Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Farewell to M.M. Munshi


"Your photographs with captions are very interesting. I really enjoy these. I even now visit kashmir frequently and can contribute some photographs to search Kashmir. If acceptable please let me know"

This simple small email from Man Mohan Munshi in November 2009 went on to lay foundation of our decade long association. Back then I was manually going through all the old books on Kashmir getting uploaded to archive.org by various libraries around the would. I would go track down each book and manually visually scan each page and download any image of Kashmir, and then upload images with caption to this blog. It was the beginning. And an email like that was good enough motivator. I told him he was more than welcome to share. I didn't know what to expect. Over the decades, Man Mohan Munshi Ji shared pages from rare books in Kashmiri and Urdu, his personal family photographs going back to 1910s, articles on historical sites and pilgrimages and his encyclopaedic notes on geography of Kashmir, after all he retired as a director of Geological Survey of India. He told me things that few would know. He corrected me. I learnt. Some of his photographs (like of Nehru) went on to be part of Wikipedia, some (like an old family photo) went on to be part of a short art film that I accidentally came across in an festival, some (like a simple land purchase deal from late 1800s in Persian) went on to be misused by propagandists as sale deed of Kashmir (an image still circulated like fools). Sometime I would upload an old photograph from a book and he would email me a detail that only he would know. I would append it to the post. He would send me images of rare Kashmiri household items, arts and crafts from older times. He would photograph them on a film camera, go to a cyber cafe guy, have it scanned, have it cleaned up and have it emailed to me. Sometime accidentally wrong photograph would get attached to email, instead of Ramchakor, an image of a relative would get sent. I would have some fun with him. He would remind me that he is an old man. He was in his 70s at the time, and we were friends. He still had child like enthusiasm for history, arts and culture of Kashmir. A few years back he asked me to visit his place in Jammu. I never got the chance. My visits to Jammu were getting fewer and shorter. I regret it.

For last few months I was writing emails to him. No response. I looked up his FB. No update. Only year old photograph of him hitting the gym.  But, I needed to get in touch. Someone had come across an old family photograph uploaded by him and managed to identify a common ancestor. This was a 14 year old kid who wanted to know. I was sure Man Mohan Ji would have been thrilled to hear it. No response.

For past many years I had a pending FB friend request from Man Mohan Munshi. It was an alternate account. I assumed it must have been an older lost account of him, his other account. The account I was Friends with was very much his latest. Somehow, this morning, I don't know what came over me, I accepted that pending friend request. In evening, someone, a friend of his tagged that profile to inform that Man Mohan Ji passed away this morning after a brief illness.


Man Mohan Ji made this blog richer, helped me understand a lot of things, most of all, his emails often kept me going. It was always rewarding to know that someone more knowledgable was caring for the work you were doing, someone was reading. That someone was trusting you with his memories and treasures of his past.

It was a pleasure knowing him and an honor to be a conduit of all that he had to share.

Man Mohan Munshi, May 1954.
At 13000 ft near a Mollen pot hole in a snow covered valley in Pir Panjal Range.
for his post graduate thesis paper submitted in 1955


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You can spend hours browsing through the garden of memories he has left:

Man Mohan Munshi Collection

2 comments:

  1. It is noble souls like him we can cherish the Kashmir of yesteryears and for someone like me who only heard stories will be highly in debt to him for giving those stories a face through his pictures.
    Heartfelt Condolences🙏🙏

    ReplyDelete
  2. Dear Vinayak ji,
    Grateful thanks for the wonderful work that you’re doing!
    Warmly,
    Bharat

    ReplyDelete

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