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The Ghat of the Only World

(Q1.) 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 recitations of memory and friendship but through the written words. (Q2.) 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 for the words to convey his promise. (Q3.) What helped the writer to keep the promise 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 fulfill his pledge and promise. (Q4.) 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 time it became one of the central subjects of his work. Shahid was not a political poet yet he created his finest work in writing about Kashmir. (Q5.) What was Shahids 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 broad. The credit for it goes to his upbringing. Shahids mother helped him to make a Hindu temple in his room. (Q6.) What helped Shahid 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, good humoured, and

was at peace. The hope to meet his mother in the afterlife was his supreme consolation. He died peacefully in his sleep. (Q7.) What did Shahid wish to do before his death? (Ans) Shahid wished to go back to Kashmir to die. He wanted to settle his will, so that there would not be any trouble for his brothers and sisters. He changed his mind about returning to Kashmir. He did not want his brothers and sisters to be troubled in having to make the journey afterwards with his body like they had to do with their mother. (Q8.) How did Amitav Ghosh come to write Shahid's obituary? (Ans) Amitav Ghosh having promised Shahid that he would write about him started making notes in his diary. He began to keep a record of all his meetings and conversations with Agha Shahid Ali. He continued to do so for the next few months. This record made it possible for Amitav to fulfill his promise. (Q9.) What did Amitav find worthy of appreciation in Ali's style of writing? (Ans) Amitav was deeply impressed by Shahid's 1997 collection 'The Country Without a Post Office'. Ghosh found Ali's style distinct. His writings were poetical in nature but fiercely disciplined. (Q10.) What does Amitav say about Shahid's gregariousness? (Ans) Shahid loved company, There was never an evening when there wasn't a party in his living room. He lived the spirit of festivity. He loved the presence of people around him which included poets, students, writers and relatives. (Q11.) How can you say that Shahid loved delicious cuisines? (Ans) Shahid loved food cooked from traditional methods and recipes. He had a passion for Kashmiri food in Pandit style. He loved rogan josh. He could tell from the smell at what stage the cooking of 'rogan josh' was in. He also loved Bengali food though he had never been to Calcutta. (Q12.) What were the common bonds between Shahid and Amitav? (Ans) Both had common friends. They both had studied at Delhi University and had migrated to the States. They both loved rogan josh, Roshanara Begum, Kishore Kumar and Old Bombay films. Their mutual indifference to

cricket had drawn them into a short but strong bond of love and understanding. (Q13.) How did James Merill influence Shahid's poetry? (Ans) Shahid's meeting with James Merrill, a poet at one of his parties in Arizona resulted in a radical alteration of his style of poetry. Shahid began to experiment with strict metrical patterns and verse forms. In his poem 'I Dream I am at the Ghat of the Only World', his concluding words were for James Merrill. (Q14.) What impression of Shahid do you gather from this extract? (Ans) This extract is set in New York where the narrator struck friendship with Agha Shahid Ali. Shahid was a poet, a man of fine sensibilities, good taste and very amiable nature. In spite of being a cancer patient, Shahid was full of life, had a clear mind and loved to spend time with friends. There was never an evening when there wasnt a party in his living room. Shahid had a special ability to transmute the mundane into the magical. He was a poet who had achieved greatness. He knew himself that he was dying and lived each moment with enthusiasm. Even the most trivial exchanges with him had a special energy and urgency. He worked poetry into his answers. He had a prophetic vision. Shahid 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. After moving to America in 1975 Shahid continued to visit his parents in Srinagar. He was a firsthand witness to the mounting violence that seized the region from the late 1980s onwards. Shahid spoke to the author about his death and wanted him to write something about him. Amitav Ghosh pays him glowing tributes in this extract. He feels amazed that such a brief friendship had resulted in so vast a void.