Questions and Answers of The Ghat of the Only World
Important Questions and Answers
Q.No.1 What were the common things between Ghosh and Shahid?
Ans The common things between Ghosh and Shahid were that they both loved the music especially the music of Kishore Kumar, Roshanara, and Begum Akhter. Both shared the love of Rogan Josh. They both had a natural indifference to cricket and equal attachment to old Bombay films. Above all, they had a common roster of friends in India and abroad.
Q.No.2 What are things that Shahid loved?
Ans Shahid was the profound lover of good poetry, good music, and good food. He loved the music of Kishore Kumar, Roshanara, and Begum Akhter. He also loved old Bollywood films. He had a passion for Kashmiri food. He always loved Rogan gosh. He had a friendly nature and, therefore, loved the company of others. There was never an evening when there wasn’t a party in his living room.
Q.No.3 How does Shahid face death? Describe the hospital scene?
Ans Shahid faced his death with extraordinary courage The dreadful disease of cancer could not break the spirit and never lost courage in the face of misfortune. He thought he was to meet with his mother after-life.
Once before his death, he was in hospital and escort came to him with a wheelchair. He refused to take help of a wheelchair and preferred to walk on his own. However, when he walked a few steps he could not proceed forward. The attendant was called again.A.kind of joy came upon him, when the hospital orderly returned with the wheelchair, he gave him a smile and asked where he was from. The man said that he was from Ecuador. He clapped his hands and said at the top of his voice that he always wanted to learn Spanish in order to read Lorca.
Q.No.4 Who is James Merill?
Ans. He is a poet who radically altered Shahid’s style of writing poetry and often started experimenting with strict metrical patterns and verse forms.
Q.No.5 Pick out the elements of humour from the lesson?
Ans. Shahid was a humorous person. He loved to be happy wished to see others be happy too. Once at Barcelona Airport, a lady security guard asked him what he was doing in Spain.S had replied that he was writing poetry. When the lady asked him if he had anything that could be dangerous for the passengers, he sharply clasped his hand to his chest and cried, ”only my heart”.
Also, once in hospital escort orderly brought a wheelchair for him as he was too weak to stand but with a big smile, he waved him away.
Q.NO.6 What facilitated Ghosh to fulfil his pledge? How did it help him?
Ans Ghosh had promised Shahid that he would write about him after his death. To fulfil his pledge Ghosh started recollecting a record of every moment that he spent with Shahid. He also gathered all the information that he could about Shahid’s life. All this helped him to fulfil his pledge.
Q.No.7 How was shahid’s reputation as a teacher among his students?
Shahid was a successful teacher. He performed a series of jobs in colleges and universities. Due to his brilliant intelligence and art of teaching, he gained a great reputation among the students. They held him in deep love and respect. For some time, he taught at Manhattan’s Baruch College. When he was to leave this college, the students published a magazine and dedicated the issue to him.
Q.NO.8 What does “ the ghat of the only world” mean?
Ans ‘Ghat’ is an Urdu word also used in Hindi which means the place at a riverbank from where boats sail off with passengers to the other side. Here ‘the only world’ is a symbol of the man’s life on this earth and the ‘Ghat’ is the bank ( point of death) from where a man departs for another world. Thus it is the only death which takes a man to the other side. Ghat is simply used as a metaphor for death.
Shahid dreamt he was at the ghat of the only world – the world of the gone. He was to bid adieu to the world of the living. Having gone past pangs of life he was cradling “in supreme consolation”, that is, “I love to think that I’ll meet my mother in the afterlife if there is an afterlife.”
Q.No.9 Write down the personality profile of Aga Shahid Ali.
Shahid Ali was a multi-faceted and glamorous personality. He was born in Srinagar and had studied in Delhi. Later, he migrated to America and served in various colleges and universities. He has authored many books which include The Country Without Post Office, A Walk Through The Yellow Pages, Rooms Are Never Finished and many other books. Shahid was a fine scholar and brilliant teacher. His students loved and respected him. Shahid was a profound lover of good poetry, music, clothes, and food. He always thought of Kashmir and was hurt by the mounting violence in the valley. Though he was not a political poet his finest work relates to writing about Kashmir. Shahid outlook was ecumenical. He did not believe in the mixing of politics and religion. He never lost the courage in the face of misfortune. Even the dreadful disease of cancer could not break his spirit. He refused to take the help of the wheelchair in the hospital. He was a fighter throughout his life.
