By Saima Bhat
Zareef Ahmad Zareef was born on April 17, 1943 in Aali Kadal, belongs to a middle class family in the Old city of Srinagar. He resides at Baadisha-i- Darwaza, near Makhdhoom Sahib Shrine. His father, Ghulam Mohi-ud-din Shah, owned an embroidery shop at Pathar Masjid and his mother, Mokhta Begum was a simple home maker.
Zareef says he was dearer to his father and owes the credit of being a satirical poet to him only. He believes that this craft of satire is a hereditary gift from his father.
The artisan workshop of his father has played a highly significant role in the making of Zareef. The satirical poet says, “It was a hub of highly accomplished Hakeems, Sufis, poets, traders, merchants, foreigners, locals and even saints,” he adds, “I had the pleasure of being among them, to grow in an environment full of wisdom and different ideas; introspects, philosophy”.
He holds Sufi saint Khawaja Habibullah Khatar in great esteem and visits his mausoleum regularly to pay obeisance.
Zareef received his education from Islamia High School, Rajori Kadal. Being an enthusiast since his early days, he was a regular face in seminars, symposiums, debates and annual functions throughout his formative years. Receiving guidance from his teachers and noted writers Rehman Rahi and Satar Ahmed Shahid, eventually he found himself uttering the lines expressing personal feelings and thoughts on the stage.
He was appreciated for his talent since his school. “My talent was identified and encouraged by my teachers which encouraged me to become a poet later”.
Apart from his school teachers being an inspiration, an unknown poet played an important role in his career. “It was Ghulam Ahmed Mir Abid, who showed me how to use imaginative powers and fine tune in my writing aptitude, while Hakeem Manzoor an eminent Urdu writer introduced me to great beauty of verse, the profoundness of literature,” he says.
He is critical of most of the Kashmiri writers, who he feels are not presenting the true picture of an ordinary Kashmiri. Zareef strongly believes writers should aim for a broader, more flexible, fuller, more coherent, more comprehensive account of what we Kashmiris are and who we are, for a writer does have his duties towards the nation.
On the ongoing people’s movement he feels there is a dire need of indigenous poets, lyricists to equip the youth with subtle and meaningful slogans instead of provocative ones. Zareef says;
“Aazadi ka matlab kya…Kashmir chodke zalim ja…Hum kya chahte haq insaaf…Baichara, nafrat off…Mehman aaye mahool saaf…Jeeve jeee bharat pak…humse karle freedom talk”——-“UN walo samne aawo…apne wade baja lawo…Bharat walo ab tum jao…apne wadu ko aamlao”——-“Zalim katilo aathe rath path…baraw chu diwan masoom rathh…Par zoul poumper shamhas path”——-“Bharat tumse jagda kya…kashmir chodke wapes ja…Kashrao haq aaz kar aada…zulmas jagdas de ragda”
He started penning down his thoughts when he was in school. He wrote his first verse in class 6. The poet was always influenced by the circumstances he was in. First phrase written by him was:
“Parun gase kaadein tarun,
Nat gai lagai karein naas
Nabre saasa thailas barun
Sou gov pazpaith nairun pass”
Steadily, he started recognizing his passion for writing and became a writer.
After completing his matriculation Zareef was appointed as scriptwriter in the Department of Information and later he completed his Bachelor of Arts (Honors) in Urdu from Aligarh Muslim University.
While serving in the cultural unit of Department of Information he remained active in organising public shows, dramas, Mushairas and features on an unparalleled scale in various parts of the state. His writings were instrumental in evoking greater response from public which helped the department in achieving various goals. He retired from the department as cultural officer and after retirement he engaged himself as a Chairman of Ahad Zargar Memorial Research Foundation, as an advisor for various committees and as a social worker, working for the issues like environment and society.
Kashmiri being the medium of his poetry, his style of writing remained mainly apprehensive and humorous which greatly attracted the masses. Thrust of his poetry has been to portray the social evils and exterminate them by arousing public consciousness. Imbalances in the society, plight of the weaker sections and environmental filth have remained the main themes of his writings without involving politics and slogan mongering but still he once landed in a jail for three days during the regime of Mohammad Sadiq’s government, who thought Zareef has targeted him in one of his couplets that was written on the cover of his books, Ezhaar-e-Haq.
“Be chus koshur te kar zah zoen kasher
Panun aasun ganzrumut chaun kasher
Dohai phermich cha panne nab-e-kaare
Achan thop deith nakhas loud koen kasher”
In the view of the great contribution to the social cause and exemplary contribution for serving the environment, Zareef was selected and honoured as Man of the year in 1999 by the board of International Research of the American Biographical Institute. In the annotation, Zareef was declared as the best worker in the field of environmental protection and social and literary life. He was also awarded with Ahad Zargar Award by Ahad Zargar Memorial Research Foundation in 2009 for his precious research pertaining less known poets of Kashmir.
Till now Zareef has compiled his 27 essays in a book, ‘Khaber Togme wanun’ which is in curriculum of Kashmir University. And now he is planning to compile seven books more like a brief introduction about Sufi poets and their some selected poems, Natyaa Sombran (Hamud, Naat, Munajaat, Mankabat), Tehkeeke (Dastekaar), Kasheer heinz saazo aawaz, Choklad Ruh, Humorous poems and Taran Gare (criticism, it was published in yearly periodical of a vernacular newspaper and it is in continuous form where he keeps on adding couplets). He is also working on his another book that is based on spirituality. For this spirituality he gives credit to a saint, Khawaja Mohi-ud-din-e-Nakeeb, who once came to their home and asked for food but to everybody’s surprise he offered that food to little boy Zareef and since then he felt some sort of unease or restlessness and dedicates this part of his poetry to that saint. His first prose about spirituality was
“bekaare keech cham,
Mainis kararas preechze hai
Kous forum lokchare yath
Mosum amaras prechzehai”
Zareef Ahmad has touched every part of Kashmir in his poetry except politics. He always writes about his motherland Kashmir, which he feels has given him the authority to write so that the younger generations come to know what we were and what we are. During the unrest when young blood was on streets he wrote,
“bandook traweth kaen tujim
Pane wouwum yous soye lagim
Saath peere path gai changere
Taran gare taran gare”
He is critical of most of the Kashmiri writers, who he feels does not give clear picture of an ordinary Kashmiri. Zareef strongly believes writers should aim for a broader, more flexible, fuller, more coherent, more comprehensive account of what we Kashmiris are and who we are, for a writer does have his duties towards the nation.
For Kashmir’s struggle for Independence, he strongly believes “Kashmir’s two more generations can take it to new heights where world will listen to what we say and what we need. Those generations will be highly educated and they will be real intellectuals and not like one’s…
“daanishte milwaan zabu kalam,
pathar daide tal daerith halam
aamas te khaamas shruke paree
taran gare taran gare’”
Photo: (From T to B) Facebook, Saima Bhat