Blind singer from Kashmir dreams of opening own school, train people like him

Aijaz Ahmed Ahanger

Abid Bashir

Srinagar (NVI): Life has not been fair to Aijaz Ahmed Ahanger, who is blind by birth, but his melodious and soothing voice mesmerises locals at his village as he has become an inspiration for many other visually impaired people, who have quit begging on streets and have followed in his footsteps.

The 30-year-old lives in a small but picturesque village of Manzgam in South Kashmir’s Kulgam, a place that has been in news for gunbattles and street protests in the recent past.

Aijaz is full of talent. He plays his musical instrument- Sarangi (a small violin) like any other trained expert and sings like a true and committed singer.

In his native village and a few other adjoining villages, Aijaz is a favourite among many people who invite him to sing traditional Sufi songs in marriage parties and also on the occasions of annual anniversaries of revered Sufi saints.

“I was a kid when I lost my mother. Before that, I had lost my father too,” recalls Aijaz, holding Sarangi in his hands. “I am blind by birth. I belonged to a poor family and never got a chance to see a good doctor. Blindness became my destiny.”

Aijaz says he was lucky enough to find a good music teacher and a spiritual guide well within his native village. “His name was Gul Muhammad Shah and he trained me for 15 long years. He is no more now but he trained me like a true guide and a teacher,” he says.

Over the years, Aijaz has compiled 45 songs, majority of them traditional Sufi songs praising nature, prophet and Sufi saints. “With the help of my friend, all 45 songs are ready in written form but I have no resources to get the same published in the form of a book. I sing the same songs in marriage parties and other occasions especially during the annual anniversaries of Kashmir’s revered Sufi saints,” he says.

Aijz says he preferred not to lose hope and instead worked hard with whatever talent he had. “This is a hundred times better than begging on the roads. Though this is full of challenges like at times I have to walk miles to reach the venue for singing. Sometimes, hosts send vehicles for me and for them I pray always,” he says.

Aijaz has changed the lives of many people in his village who were born blind or with other physical disabilities. “I earn very less but I am contented. At marriage functions, people pay me Rs 500 or so with their own choice. I don’t force anyone,” he says. “I saved money to buy Sarangi and today this is my companion.”

He hasn’t been able to marry due to financial constraints. He, however, is a trained artist, a singer with a melodious voice and dreams of setting up a music school to train other people who have physical disabilities or are like him.

“My appeal to the J&K government is to provide me a little financial assistance so that I can set up my own music school. I want people to learn from me before I die. The school would primarily be for those having various issues like the one I have but that’s not the binding, others too can come and learn from me,” he says.

Aijaz has so far performed in 200 programs, including marriage parties, etc.