Shahid was a good dreamer. He knew that he was s going to die at any time. So, he seriously requested Ghosh to write something about him when he dies. Shahid also used to say that he will meet his mother in the after-life.
Q.NO.1 How do Shahid and the writer react to the knowledge that Shahid is going to die?
Ans.: When Shahid approached Gosh out of the blue that he would die and asked for him to compose something about him, Ghosh was shocked and astounded. He couldn’t discover words, the most effective method to react. He attempted to reassure him. “Oh, dear! I can’t see a thing… I hope this doesn’t mean that I am dying,” The dread of death was plainly obvious in Shahid’s manner of speaking and use of words. He got terrified when he felt out of the blue that he was passing on.
When his infrequent memory slips turned out to be more genuine with the progression of time, the acknowledgement of death moving closer ends up more grounded. When he was in a discussion with Amitav Ghosh, he said in a reasonable ringing voice-“When it happens, I hope you will write something for me.” The author could consider nothing to state on such a subject. He reassured him that he would get well soon. But, finally, he had to guarantee, “I’ll do the best I can”. From that very day, the essayist began tracking all of the conversations and meetings he had with Shahid. This record helped him to satisfy his promise.
Q.NO.2 Look up the dictionary for the meaning of the word ‘diaspora’. What do you understand of the Indian diaspora from this piece?
Ans.: The term diaspora originates from an ancient Greek word signifying “to scatter about.” And that is actually what the general population of a diaspora do. They dissipate from their country to places over the globe, spreading their way of life as they go. The Bible refers to the Diaspora of Jews banished from Israel by the Babylonians. But, the word is currently additionally utilized all the more for the most part to depict any extensive scattering of displaced people, dialect, or culture. With reference to the specific situation, the Indian diaspora turns out to be more conspicuous in Ghosh’s compositions.
From this content, we come to realize that various Indians have settled in various nations of the West, particularly in England and America. Agha Shahid, his brothers and two sisters, Suketu Mehta and the author shape some portion of the Indian diaspora in America. Shahid had a place with Kashmir and relocated to America in 1975. his senior sibling was at that point settled there. His two sisters are additionally gone along with them later. These individuals, however living in another land, always remembered about their underlying foundations. These Indians feel a feeling of solidarity and continue meeting each other on different. Narendra Modi as of late turned out to be extremely celebrated for giving talks to India’s diaspora over the globe.
Q.No.3 What did Amitav feel like when he was asked to write about Shahid?
Ans.: Amitav was puzzled for some time. He could consider nothing to the state. He didn’t get the words in which one guarantees a companion that one will expound on him after his passing. He endeavoured to console him.
Q.No.4 What do you know about Shahid as a poet?
Ans.: Shahid’s most commended work is The Country Without a Post Office, published in 1997. The Country Without a Post Office had established a great connection on his readers
His voice was unique – at once lyrical and fiercely disciplined, connected and yet profoundly inward. Not for him the taunt easygoing nearly composition of so much contemporary verse. His was a voice that was not afraid to talk in a bardic enrol.
Q.No.5 What makes you think that Shahid Ali and Amitav Ghosh were chance acquaintances?
Ans.: We suspect as much in light of the fact that their late friendship was a piece of fate. Everything started in 1998 when Amitav Ghosh cited a line from “The Country Without a Post Office” in an article that touched briefly on Kashmir. At the time all the author’s knowledge about Shahid was that he was from Srinagar and had studied in Delhi. Himself having hailed from Delhi University, Amitav’s time and Shahid’s briefly overlapped. The two shared companions, however, and one of them places Amitav in contact with Shahid. In 1998 and 1999 they had a few discussions on the telephone and even met two or three times however they were close to colleagues only when Shahid moved to Brooklyn the following year.
Q.No.6 What fed and strengthened their friendship?
Ans.: Once remaining in Brooklin, in Shahid’s neighbourhood, Amitav soon found that both of them shared a great deal in common. At this point, obviously, Shahid’s condition was already serious, yet his disease did not hinder the advancement of their companionship. They had a colossal roster of common companions, in India, America, and somewhere else. They found a common love of rogan josh, Roshanara Begum, and Kishore Kumar; a shared lack of concern to cricket and an equivalent connection to old Bombay films.
