Thursday, February 1, 2007


The cascade was convulsed with laughter
Not aware who cried how much….
With the onset of 14th century the cultural renaissance in Kashmir had almost come to an abrupt end. The era of new ideas and fertile philosophical thoughts had died down owing to hostile historical and cultural incursions in the otherwise enlightened house of Sharda*.The great mystical poet and genius, Lal-Ded was probably the last new philosophical thought to have dawned in Kashmir till the time Dina Nath Nadim arose on the poetic firmament. Eminent Kashmiri scholar Dr.S.S.Toshkhani says and I quote “If you took out themes related to mysticism and love from Kashmiri poetry, there would remain nothing else at all”. The literary stagnation or death of ideas can be attributed to the fanatic and intolerant rulers who ruled Kashmir 14th century onwards till the arrival of British rule in Kashmir.
Dina Nath Nadim was born in an era when Kashmiri nationalism was searching for its roots. It was a time when young educated Kashmiris were beginning to feel that their mother tongue had suffered utter neglect for many centuries and thus had avowed to bring glory to Kashmiri language. The pioneers of this movement were Mahjoor and Abdul Ahad Azad. It goes to their credit that they liberated the language from the Persian influence. The arrival of these two young poets on the scene and the collapse of feudal system gave Kashmiris a renewed sense of confidence and freedom from the mental bondage, six hundred years of slavery had set them in. A new idiom in Kashmiri poetry had thus arrived, the idiom which was largely influenced by Marxist thought and progressive Indian writers.
Dina Nath Nadim’s father passed away when Nadim was just seven. Thus he saw days of abject poverty and it was his mother’s courage and resilience that made two ends meet. It was his mother who set the first seeds of poetry into the young boy. She would often sit by her spinning wheel and sing verses of Parmanand and Krishanjoo Razdan.The song she had written on the death of her husband was to haunt and influence Nadim for his life

The flower of my heart stole away
And did not return to bloom in spring
Where does he now lie concealed ?
Who knows who stole his heart!
(Translation by T.N.Raina)

In his initial years as a poet Nadim wrote in English and it is believed that he was greatly influenced by T.S.Eliot. He also wrote in Urdu which was then the main language of poetic expression. There again he was greatly influenced by Iqbal,Chakbast,Josh and Bismil. His Urdu poems were however localized and Kashmir was the main theme in almost all his poems. He wrote poems in Hindi too but it was Kashmiri where he eventually found his style, images, forms, syllables and voice to his emotions.He made his presence felt on the Kashmiri poetics when he first read his poem Nov Sonth(New Spring) at a poetry recitation session at the famed Nishat Bagh.
Welcome the air with open doors!
The spring is here…
(Translation By Rashneek Kher)

