(Mr. Shyam Kaul, 76, was born in Safapur, near Lake Manasbal, in the Gandarbal District. He did his schooling in the local area (then part of Baramulla District) and his graduate studies from the Sri Pratap College and the Amar Singh College. He obtained double Master's degrees in Psychology and Philosophy from the University of Lucknow. Subsequently, he moved to Mumbai and obtained diplomas in Advertising and Journalism. His first job in 1950's was with the Jaico Publishing Company in Mumbai as an Editor. Following a brief stint at the Filmistan Studios as the Marketing Manger, he returned to Kashmir where he became associated with the All India Radio (AIR) and various media outlets before joining the National Herald where he stayed until his retirement in 2002. He is now a free lance journalist and his commentary appears regularly in various J&K dailies. In his leisure time, Shyamji enjoys writing poetry in Urdu and cooking.)
Dialogue with Difference
Come April and the friendly sun turns warm, hot, and then torrid, with all its fury. One is reminded of a rookie British officer, who had his first encounter with the tropical sun when he was posted in India during the raj days. He wrote back to his people at home, "The summer in India is never hot, it is hotter or hottest."
In this atmosphere of partings and farewells it was an enthralling experience to watch, what could be called the leave-taking evening of Kashmiri song and music, organised by the Cultural Academy at the Abhinav theatre, on the last date of March. It was exclusively a Kashmiri Chhakri presentation, by four leading singers of Kashmir, Abdul Rashid Hafiz, Gulzar Ganai, Manzoor Shah and Abdul Salam Qaimuh.
Salam Qaimuh has a powerful voice and he adds high pitch to it. A very expressive singer, he acts his numbers, and gains instant connectivity with his audience. He gets fully immersed in his song, which lends intense feeling to his performance. It is an asset for any artiste. At Abhinav theatre he knew the audience he was entertaining, almost wholly comprising of displaced Kashmiri Pandit men and women.
When Manzoor Shah came to the stage, it did not take long for one's eagerness, to listen to his once honey-sweet voice, getting belied. The tenderness, melody, modulation and refinement of his voice that would keep his listeners awake for whole nights, had become a thing of the past. What has gone wrong with you, Manzoor? You seem to have lost yourself somewhere. Come back and rediscover yourself and don't disappoint your admirers. Your are an asset for Kashmiri music, and we do not want you to sink into oblivion so soon.
Gulzar Ganai is a seasoned singer, popular among lovers of Kashmiri Chhakri, wherever Kashmiris are. He is an astute and artistic innovator, and can turn and twist old melodies, lending them new throb and swing. Additionally he is a methodical manager and an excellent PR man for himself, which makes him the most sought after singer, especially among the displaced Kashmiri Pandit community in different parts of the country.
One of the curses of our kind of politics is that it divides people, and worse still, most of our politicians thrive on it. We don't have to look far to substantiate these impressions, and convince ourselves how our politicians always look for opportunities to play upon religious, regional, caste, linguistic and other parochial sentiments, only for their own electoral gains. Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are the most typical instances of the mischiefs, machinations and manoeuvers of politicians to sharpen the divisions for exploiting the electorate.
Fortunately, however, not all people can be misled and exploited for all time. There are nature's bestowals in plenty on mankind that counterbalance the vile practices and evils of politics and politicians. Music is one such priceless bestowal. It knows no barriers whatsoever, nor practises any. Naushad was the most liked and respected music director for all Indians. When Michael Jackson sang and danced, he sent younger men and women the world over into ecstatic gyrations. Wherever Indian film music is liked in the world, Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammed Rafi are the craze. A.R. Rehman has captivated the fancy of music lovers, as much in the west as in his home country. Mehdi Hassan and Gulam Ali have more fans in India than in Pakistan. Ravi Shankar mesmerised people wherever he performed and Bismallah Khan's haunting Shehnai recitals continue to vibrate in the hearts and souls of people all over India and in other countries.
Music is the gift of God of humanity. It is one single whole entity, and thankfully, stands safe from the depredatory hand of man, and has not been degraded into an instrument for dividing mankind.
In its own small way, the audience of homeless Kashmiri Pandits at Abhinav hall, demonstrated that the glory of music is beyond any divisions and barricades. It was touching to see doddery, old men and women, being escorted and helped by their relatives to reach the venue to listen to and enjoy the Kashmiri melodies by singers from back home, their own Kasheer.
Ours are, what may be called, 'dialogue times'. We have a variety of dialogues, most of them inconclusive though, like internal, external, inter-party, inter-coalition, inter-regional, etc. The State Cultural Academy has also lately come up with the innovative idea of a dialogue, declaring 2010 as the Year of Cultural Dialogue. The logic behind the move is that it is within the functional ambit of Academy of Art, Culture & Languages, to work for strengthening human bonds of understanding and cordiality, by cutting across religious, regional, linguistic, social, ethnic and other differences.
The scope and sweep of Academy's functions, says the resourceful secretary of the institution, Zafar Iqbal Manhas, has no limits, because it is exclusively dedicated to finer human pursuits. The focus, he says, should be on reaching the utilitarian goal of building larger goodwill among the largest number of people. One simple way to do it is by innovating and formulating productions, presentations, performances and other programmes, that would create ample opportunities for people to meet and interact together freely. This would naturally lead to understanding and kinship, said Manhas.
What he says is positively worthwhile and should actually have been thought of and done much earlier. But any time is good time for doing good work, especially in a place like Jammu and Kashmir, whose soul has long been thirsting and crying out for goodness.