Q.No.7 Do you think that Shahid’s cancer played an important role in the making of two friends?
Ans. Yes, due to Shahid’s condition even the most unimportant trades had an exceptional charge and criticalness. The unpreventable agony of discussing food and half-forgotten figures from the past with a man who knew himself to be dead was multiplied, in this instance, by the information that this man was also a writer who had achieved significance. Shahid had an alchemist’s capacity to transmute/change the unremarkable/common into the mysterious.
Q.No.8 What incident does the author quote to explain this?
Ans. Once Amitav Ghosh happened to go with Iqbal, Shahid’s brother, and Hena, his sister, on a trek to get him home from the doctor’s facility. At that point, Shahid had just experienced a few unsuccessful tasks. Presently he was back in doctor’s facility to experience a surgery that was proposed to ease the weight on his mind. His head was shaved and the state of a tumour was obvious upon his exposed scalp, its edges laid out by metal sutures/fasten. When the time had come to leave the ward a blue-formally dressed healing facility escort touched base with a wheelchair. Shahid waved him away, proclaiming that he was solid enough to leave the healing centre without anyone’s support.
Question.No.9 What impressions of Shahid do you gather from the piece?
Answer: Shahid Ali was dynamic and handsome personality and seems, by all accounts, to be a noble soul. He was born in Srinagar and had received education in Delhi. Later, he relocated to America and served in different schools and colleges. Shahid was a fine researcher and splendid educator. His students adored and regarded him.
Shahid was a significant admirer of good verse, music, garments, food and festivity. Being himself a good poet he always enjoyed the company of poets and writers. His wit, sharpness of tongue and sense of humour were also unique. He was a sharp repartee. He usually thought of Kashmir and was pained on the mounting viciousness in the valley.
Despite the fact that he was a secular and was not a political writer, his best work identifies with expounding on Kashmir. Kashmir became more or less the central theme of his writing. He never lost the mettle in the encounter of misfortunes. He was a warrior and never lost courage. Even dreadful disease of a malignant tumour couldn’t break his spirit. He declined to take the assistance of a wheelchair in the hospital and preferred to walk on foot by himself. Above all, he always liked to remain happy and wanted to see others also happy. Surely he was a gifted person.
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How many characters are in the story?
In this story, there are two characters. The names of these two characters are Amitava Ghosh and Aga Shahid Ali.
Amitava Ghosh is the author of the essay and he has written the essay about his beloved friend named Aga Shahid Ali.
What is the problem that Agha Shahid Ali facing?
Agha Shahid Ali who is a young and dynamic personality suffers from an incurable disease of a malignant brain tumour and he realizes that the death will knock his door anytime.
What request Aga Shahid Ali makes to Amitav Ghosh and why? Does Amitav accept the request?
Realizing that he is kicking the bucket soon Aga Shahid Ali requests Amitav to write something about him when he is gone.
Amitav Ghosh at first can’t figure the words in which he can react yet finally, he guarantees him that he will do his best to expound on him.
How does the author fulfil his promise?
From that very day when the author makes the promise, he starts to remember every one of the recollections of his cherished friend to fulfil his promise.
Eventually, when Again Shahid Ali dies at 52, Amitabh Gosh composes this excellent article about him which he names The Ghat of The Only World.
Where from the author gets the title The Ghat of the Only World?
The Ghat of The Only World is actually the name of an acclaimed poem written by Aga Shahid Ali in the collection of his poems Rooms Are Never Finished. In this poem, the writer remembers all his beloved ones who have passed away and distanced to the other world. Accordingly, the poem is written in light of the artist’s acknowledgement of his approaching toward death. He feels that his adored ones are calling him from the opposite side of the ghat.
What do you mean by the ghat of the only world?
Ghat is a Kashmiri word sometimes also used in Urdu. It implies a spot at the river bank from where the boats withdraw to another side. The ghat of the main world implies that after a man finishes his adventure in this world he feels at the entryway of the other world. In this manner, it has been used as a metaphor for death. It implies the point from where a man departs to a different universe what is commonly called hereafter. Agha Shahid used to state that he would meet his mother in the hereafter if there was hereafter. He envisioned that he had completed his voyage of life and is now at the entryway of the other world” The Ghat of the Only World”.
Question: Why was Shahid called centre of perpetual carnival?
