups and voting turned out on the basis of village and city. As I said college had most of its students from villages so they voted for the boy from village and I was announced as winner. A boy from a small village was appointed as secretary in city, it was an amazing feeling. I was allowed to sit in a chair next to Principal of the college which boosted my confidence level.
In those days AdbiMarkazKamraz used to set essay writing competitions and students from different schools and colleges were allowed to participate. I also participated in one of the competitions and was awarded 1st position. I still remember the title of topic ‘KashiriZubanPethWoperZubaniHuendAsar’ (influence of alien languages on Kashmiri language). After some time AdbiMarkazKamraz held a conference at Watlab where stalwarts like GhulamRasoolSantosh, Prof Saifud Din Soz, AbdulGaniBhat, Prof Mohi-ud-Din Hajini were present. I was facilitated with an award and was also asked to read the same essay which had earned me 1st prize. When I read it in-frontof these legends I received many praises and appreciations. Next day Srinagar Times published an article written by MotiLalSaqi wherein he had mentioned that I would be a big name in coming days in the field of literature (later I came to know that he was the examiner of previous competition). It was like a dream coming true to receivecompliments from sucha great personality of the time.
- You have been transferred to many departments time to time during your government services. What was your contribution towards Kashmiri education system?
Yes I did a lot of jobs. In the beginning I was appointed as teacher and got posted in Ladakh. There was no communication then, no phones, no internet. When I came back home after a gap of three months I was disturbed to see the condition of my mother which I could not endure so I resigned from the job. Just after a few days I got an order from National High School (private) it had a big name then and was a renowned school. They had interviewed me few months back. I joined and performed my duties I think for a period of 03 months then got appointed in Govt. Education Department as Teacher. As a teacher I performed my duties with full dedication and passion. Then I applied in Public Services Commission and got appointed as Lecturer.
I was moved to State Education Departmentas research officer. In those days Kashmiri language was reintroduced in school system which was previously thrown out of syllabus. I played an important role in that and I am very thankful to the system that believed and helped me especially our Director Mohammad Rafi (he was DC Budgam also). We became very good friends afterand have maintained a very good relationship till this date. Kashmiri language was effectively reintroduced in the system during my tenure.
I wasthen transferred to Board of School Education and was appointed as Deputy Director Academics. Under my supervision school education compiled Kashmiri books for classes 1st to 12th in which many people lent a helping hand, some friends from university and some from school education especially GhulamNabiAatash who played an important role. We revised a series of Urdu books too, changed the whole Gulistan Urdu into Bahar e Gulistan for classes 1st to 12th.
Other than government jobs which I performed time to time with zeal and zest I remained vibrantly active, connected and devoted to literary movement. I did a lot works for AdbiMarkazKamraz and would cherish that throughout my life. I was thrice elected as President. After my resignation Late ShujaatBukhari was appointed as president. Today I am just a member of that organization but am full connected and attached.
- Being convener of Sahitya Academy and Secretary of Cultural Academy of Art, Culture and Languages, what have been your contributions towards Kashmiri Literature?
Cultural academy’s publication programme was almost defunctwhen I joined as Secretary. During my tenure academy did its most publications. No doubt at the time of Mohammad YousufTeing many books were published too but he was secretary for 19 years I was just for almost 4 years and in those years I worked hard to get better and better results and if we go by average then during my period cultural academy has published most books.
I have been associated with Sahitya Academy New Delhi for a long time now. First I was member of advisory board when MashalSultanpuri was convener; Mohammad YousufTeing and GhulamNabiGowharhave also served as conveners. I got appointed as convener after Mohammad ZamanAazurda. During my tenure in Sahitya Academy Kashmiri language reached to the top spot in publications. We published so many books and also conducted a great deal of programmes. After my first turn of 5 years, Mohammad ZamanAazurda was appointed and after his 5 years I was again elected last year for next 5 years. In addition to Kashmiri language I am convener of Northern Indian Languages which includes Urdu, Hindi, English, Sanskrit,Rajasthani, Punjabi, Dogri and Kashmiri language. I am an only Kashmiri who is member of Sahitya Academy Finance Committee which has only four members.
- You have written many books and have been facilitated with many awards. Would you like share few details with us?
I have authored 16 books till date and have won two Sahitya Academy Awards. In 2015 my book AainiKhani (A collection of critical write ups in Kashmiri) won best book award which is Sahitya Academy’s most prestigious award. The book has been translated into three languages viz. English, Urdu and Hindi and now being translated into Punjabi and Tamil. The book has been published in three editions.
I have translated an Urdu Novel by Dr AbdusSamad ‘Do GazZameen’, it earned me Sahitya Academy Translation Award in 2013. Last year my two books got published, ‘AesTchiPuranHamsayen Tal’ (collection of poems) and translation of my poems ‘Me and my animal’. For years I have worked on Naat e Shareef (exalted poetry). My first Naat Anthology starting from Sheikh ulAlam was published by Sahitya Academy, it is also published in two editions. My other book ‘Ham KaalKashirShayari’ anthology of contemporary Kashmiri poets has been translated into three languages. In English it has been translated by ShafiShauq and in Urdu four renowned writers RukhsanaJabeen, Sultan ulHaqShaheedi, Late Prof SyedRaza and ShameemRezvi did the translation. Hindi translation has been done by GauriShankerRaina and will be published soon.