Master Zinda Koul has been a famous poet and a great educationist of Jammu & Kashmir. He has also the credit of being first Sahitya Academy Awardee of the erstwhile Jammu & Kashmir state.
Master Zinda Koul’s ancestors were originally from Tahab village of Pulwama, Kashmir. About a hundred years or so, when one of them got a government job in city, they migrated to Srinagar. They settled down in Srinagar city’s heart Habba Kadal, which till yesteryears was predominantly a Kashmiri Pandit majority area. Gradually they built a house in Chonda Pur locality of Habba Kadal area and lived thereafter for generations in this house.
Amongst this Qasba clan was one Pt. Laxman Koul Qasba, whose wife gave birth to a son on 17th July 1884, who was named Zinda Koul. Theirs was a middle class family with an average financial status ,but Laxman Koul Qasba was a sincere, hardworking and a god fearing man along with being an ardent devotee of famous saintly legendary poet Swami Parmanand of Mattan Kashmir .Master Ji was still in his infancy when he lost his mother and became dependent on his father’s sisters for upbringing .After passing away of his wife Laxman Qasba dejectedly pulled away from his social responsibilities to spent his time in devotion of God , thus somehow neglecting his family. Master Ji, as per the prevailing custom, was enrolled in local Madrasa in the vicinity, where “Aakhoon” Balak Koul Jan taught him Persian primer, “Gulistan” and “Bostan” as per the norms of the day.
It is said that Master Zinda Koul was a bright student and he soon learned all the lessons taught to him, and whenever the teacher was busy, he due to his brilliance, was entrusted with teaching his fellow students. But this sojourn was short lived and Master Ji, due to precarious financial condition of his family, was forced to leave his studies and serve at a photographer’s shop. Child Master Ji worked in the shop very sincerely, but was soon fired by the owner on flimsy grounds. During the period when little Master Ji worked in the shop he simultaneously kept him abreast with the studies also by borrowing books from his friends and reading them at home .
By the time the educational scenario of Kashmir had started changing, and the orthodox Pathshala and Madrasa system of education was being replaced by European educationist missionaries, with modern scientific education. In Kashmir Sir Tyndale Biscoe had started a Christian Missionary school at Fateh Kadal, Srinagar and many prominent educationists from Kashmir had joined him in this pursuit.
Master Zinda Koul’s life was destined to have another turn, as with help of some well-wishers he was admitted to the mission school at Fateh Kadal, Srinagar. Although by now his batch mates were now two classes ahead of him, but teachers observing his brilliance managed his examination for double promotion which he passed with good marks. Master Ji never looked back after that and he with help of his well-wishers and noble teachers was able to pass the Middle examination from Punjab University with flying colors .Observing his extraordinary brilliance and intelligence, he was appointed as a teacher in the same mission school . Master Ji did not only prove to be a good teacher, but gradually matured into an Academician. After some time he established his own school and with help of likeminded teachers bought an innovative revolution in the educational scenario of the state.
Master Ji revolutionized the concept of education in the state, which especially proved a boon for imparting modern scientific education to the children of the state. He played a major role in imparting education to the girls , especially of Kashmiri Pundit community and apart from establishing Hindu Educational Society which established Hindu High School and other such educational institutions at Nawa Kadal, Habba Kadal, Sathu Barbarshah and other places in the Srinagar city , he was also instrumental in establishing famous Vasanta and Kashyapa Girls High Schools , which exclusively imparted education to girls .He had a brief stint in S. P. School of Srinagar and also worked in various departments as an official . His contribution to Research department of the state is considered to be outstanding and worthy. As he had taught many students who later on reached highest posts of the state and central governments, he was fondly addressed to as Master Ji by them, which became his identification mark of respect and reverence along with finally becoming his pen name.
Master Zinda Koul, a great literary figure of Kashmir had an interest in writing poetry right from his childhood itself. It is said that, when he along with his mates went to the house of affluent friends for examination preparation for night, he would write Persian and Urdu couplets on the walls of the room with charcoal of his Kangri.
When one of his teachers once saw his note book containing his verses in Persian and Urdu he was wonder struck and encouraged him to write more and more poetry.
To begin with Master Zinda Koul wrote in Urdu and Persian languages and published his poetry collection titled “Deewan- e- Sabit”, adopting “Sabit” as his pen name. Alas the book is nonexistent now.
After writing in Hindi, Urdu and Persian languages, Master turned his thought to his Mother tongue Kashmiri, and he found it a more efficient vehicle for transmitting and expressing his sublime thoughts His Kashmiri poems became an instant hit with the masses and literary circles alike .As the poems took the literary circles by surprise, they bestowed upon him due recognition and respect.
Master Ji’s poetry was a welcome change from orthodox devotional and spiritual poetry as it gave vent to the modern thoughts on the subjects of social inequality and injustice.
It is not possible to deliberate upon Master Ji’s literary works in short span of this write-up , but there is no doubt that the trend which he has set in modern Kashmiri poetry, proved to be an light house for the future generation of the poets to come . His most famous poetry collection, which was published in his life time itself, also contained his own English translation of the verses, and was published under the name and tittle of “Sumran”, which has become a classic now. The book containing Kashmiri poems got Master Zinda Koul and Jammu & Kashmir its first Sahitya Academy Award.
Some of his famous couplets are as under.
“Tarvun chu karnov ,hakh dith chu wanan..
Kanh ma sa tariv apor.”
(The boat man is about to cross (the river), he is yelling, has anybody to cross over)
“Nakar gomut shehar myon, basnas na layakh rudmut..
Lootas ta havsas baji bath,manz baagh miskeen moodmut..
Chalha ta beyi yimha na yor..
Karnavi tarakh na apor..”
(My city has become murky, not worth dwelling now. Looters and lust are hand in glove with each other, in between the poor man is crushed .I shall leave never to return again, boat man take me across.)
“Az wati buzum Mol myon, Kosum watan wothravsey…”
(My beloved will come today, let me decorate his path with flowers)
“Yaar sendey daadi dodmut dil baharas kya karey..”
(A heart burning with the pain (of separation) of beloved, can’t enjoy the spring)
Master ji left for his heavenly abode on 4th February 1966, but the legacy he left behind will keep him alive in our literary and educational circles for a long time to come.