Archive for May 12th, 2011

from my Agha Shahid Ali journal

May 12, 2011 in Journals | Comments (0)

 

The death of the poet, Agha Shahid Ali, was a terrible loss – for poetry, for Kashmir, and for me personally for he was a close friend.

Nine months before his death (he died on Dec 8, 2001) he had asked me to write about him: this resulted in my essay The Ghat of the Only World. In writing the essay I drew upon notes made in the last months of Shahid’s life. Yesterday, while rummaging through my archives, I came upon that notebook.

Here is an entry from mid-May 2001, almost exactly ten years ago:

 

‘Yesterday Shahid told a story about his family’s origins. His earliest known ancestors to settle in Kashmir were two brothers who came from Central Asia. They were poor – they possessed so little that they had to manage by sharing a single cloak between them. To earn a living they set up a stall on a river-bank – they were both hakims in Yunani medicine. It so happened that the then Maharajah of Kashmir had developed a terrible stomach-ache – some kind of colic. All the kingdom’s doctors had tried but no one had been able to cure him. So the two brothers decided to try their hand. They gave the Maharajah a concoction that brought him sudden (and explosive) relief. The Maharajah was so happy he made the two brothers his court physicians. And thus began the family’s rise to prosperity.

‘“So you see,” Shahid said, “my family’s fortunes were founded on a fart!”’

 

Shahid is still so vividly alive, in the memories of all who knew him, that it is hard to believe that so much time has gone by since his death.



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