Answer: Shahid Ali was dynamic and handsome personality and seems, by all accounts, to be a noble soul. He was a fine researcher and splendid educator. His students adored and regarded him. He was a significant admirer of good verse, music, garments, food and festivity.
Being himself a good poet he always enjoyed the company of poets and writers. His wit, sharpness of tongue and sense of humour were also unique. He was a sharp repartee.
He loved social gatherings. It gave him real joy. He often invited people for lunch mostly for friendly conversation. Even his fatal disease did not impede him from doing and enjoying things. He was remarkably bold. Even his life was consumed by his dangerous disease, he was still a limitless source of talk, laughter, food and poetry. All these unique qualities of Shahid made him a focus of carnival.
LONG ANSWER TYPE QUESTIONS
1. How do Shahid and the writer react to the knowledge that Shahid is going to die?
Ans. Shahid and the writer react differently to the knowledge that Shahid is going to die. Shahid had a sudden blackout in February 2000. Tests revealed that he had a malignant brain tumour. It was on 25 April 2001 that Shahid spoke to the writer about his approaching death. He had been under treatment of cancer for some fourteen months. Shahid was still on his feet and perfectly lucid. The writer was shocked into silence. Then he tried to offer reassurances. Shahid ignored them and began to laugh.
In spite of physical weakness, Shahid would smile and laugh gleefully. He would entertain his friends at his apartment. Even when his eyesight was failing, he could tell from the smell alone, which stage the rogan josh had reached and issued instructions. Shahid accepted his inevitable death boldly. The writer felt dazed and stared blankly as Shahid disclosed to him what the doctors had said. Shahid had made his peace with the approaching end. There was no trace of anguish or conflict on his face. The writer felt shocked and overawed by the gradual decay and ultimate end of his dear friend, Shahid.
2. Trace the development of the bond of affinity between Shahid and the writer.
Ans. The writer, Amitav Ghosh, had known Shahid’s work long before he met the man. One of their common friends put him in touch with Shahid. In 1998 and 1999 they had several conversations on the phone and even met a couple of times. But they were no more than acquaintances until Shahid moved to Brooklyn in 2000 when he had a sudden blackout in February. Tests revealed that he had a malignant brain tumour.
The building in which Shahid lived in Brooklyn was some eight blocks away from the writer’s apartment. Since they were in the same neighbourhood, they began to meet for occasional meals. They quickly discovered that they had many things in common. Although Shahid’s condition was already serious by that time, it did not hamper their friendship. The writer was always present at the gatherings in Shahid’s house. He accompanied Shahid to the hospital whenever he went there. Even in a brief period, they grew so intimate that Shahid asked the author to write something about him after his death.
3. Give a brief description of Shahid’s apartment and point out the impact of his lifestyle on others.
Ans. Shahid’s apartment was a spacious and airy split-level, on the seventh floor of a newly renovated building. There was a cavernous study on the top floor and a wide terrace that provided a magnificent view of the Manhattan skyline across the East River. Shahid loved this view of the Brooklyn waterfront slipping, like a ghat, into the East River, under the glittering lights of Manhattan. The journey from the foyer of Shahid’s building to his door was a voyage between the continents.
The rich fragrance of rogan josh invaded even the dour, grey interior of the elevator. Even the ringing of the doorbell had an oddly musical sound. There was never an evening when there wasn’t a party in his living room. Songs and voices were always echoing out of his apartment. There would be some half a dozen or more people gathered inside—talking, laughing and reciting poetry. It seemed in his company that life was endless fun. His hospitality and love for good food impressed all his friends and visitors.
4. In spite of malignant brain tumour and awareness of approaching death, Shahid was “the centre of a perpetual carnival”. Elucidate.
Ans. Shahid suffered from cancer. A malignant brain tumour had been detected after he had a sudden blackout in February 2000. The doctors gave him a year or less. In spite of the malignant brain tumour and awareness of his approaching end, Shahid retained his zest for life. His gregarious instinct and love for music, poetry and good food helped him to retain his cheerfulness.
The spirit of festivity didn’t leave time for him to feel depressed. His living room was always full of people—poets, students, writers and relatives. Songs, music and recitation of poetry enlivened the meetings at his apartment. He loved entertaining guests with good food. His hospitality and personal attention to the details of food were well known. Although his life was being consumed by the disease, he was always, the centre of a perpetual carnival—an endless fair of talk, laughter, food and poetry.
