From the 13th century saintly figures like Lal Ded and Shiekh ul Aalam to progressive writers like Ghulam Ahmad Mahjoor and Abdul Ahad Azad in the twentieth century to the beloved bard like Aga Shahid Ali, Kashmir has been a breeding ground for poets. Keeping the tradition alive, some sons of the soil are now taking up Urdu poetry for the love of the language.
At his young age, the brooding bard wears a demeanour of a seasoned versifier. Beaming the vibes of a savant, he seems mindful of the soul of his craft. His verses with a mellifluous flow sound incisive and insightful, if not grossly entertaining as the poetry of the day has come down to.
In a politically-surcharged place like Kashmir, Syed Zeeshan Jaipuri is making a quiet arrival with his verses.
For the love of the language, the likes of Zeeshan believe in serving the art, devoutly, than attempting to claim a desperate slot in the place, which from the past three decades has been in news for its prolonged political turmoil.
While the media has been extensively covering the conflict, but somehow it also tends to overshadow the various other features of the valley, like emergence of new poetry and new breed of poets, like Zeeshan.
The young Urdu poet from Kashmir recites a few lines which has been a dominating literary medium of expression in the sub-continent:
Balagat Ke Tarazu Me, Mei Jazbe Tol Sakta Hu
Meri Khush Kismati Hai Mei Urdu Bol Sakta Hu
(“In the scale of eloquence, I can measure my emotions. I’m lucky that I can speak Urdu.”)
Zeeshan has a legacy to follow.
He’s the grandson of famous Kashmiri Urdu poet Syed Akbar Jaipuri whose written lines—“Maaro Ya Mar Jao”—reverberated through the valley during nineties, when massive armed uprising challenging the status quo erupted.
As a poet, Senior Jaipuri had full command on his craft, as he eloquently, through his poetry, immortalised his thoughts and philosophy.
Zeeshan wants take the legacy forward and like his grandfather he too wants to take poetry out of the complacent lines of a poem in a book to out in the streets and into the young minds to bring a social reform.
For that, he feels, Urdu poetry is a powerful medium.
Poetry in Kashmir has had a long history in which different eras produced various iconic poets. With its rich history of poets, the Valley has had a culture which has given significant importance to its poets and their poetry.
From classic mystics and romantics, to modern social reformers and revolutionaries, Kashmir has produced a large poetry collection.
And to weave the verses, the language preferences has had a direct relation with the political changes taking place through the course of history and leading to changes in religion, customs and above all language.
Besides Kashmiri, the poly-lingual Jammu and Kashmir state’s other languages are Dogri, Balti, Dardi, Punjabi, Pahari and Ladakhi.
Persian, Arabic, Urdu and lately English are the foreign languages which have had a very strong influence on Kashmiri language scenario. With time, Urdu became the official language of the State, according to Section 145 of the Jammu & Kashmir Constitution.
During early twentieth century, Urdu writers in the sub-continent (including in Kashmir) were at the forefront of a movement called Progressive Writers Movement.
They wrote with the aim to challenge British Imperialism and liberation of India. Some of the notable writers in this scene were Munshi Prem Chand, Hasrat Mohani, Josh Malihabadi, Faiz Ahmad Faiz.
It was a powerful cultural movement where a powerful language like Urdu was used as a medium to rebel against the status quo and oppose the transformation propagated by the British society on an egalitarian basis.
Writing on somewhat similar lines, Syed Saddam Geelani is another emerging Urdu poet from Kashmir.
As an avid follower of the celebrated Urdu poet Mir Taqi Mir—whom he addresses as “Khuda e Sukhan”—Saddam is inspired from the classic era of Urdu poetry drawing heavy influence from Mir, an eighteenth century Urdu poet whose poetry bore the ethos of human suffering.
“Urdu poetry is the pinnacle of self expression,” Saddam says. “And it has reached to this stature because of the spiritually evolved Sufi saints who used poetry as a medium to express themselves. Kashmir owes its cultural and religious evolution to such spiritual poets.”
At the moment, when social media has helped to spread the works of poets, Saddam feels that the peoples’ platform has reduced poetry to mere entertainment and a means to fetch Likes and temporary attention, neglecting its true power.
“For the true essence of Urdu poetry and love of the language, serious efforts are needed to infuse new confidence in poetry so that it can woo young minds towards it and prevent its slow death.”
Today Zeeshan’s and Saddam’s class is growing, while trying to take poetry to its true potential. But working in shade of state patronised poets, these new generation bards of Kashmir—bereft of a limelight—are also toiling hard to end the hegemony and create a niche for themselves, in the world of rhymes and rhymesters.
To be continued…
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