By: Fida Firdous
Shahbaz, a philosophical poet and writer is certainly above any description and needs no introduction as his contributions and charisma have already carved a niche for him in the literary circles forever. It is certainly a thing of shame to know that the state government’s cultural institutions as well as other culture organizations forget to remember even those whose contribution have deeply influenced our culture and languages and beatified the civilization with immense treasure of knowledge that they leave behind for rest of the generations to come.
As I decided to write about this great personality and my best teacher, my hands tremble while my memory of this man blossoms with the colors of those days spent with him as a student. Ali Mohammad Shahbaz, a teacher by profession who was the principal of senior Secondary School, Handwara and, as fate had it, I was supposed to seek admission here for my 11th class. As per the set of rules, I now reached the principal’s office and saw this gentleman for the first time.
A man of strict discipline and order, he had a kind heart for children and would take great interest in trying to figure out the best possible subjects for each of us. Having mastered in Urdu, Kashmiri and Persian Languages, he however preferred his mother tongue and wanted his students to appreciate the depth and discourse of this fabulous language that he spoke so magnificently. He was, surly a great teacher, a true friend and a perfect guide.
Born on May 01, 1939 at his ancestral residence at Shortgund Mawer (Langate), a village in District Kupwara he had his primary Education completed from Islama Model School, Kalamabad and matriculate degree from Senior Secondary Handwara. After this, he was appointed as a teacher and as usual spent time in many areas in the Valley during different postings in his carrier. But this did not deter him from pursuing his studies as he went on to complete his master’s degrees in Kashmri, Urdu and Persian.
His father, Gh Mohammad Quershi was a cleric, who died when Shahbaz was in teens. He was fostered by his uncle Gh Ahmad Quershi, a highly acclaimed preacher in the area. Shahbaz turned to poetry at a very tender age and by the admiration of his teacher and guide, Shahlal Bahar who influenced him tremendously. Bahar was the Vice President of Adbee Markaz Kamraz, Member cultural academy Srinagar and Sadhitiyah Academay, New Delhi.
Call Shahbaz a revolutionary poet, a satirist, a humanist, a philanthropist, a calligrapher and educationist, every sphere would find relevance and resemblance in him and his contributions reverberate in all fields of life. His literary work genuinely pictured and voiced the true agony of Kashmir.
Well known Kashmiri singers have sung most of Shahbaz’s Gazals and one famous among them, the one that has stayed on radio Kashmir almost every morning- “ Psch-i-Mateo Ninder Payeem Chaen Gazal Gewaan Gaween” and also “Thovath Khudiya Lalwoun Takdaar Maini Babath….”
His poetic art voiced the sufferings of Kashmiris due to the turmoil atmosphere. He was known for being bold, daring and a fearless person, voicing the plight of distressed people.
A conscious and sensitive poet, he kept on reflecting upon the turmoil and its effects on Kashmir society and would never spare those who would challenge peace in the valley. He was a radical poet in the sense that he did not stop writing when it could have put him in great trouble. His politically charged poems made his words resonate in very corner of Kashmiri culture. His Kashmiri poetry won laurels for presenting Kashmir as a political problem, political situation, the sufferings of people besides culture and beauty. It would be perhaps the best encouragement for those who had taken up peace and prosperity as a mission.
His three poetry collections include elegy poetry’ (Hussaini Marthiya) “Khooni Khoon” Natiya Poetry and a collection of Gazals “Cheani drei” are yet to be published.
“Katilan Inssaf mangow kiyah mangow
Kathsai path gardhan jukaawoo dostoo
Kabreepeeran buzdilan kyashai lakhun
Shahbazie kunsai hayoo dastoo”
As a sensitive poet, his heart was pained to see the bloodshed and miseries inflicted upon the masses here and all he could do was to write about it in the most perfect satirist manner. He commented upon every type of political upheaval and speared none. Fortunately his legacy seems to have passed to his son, Nazir Ahmad Quershi and grandson Amir Nazir who are also conscious writers.
On 4 July 1996 at the young age of 57 he was martyred; this was like an earthquake in the north Kashmir for the intellectual class and certainly a setback to our language and to the finest trends of poetry that we had. Our government as well as the cultural organizations tends to forget people like him and keep our future generation unaware of the jewels like this great man!