5. What responsibility did Shahid entrust to the author (Amitav Ghosh)? How did the latter discharge it?
Ans. Shahid asked the author (Amitav Ghosh) to write something about him after his demise. He was giving the author a specific responsibility. He wanted the writer to remember him not through recitatives of memory and friendship, but through the written word. “You must write about me,” said Shahid. The author promised to fulfil Shahid’s desire. From that day onwards, the author jotted down every important point in their conversation. Because of Shahid’s condition, even the most trivial exchanges had a special charge and urgency. There was an inescapable poignancy when he talked about food and half-forgotten figures from the past.
The author continued to make notes of all exchanges, between Shahid and other during parties and visits to other places such as hospital and airports. The record of all these bit of information helped the author to write this article about Shahid which gives an intimate account of the great poet who knew too well about his approaching death.
6. “In his poetic imagery, Death, Kashmir and Sháhid/Shahid had become so closely overlaid as to be inseparable.” Comment on Shahid—the poet, in the light of this remark.
Ans. Shahid was a sensitive poet. He (Shahid) was a first-hand witness to the mounting violence that seized Kashmir valley from the late 1980s onwards. The steady deterioration of the political situation in Kashmir—the violence and counter-violence had a powerful effect on him. In the time it became one of the central subjects of his work. The finest poems that he wrote to deal with Kashmir. The collection “The Country Without a Post Office” (1997) contains many such poems.
In the title poem of the aforesaid collection, a poet returns to Kashmir to find the keeper of a fallen minaret saying, “Nothing will remain, everything’s finished”. Death, destruction and violence seemed inseparable. His own destiny was inextricably linked with Kashmir. “I will die, in autumn, in Kashmir.” The exodus of the Pandits from Kashmir finds a place in his poems. His mind turned to Kashmir in speaking death. We may conclude that in his poetic imagery, Death, Kashmir and Shahid/Shahid (the witness/the victim) had become so closely overlaid as to be inseparable.
SHORT ANSWER TYPE QUESTIONS (Word limit: 30 words)
1. When and how did Shahid tell the writer about his approaching death?
Ans. Shahid told the writer on phone about his approaching death on 25 April 2001. He was turning the pages of his engagement book and then suddenly remarked that he couldn’t see anything. After a brief pause, he said that he hoped it did not mean that he was dying.
2. How did the writer (Amitav Ghosh) react to Shahid’s mention of his approaching death?
Ans. At first, Amitav was non-plussed. He did not know how to respond. He muttered something which was not harmful: “No Shahid—of course not. You’ll be fine”.
3. What did Shahid ask the writer to do after his death?
Ans. Shahid asked the writer to write something about him after his death. He was giving Amitav Ghosh a specific responsibility. He wanted the writer to remember him not through spoken recitatives of memory and friendship, but through the written word.
4. What reasons could Amitav Ghosh have searched to avoid writing about Shahid ’s death?
Ans. Amitav Ghosh might have told himself that he was not a poet. Secondly, their friendship was not very old, it was of a recent date. Thirdly, there were many others who knew him much better and would be writing with greater understanding and knowledge.
5. “You must write about me.” What was the impact of these words on the writer?
Ans. The writer took it as a very important thing which would have to be obeyed. He could not think of anything to say. He had to search the words to convey his promise. Finally, he said, “Shahid, I will. I’ll do the best I can”.
6. What helped the writer to fulfil the pledge he made to Shahid?
Ans. The writer picked up his pen and noted the date. He wrote down everything he remembered of that conversation. He continued to do so for the next few months. This record made it possible to fulfil his pledge.
7. What does Amitav Ghosh say about Shahid’s voice?
Ans. Shahid’s voice was at once lyrical and very strongly disciplined. It was engaged and yet deeply inward. He did not adopt the mock-casual almost-prose of contemporary poetry. He was not ashamed to speak in a poetic style. In short, his voice was unique. He had never heard anything like it before.
8. What did the writer know about Shahid before meeting him?
Ans. The writer knew Shahid’s work long before meeting him. He was deeply impressed by his 1997 collection The Country Without a Post Office and had quoted from it in an article about Kashmir. Shahid was from Srinagar and had studied at Delhi University.
