Dr. Kamal Ahmed Siddiqui (1926-2013) | Urdu Poet, Scholar & Broadcaster

1926 - 2013
1926 – 2013

Time is the greatest conspirator that is why despite our efforts, things happen when the ‘Right Time’ comes. After initiating the process of meeting a noted Urdu poet, a scholar, and a broadcaster Late Dr. Kamal Ahmed Siddiqui some time during the fag end of 2012. I along with my colleague finally met him at his New-Delhi residence on 9th March 2013. The meeting was to talk to him about Kashmir of his times for www.thecherrytree.in. The portal was yet to be launched. After several avoidable hiccups, we were able to retrieve the recordings of our conversation with him.

Excerpts from an interaction with Rajesh Prothi & Souzeina Mushtaq.

At Radio Kashmir Srinagar
At that time at Radio, we had a very interesting kind of complaints. One such complaint which was logged against me was that Kamal is a communalist. The reason given was that I had booked a Kashmir Muslim for a radio talk on the Kashmiri Pandit festival. Just a few days later for a Muslim festival, I booked a Pandit for a talk. However, the discussion on this topic went on for a while.

Toward Urdu Literature
There was a very strong influence of Urdu literature within my family one of my uncles was a poet who along with Siraj Lucknowvi initiated me into poetry. The decade of 1940-50 was the era of progressive writers with which I am associated.  I had the privilege of sharing those years in the company of Majaz, Mira Ji, Ale Ahamad Suroor, Ehtisham Hussian, Akhturul Iman, and Showakt Siddiqi who later moved to Pakistan to edit the daily Dawn. The scientific discoveries of the Sixties and Seventies had a profound on my mindscape which I have tried to weave into Urdu poetry.

On his Authored books
I have been able to compile my thoughts through a few books over the last six decades.

Badban Nazams (1946), Jawahrat -Essay on Nehru (1964), Kohsar Gate Hain – a collection of poems (1968), Intekab by Anjuman Tarraqi Hind Collection of Poems (1969),  Beyaz Ghalib Taheeqi Jayaza – Research of Ghaib Manuscript (1971), Urooz aur Ahang – Text Book on Urdu Parasody (1989), Urooz Marooz  NCPUlL- Text Book on Urdu Parasody(1989), Urdu as Language of Radio /TV  NCPUL  (2003), Kashmir Ek Manzarnama (Penguin)-Political study of Kashmir from1948 to 1980, Ghalib Ki Shanakhat-Ghalib Institue (1997), Muqadma Zabban Urdu Case for Urdu (2011).

Books on Kashmir
However, when we talk about my work on Kashmir or on those connected with Kashmir. I have done three books “Jawaharat” “Kohsar Gaate Hain” and “Kashmir ek Manzarnama by Penguin India.

I recall that when Pandit Nehru passed away, I got in touch with all the prominent personalities of the Jammu & Kashmir State. The list included Dr. Karan Singh, Chief Minister Ghulam Mohammed Sadiq, and other Ministers and politicians of that time. I recorded them and then translated their quotes and converted the whole effort into a book. The title of the book was “Jawaharat”.

“Kohsar Gate Hain” is a collection of poems on Kashmir

“Kashmir Ek Manzarnama” was a reaction to Sheikh Abdullah’s “Aatish-e-Chinar” covering four decades of Kashmir politics.

Professor Mehmooda Shah was the Principal of Government College for Women, Moulana Azad Road, Srinagar–a copy of the book  “Jawharat” was sent to her also. Mrs. Indra Gandhi was visiting Kashmir, Professor Mehmooda told my daughter who was in the same College to present one copy to her. When this book was presented to her, Mrs. Gandhi asked my daughter what it this. Seema, my daughter told her that “my father has written a book on your father”. She felt very pleased. At that time she was minister of Information& Broadcasting. She also came to know that I had worked with Feroz Gandhi during my days at National Herald and Quomi Awaz.

On writing for Radio Kashmir Srinagar
My forte has been the spoken language. In all my talks I used to keep the audience of Radio Kashmir in mind. I became an important part of one of the most popular program “Wadi Ke Awaz”. The scripts for this program were written by me when this program was initiated by Radio Kashmir Srinagar.

Missed Out On
While I could not learn to speak the Kashmiri language, there are many fond memories of that place. 

Favorite Food of Kashmir
“TabakMaaz” has always topped my list of the favorite food of Kashmir.

On Dal Lake
There are many memories that are connected with Dal Lake.

However, the sad part about Dal Lake which still pains me is that it could not be freed from pollution. Being part of the Srinagar City, has always remained a big challenge in terms of making it pollution-free.

On Jhelum River
During my stay in Srinagar, I was able to read the English translation of Nilmat Purana, one of the famous Purana referred to by Kalhana  in his book “Rajatarangini”.  I came to know that in the past River Jhelum was known as “Vitasta” and was connected with Goddess Parvati. Anyways, I was among the first to write a feature on Vitasta for Radio Kashmir.

On Education
I believe it was a kind of tradition that those who were economically well off were educated in Kashmir. After all, how could a farmer or the labor class spend money on education? During my time I hardly came across any Kashmiri Pandit working as labor.  On the other hand, during my time in Kashmir, the standard of education was very high. The standard of education in the colleges was very high.  Without doubt, after 1947 the level of education reached a new level and it became available across communities. Tyndale Biscoe School played a very important role in the education of the people of the Valley.