Farooq Nazki’s death brings to an end an era of Kashmiri literature

Story by  Ahmed Ali Fayyaz | Posted by  Aasha Khosa | Date 07-02-2024
Mir Mohammad Farooq Nazki
Mir Mohammad Farooq Nazki


Ahmed Ali Fayyaz/Jammu

The death of the veteran Kashmiri poet and broadcaster Mir Mohammad Farooq Nazki at 83 in Jammu on February 6 ended a glorious period of literature in the Kashmir Valley.

With his passing away Kashmir’s literary scene is poorer as many literary giants of the Kashmiri language left the world in quick succession in the last seven years.

After Nazki, Shahid Budgami and Prem Nath Shad – the latter has been living in a refugee settlement in Jammu after leaving Kashmir due to terrorism three decades ago – are the only two eyewitnesses to the traditions, trends, and transition of the literature and culture in the valley in the last 80 years.

Farooq Nazki’s uncle, Prof. Rashid Nazki, a poet, author of several books, and the first Ph.D. in the Kashmiri language and literature, died in January 2016. In his last years, he lived through grief and physical disability after losing his wife and two sons in a blast caused by a grenade thrown at his house in Bandipora by terrorists in 1992.

Ghulam Nabi Gauhar passed away in 2018, Prof. Margoob Banihali in April 2021, Muzaffar Aazim in July 2022, Prof. Rehman Rahi in January 2023 and Ghulam Nabi Khayal in October 2023. All of them were octogenarians, Sahitya Academy award winners, and outstanding poets in Kashmiri.

Gauhar, a retired judge, was also an eminent novelist. Prof. Rahi, arguably the numero uno of Kashmiri poetry after the legendary Ghulam Ahmad Mehjoor, had the distinction of being the only Jnanpith award winner in Jammu and Kashmir.

Sometime after the assassination of the then Director Doordarshan Kendra Srinagar Lassa Kaul in February 1990, Farooq Nazki chose to head the most disturbed Kendra of the national broadcaster. He also served as Director of the Srinagar station of All India Radio.

Farooq Nazki came from a family of scholars, writers, and litterateurs. After his father and uncle, he was the third Sahitya Award winner of the family.

While his brother Bilal Nazki is a retired Chief Justice of the High Court, his son-in-law Haseeb Drabu served as Chairman of Jammu and Kashmir Bank and later as a Minister in Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Mehbooba Mufti’s government.

Before his retirement as Deputy Director General of Doordarshan in 2000, Farooq Nazki also served as a Press Secretary and Media Advisor of Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah twice and as a Media Consultant to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.

Born at Madar Bandipora on 16 February 1940, Nazki started writing poetry in 1967. After a brief tryst with vernacular journalism, he joined All India Radio. He was among the first Indian broadcasters to travel to Europe and was trained in television media and programming in the U.K. and Germany.

In association with Shia cleric-politician Maulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari in 1971, Nazki claimed to have discovered a relic of Hazrat Imam Hussain from a repository of the saint Amanullah Bukhari at Kreeri in Baramulla which was later placed at Imambara Zadibal in Srinagar.

In the formative years of DDK Srinagar, Nazki created popular television serials like Begam Salal and Totma while conceiving, producing, and directing a large number of literary and non-literary programmes for over three decades.

In Radio, Nazki was associated with Pushkar Bhan’s iconic family feature Zoona Dab, a radio programme that ran for 19 years. Nazki played the character of ‘Ramba’ in it.

Most of the private producers, documentary filmmakers, playwrights, actors, and singers in Kashmir post-1980 are Nazki’s creations. Sailing against the wind, when many of Kashmir’s youths were joining militancy and separatism, Nazki kept a big chunk of the Kashmir population connected with the mainstream with programming and related roles at DDK Srinagar.

In addition to several collections of his original poetry in Urdu and Kashmiri, Nazki translated popular Urdu ghazals including Hasrat Mohani’s  chupke chupke raat din.. sung by Ghulam Ali into Kashmiri. After Mehjoor, he was the only litterateur to translate Ghazals into the Kashmiri language.

Yaad chham khaswin jawani taza yawun yaad chum” is one of the most popular lyrics.

While his father excelled in devotional poetry, Nazki wrote romantic poetry with a poignant touch. “Mein apne lakhte jigar se apni nazar milane se kampta hoon” (I’m scared of crossing eyes with my offspring) is a ubiquitous suffering in a section of his verses. Yearning for darkness, despondency, and disappointment dominate his collections.

He also wrote about hope and optimism as in: Chhu Naavi Waaviy Nivaan Bathis Kun (Only the storm cruises the boat to the bank).

Nazki was honoured with the Sahitya Akademi for his collection of Kashmiri poems Naar Hyutun Kazalwanas. One of his poems in this collection Naad Laayey speaks of the spring and the hope it brings to a place like Kashmir in the midst of mayhem.

He would say that his poetry is not of ideas or bare truth but an intimate response to the events around him.

He wrote heart-wrenching accounts of the exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits and optimism that he harboured for his motherland.

One of Nazki’s fondest childhood memories was meeting Jigar Moradabadi when he was a young man in college. As the young Nazki entered the room where his father was entertaining the celebrated Urdu poet, he was asked if he knew who the man was. As he identified the guest, everybody around was surprised.

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While Nazki grew into a top-notch poet in Kashmiri with a large number of poems in Naar Hyutun Kazal Wanas and Mahjabeen, his Urdu collections Lafz Lafz Nowha and Aakhri Khwab Se Pehle received equally rich applause through ‘Rekhta’ and other platforms.