9. “We had a great deal in common.” Point out some of the common bonds between Shahid and the writer.
Ans. Both had studied at Delhi University and were now in the States. They had common friends. They loved rogan josh, Begum Akhtar and Kishore Kumar’s song. Both had an equal attachment to old Bombay films and were indifferent to cricket.
10. What instance does the writer narrate to show that Shahid had a sorcerer’s ability to transmute the mundane into the magical?
Ans. Shahid had grown quite weak after several unsuccessful operations. The writer and others held him upright in the hospital’s corridor. The hospital orderly came with a wheelchair. Shahid gave him a smile and asked him where he was from. On hearing “Ecuador”, Shahid clapped his hands joyfully and shouted that he had always wanted to learn Spanish just to read Garcia Lorca.
11. How does the writer praise Shahid’s gregariousness?
Ans. Shahid loved company. His gregariousness had no limit. There was never an evening when there wasn’t a party in his living room. He loved the spirit of festivity. He loved people to come there. They included poets, students, writers and relatives.
12. What was the impact of James Merrill on Shahid’s poetry?
Ans. James Merrill had a great influence on Shahid’s poetry. He was the poet who radically altered the direction of Shahid’s poetry. After meeting Merrill, Shahid began to experiment with strict metrical patterns and verse forms. Shahid remembers Merrill as the envoy of Death in the poem “I Dream I Am At the Ghat of the Only World”.
13. How can you say that Shahid loved delicious cuisines?
Ans. Shahid loved dished cooked from traditional methods and recipes. He loved rogan josh. He had a special passion for the food of his region. He liked ‘Kashmiri food in the Pandit style.’ He also loved Bengali food though he had never been to Calcutta.
14. What nightmare haunted Shahid? How did it affect him?
Ans. Shahid had a recurrent dream in which all the Pandits had vanished from the valley of Kashmir. Their food had become extinct. This nightmare haunted him. He returned to it again and again in his conversation and his poetry.
15. What was the impact of Begum Akhtar on Shahid’s life?
Ans. Shahid took great pleasure in Begum Akhtar’s music. It was very dear to him. He had met her in his teens. She had become an abiding presence and influence in his life. Shahid related many stories about her sharpness in repartee.
16. “Shahid was himself no mean practitioner of repartee.” Quote an instance to prove this point.
Ans. Once Shahid was stopped by a security guard at Barcelona airport just as he was about to board a plane and asked what he did. Shahid said he was a poet. To the question. “What were you doing in Spain?” Shahid said, “Writing poetry.” When the guard asked if he was carrying anything that could be dangerous to the other passengers, Shahid promptly replied, “Only my heart”.
17. Which anecdote throws light on Shahid’s teaching?
Ans. Shahid’s last class at Manhattan’s Baruch college on 7 May was a short one but quite exciting. The students adored him. They had printed a magazine and dedicated the issue to him. Shahid did not feel sad. He was brimming with laughter. He welcomed a latecomer with a feigned swoon.
18. How did Shahid respond to the steady deterioration of the political situation in Kashmir?
Ans. The violence and counter-violence in Kashmir had a powerful effect on him. In the time it became one of the central subjects of his work. Shahid was not a political poet yet he created his finest work in the writing of Kashmir.
19. What was Shahid’s outlook on politics and religion? Which factors were responsible for it?
Ans. Shahid respected religion but he believed in the separation of politics and religious practice. His outlook was inclusive and ecumenical. The credit for it goes to his upbringing. Shahid’s mother helped him make a Hindu temple in his room.
20. Shahid was “an intermittent but first-hand witness to the mounting violence” in Kashmir. How did it influence his poetry and personality?
Ans. Shahid was not political in the sense of being framed in terms of policy and solutions. He was anguished about Kashmir’s destiny, yet he did not adopt the role of victim. There was a dark point of stillness in Kashmir. His own destiny was linked with it. He wished to die in Kashmir though it was stained with blood.
21. What helped Shahid to face his inevitable end?
Ans. Shahid had long been aware of his approaching end and he had made his peace with it. The love of his family and friends gave him support. He showed no signs of anguish or conflict. He was calm, contented and at peace. His hope to meet his mother in after-life was his supreme consolation. He died peacefully in his sleep.