Nadim’s literary career had three definite phases. The first being the phase when India had just attained its independence and there was an air of hope and utopian Marxist ideas ruled the roost in literary circles. The environment was surcharged with sloganeering and rhetoric, which eventually found its way into the literary and cultural mainstream too.It was then that he wrote on almost all social and political issues. He spoke of the worker and tore off the capitalist in his rather peculiar poem,Sonth ti Harud(Spring and Fall).He supported the land to the tiller and wrote Aise Kaashirayav Tul Nov Rut Kadam(We,Kashmirs have taken the right step).There were other poems which hailed socialism and communist thought. It was however his path breaking experiment in free verse in the form of a poem, Bu Gavene Az (I will not sing today) which is considered as a milestone in the evolution of Kashmiri poetry. This was for the first time that free verse was written in Kashmiri and to this effect that anyone who read or heard the poem was mesmerized by the blending sound of the words and rhyme. Even though the essence of the poem seemed like a communist party manifesto yet the use of native collocations made it dear to every Kashmiri. Common Kashmiri phrases which poets of yesteryears had deemed unfit as poetic expression lend aesthetic expression and beauty to this poem. During the first phase of his career communism and Marxist ideas had great influence on him and it showed in almost all his poems but, Me Sham Aaash Pagehech(My Hope,Tomorrow)clearly stands out from the rest in terms of its content. There is no sloganeering, no Marxist ideas, it reflects layers of insecurity of a common Kashmiri in the times of uncertainty. It has three monologues, three persons having a tryst with their destinies howsoever small, nonetheless important for them. How they pray in vain for the war not to break tomorrow for tomorrow is their day of hope.
They say war is breaking out
But surely not tomorrow
When I have a rendezvous
It can’t break out tomorrow!
(Translation by T.N.Raina)
It is in this period that Nadim wrote Son Watan(Our motherland),Sar-Subhai(The break of Dawn) and the first sonnets in Kashmiri language. One must not fail to mention his poem Dal Heanzni Hond Vatsun(Song of the Boatwoman) where the poet easily submerses into the role of a spokesperson for the poor and downtrodden Kashmiri. Everyday imagery has been used and intrinsically woven around the theme of a poor woman trying to sell vegetables and fish. The pathos of the poor woman arouses intense emotions and pain, the reader is almost drawn towards a state of empathy with the boatwoman. It was for the first time in Kashmiri poetry that a poet had identified so strongly with the masses.
I hear a baby crying
Someone is whimpering at my breast
O my good woman, my heart is not here
Come buy!Come buy!Come buy!
(Translation by T.N.Raina)
Another great poem of this era which merits mention is the obituary Nadim wrote on the passing away of the secular nationalist poet Mahjoor.In his tribute in Gwonmatas motuk shar kari kyah(Artist is but immortral)he has immortalized Mahjoor with the assertion that an artist like Mahjoor will never die. He hasn’t rued on the loss of Mahjoor’s life but emphasized the fact that the latter has left behind a legacy of ideas which will keep him alive amongst the people of Kashmir.
Thus we move to the next era of his literary career which saw the fall of ideals and the icons that Nadim held close to his heart and reflected in his poetry. The erstwhile progressives and supposed Marxists were now in seats of power and their social, ethical and moral values stood exposed while running governments. It was but obvious that calls of equality, socialistic values and Marxist ideas were used as means to get to the seats of power. The mask had come off. The revolution was betrayed by the ones who were once its supposed torch bearers. Nadim wrote sarcastic, almost poems of black satire in the period following 1954.In his poem Kagaz Vaalesunz Hakh (Paper Vendors’ Cry) he emphasizes the new materialistic thought had consumed morals and dreams and how everything including conscience is up for sale. It was however his poem which he recited in the presence of the then Chief Minister as a dig at him that made his fearlessness evident.
Khwaja Mohammad is now a Nawab
But Moma remains Moma
Can you solve this puzzle?
Fill me a cup of wine!
(Translation by Rashneek Kher)
His poems Huti Nazran Dolaan Dyaar Matyo (Money Bags dangling before your eyes),Zindabad Me Haz Chu az chony Shreh(Today,You are the one I love) were in the same league and were full of sardonic humour and satire.The poem that is distinctively different from the poems Nadim wrote in this era is,Lakhchi chu Lakchun (Identification,Thy Mole)The poem is a literary marvel since Nadim has brought in symbols and images from different historical, mythical and geographical contexts and juxtaposed them in the native language. The poem in my opinion is Nadims first brush with feminine beauty albeit in a metaphysical context. The object of the entire feminine aspect of beauty centers on an otherwise inconsequential mole of the face of the lady. This is really the first poem where Nadim has attempted to stay clear of any social message but his ideology has had better of him as can be seen in the last two lines of the poem.
She has a mole
Above her artery
Pulsating love,
As if a mother
Nursed in her heart
The jewel of her eyes,
Whom she rears with love alone;
Joy of the poor woman who has gleaned from husk
Grain by grain, a handful of rice
(Translation by T.N.Raina)
With this we come to the third phase of Nadim’s literary career where his style had seen a change from sloganeering to suggesting. This is evident from his poem Naabad ti Tyathyvan(The Bitter and the Sweet)wherein the underlying theme of revolution is stated in hushed tones almost to the point of internalizing the philosophy of communism. The poet has borrowed heavily from mythology and woven what might seem like disparate and divergent elements into upsurge of love and its orgasmic climaxes with the shame and the guilt of the clandestine love post the coital. Although Nadim wrote various poems in this era with differing styles, rhyme and content but two poems without which the piece would be incomplete are Zalar Zaej(Cob webs) and Shihul Kul(The Tree of Shade).In Zalar Zaej the poet tries to present a picture of the society where entropy is the rule and disarray over rides every facet of life. The poet ends on a positive note hoping the arrival of dawn would usher in fresh ideas.In Shihul Kul the poet has attempted to paint the glorious traditions of Kashmir, of which the Chinar is the most potent symbol. The Chinar has welcomed everyone irrespective of colour, religion and race and nourished them under its benign shade.It is in this era that Nadim wrote a lot of short poems of which the prominent ones are Shah-i-Hamadan,Gaasa Tul,Tsoor,Taav Taav and Yapary Traviv Tsopary Nazarah.He wrote Haary’Saath(Happenings)as a group pf poems over a period of time.In these poems he has tried to revive the Vaakh, a form of poetry which Lal Ded started and wasn’t frequently used except for by Krishanjoo Razdan.
While his contribution to poetry is widely recognized his contributions to other fields of art like drama and short story needs to be equally appreciated and recorded. Nadim wrote the first opera in Kashmir and most of his operas were showcased in India as well as abroad.He brought new styles of presentation to drama in Kashmir and also revived the Band-Pather form of art in its new avatara on the stage.Some of his prominent operas were Heemal ta Naagraey and Bombur Yamberzal.Nadim wrote the first short story in Kashmiri and was thus a trendsetter in this field too. Nadim was a wordsmith who had this unique way of presenting his wares in a manner that rhyme and tinkle followed them. He brought out words which had probably gone into oblivion for no one used them. He wrote in the same language as the one spoken on the road. His imagery was drawn from the ordinary Kashmiri on the street. He was the first Kashmiri poet to write a free verse, blank verse, sonnet, haiku and short story .He broke the worn out and much used mould of poetry and replaced it with new images drawn from ordinary people. He was thus a people’s poet for he spoke their language and drew their inspiration from their everyday life.Nadim was an inspiration for poets in his generation and many more to follow. The present day great poets like Rahi,Kamil ,Firaq and Majboor wrote in styles which were similar to that of Nadim’s. Some of the poems written by his illustrious contemporaries like Santosh and Saqi were so similar in diction to Nadim’s poems that it was hard to tell one from another. Such was the influence Nadim wield over his contemporaries and the aspiring poets.

(Rashneek Kher)

No comments:

Dead End

Dead End
The road to what was once my home in Kashmir....zuv chum bramaan ghare gachehae..