22. Write down the personality profile of Agha Shahid All.
Shahid Ali was a dynamic and multifaceted personality. He had been born in Srinagar and studied in Delhi. Later he moved to America and worked at various universities and colleges. He has written several books, including The Country Without Post Office, A Walk Through The Yellow Pages, Rooms Are Never Done, and many more. Shahid was a great teacher and a fine scholar. He had loved and valued his teachers. Shahid had been a deep lover of good art, music, clothes and food. He was still worried about Kashmir and hurt by the mounting violence in the valley.
Despite not being a political poet, his best work has to do with writing about Kashmir.
The outlook of Shahid was ecumenical. He did not agree that politics and faith blended together. His life being filled with misfortune he never lacked the courage. Even the horrific cancer illness did not destroy his heart. He refused to accept wheelchair help at the facility. He became a tough warrior throughout his life.
Shahid was a good dreamer. He knew that he was s going to die at any time. So, he seriously requested Ghosh to write something about him when he dies. Shahid also used to say that he will meet his mother in the after-life.
Summary of The Ghat of The Only World
In this write-up, Amitav Ghosh pays glowing tribute to Agha Shahid Ali, a teacher and poet. Shahid was an expatriate from Kashmir. He moved to Pennysylvania in 1975 and after that, he lived mainly in America. His brother was already there and they were later joined by their two sisters. Shahid’s parents continued to live in Srinagar and it was his custom to spend the summer months with them every year. He was an intermittent but first-hand witness to the mounting violence that seized the region from the late 1980s onwards. Shahid regarded his time at Pennysylvania state as the happiest time of his life. He grew as a reader, a poet and a lover.
Later Shahid moved to Arizona to take a degree in creative writing. This, in turn, was followed by a series of jobs in colleges and universities: Hamilton College, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and finally, the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, where he was appointed as a professor in 1999. He was on leave from Utah, for a brief stint at New York University, when he had his first blackout in February 2000. The writer, Amitav Ghosh had known Shahid’s work long before he met him. They had several conversations on the phone during 1998 and 1999 and even met a couple of times. He became intimate with Shahid when he moved to Brooklyn in 2000. By this time, Shahid’s condition was already serious, yet his illness did not hamper their friendship or Shahid’s interest—love for music, poetry, good conversation and friends.
They had many common friends as well as common likings. Both loved rogan josh, Roshanara Begum and Kishore Kumar. He took great pleasure in the music of Begum Akhtar, the great ghazal singer. They were indifferent to cricket but attached to Bombay films. Shahid was gregarious by nature. There was never an evening when there wasn’t a party in his living room. Shahid had a sorcerer’s ability to transmute the mundane into the magical. He was a poet who had achieved greatness. He knew that he was dying. Even the most trivial exchanges with him had a special charge and urgency. Shahid was a lover of good food. He would issue directions to the person in the kitchen regarding the ingredients to be added to rogan josh at various stages. He had a special passion for the food of his region, one variant of it in particular: ‘Kashmiri food in the Pandit Style’. He also loved Bengali food though he had never been to Calcutta.
Shahid was a great repartee. The author recalls his witty exchanges with a security guard at Barcelona airport. Shahid worked poetry into his answer. Later he composed the poem ‘Barcelona Airport’ recalling this incident. The author had quoted from his collection ‘The Country Without a Post Office’ in 1998 in an article that touched briefly on Kashmir. Shahid had a prophetic vision. He had a recurrent dream that all the Pandits had vanished from the valley of Kashmir and their food had become extinct. This was a nightmare that haunted him. Shahid spoke to the author about his approaching death for the first time on 25 April 2001. Shahid wanted the author to write something about him after his death. The author recalls an incident of 21 May when he went along with his brother Iqbal and sister Hena to fetch him from the hospital. By that time he had been through several unsuccessful operations. But he had not lost his glee. On 7 May 2000, the author was with Shahid when he taught his last class at Manhattan’s Baruch College. On 5 May 2001, Shahid had an important scan. The doctors gave him a year or less. They had stopped all medicines and even chemotherapy.
Shahid wanted to go back to Kashmir to die but had to change his mind. He was contented to be laid to rest in Northampton, in Amherst town. The author saw Shahid for the last time on 27 October at his brother’s house in Amherst. He died peacefully, in his sleep, at 2 a.m. on 8 December. The author feels his presence even in his own living room. He feels amazed that so brief a friendship has resulted in so vast a void.