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Kashmiri literature and Farooq Nazki sahab: A tribute

By: Arjimand Hussain

The passing away of Farooq Nazki sahab marks a poignant moment, symbolising the near-end of a remarkable era of Kashmiri literature. He belonged to that distinguished lineage of Kashmiri literati who tirelessly nurtured the Kashmiri language and literature through not-so-easy times.

Nazki sahab’s persona was multifaceted. Soft-spoken and well-read, his captivating narratives of literature and history could hold you spellbound for hours. He excelled as a journalist, broadcaster, poet and even Director of Radio Kashmir and Doordarshan Srinagar.

Nazki sahab symbolized much more than the sum total of his personalities. He had inherited a lot of traits from his father, Ghulam Rasool Nazki sahab, an illustruous poet and a pioneering radio broadcaster himself. His collection of Kashmiri poetry – Naar Hyotun Kanzalwanas – is a masterpiece. And little wonder that the family originally came from Kashmir’s Bandipora district, known for its rich literary legacy and, of course, its splendid natural beauty.

Radio Kashmir has always stood tall as a regional beacon of excellence, showcasing the finest Kashmiri literary and broadcasting talent. In the early 2000s, fresh out of college, I had the privilege of hosting its first weekly career guidance program for students, popular among young people then. During my time at Radio Kashmir, I witnessed firsthand the professionalism and dedicated effort that went on behind the scenes to bring high quality programs to its viewers. And whenever I pondered the source of that culture of excellence, the names of Ghulam Rasool Nazki, Farooq sahab and others would readily come to mind.

Today, as we contemplate Kashmiri literature and the legacy of its poets and writers, we cannot help but ponder the future. Centuries ago, mystics like Lalla Arifa (Lalleshwari) ignited mass spiritual awakenings with her “Vakhs.” Sheikh ul Aalam or Nund Rishi (RA), Kashmir’s revered saint and poet, left behind works of unparalleled brilliance since the 14th century.

Habba Khatoon wove her stories of love and defiance into captivating Kashmiri verses. Mahmud Gami, with his masterful words, painted unforgettable landscapes of romance and devotion. The 19th century saw poets like Rasul Mir pen indelible expressions of defiance. Zinda Kaul’s soulful poems and Dinanath Nadim’s progressive anthems ushered in a new era for Kashmiri literature in the 20th century.

The works of the 18th and 19th-century poets like Mahmud Gami and Rasul Mir, renowned for their romantic and Sufi-inspired verses, social commentary, and patriotic themes leave their readers spellbound even today. The legacies of greats like Akhtar Mohi uddin, Zinda Kaul, Amin Kamil, Rehman Rahi, Abdul Ahad Azad, Rupa Bhawani, Ghulam Nabi Khayal, and contemporary poets like Nasim Shifai ji, Shad Ramzan, and Zareef Ahmad Zareef continue to shine as beacons for future generations.

Today, amid the hustle and bustle of modern life, whenever we get to browse through their works, one realises that each poem, each story of these great writers, poets, and philosophers hold within their lines the melancholy of history, the echoes of spiritual aura and sycretism, the very essence of Kashmiri literature.

Zareef sahab is one of those few contemporary Kashmiri poets and oral history narrators who are actively influencing the younger generation through their masterful use of social media. That new pursuit of energy has inspired countless youngerers towards Kashmiri literature afresh. Likewise, publications like Greater Kashmir and Kashmir Life are playing a crucial role in interviewing and highlighting the voices of otherwise forgotten literary figures.

As a humble novice in the field of Kashmiri literature, I regret I could not have been all inclusive in mentioning the names of all other distinguished figures, but there are, surely, more of them.

Honestly, whilest I developed a deep interest in Urdu, Hindi and Persian literature during my school days, I never had the opportunity to study Kashmiri or read the great icons of its literature. I am grateful to the late Akhtar Mohiuddin sahab and Ghulam Nabi Khayal sahab, who ignited my curiosity about Kashmiri literature after my engineering college days. They gifted me a treasure trove of their books that I hold dear to my heart. May God bless their souls. And, I must admit, my early 2000s experience at Radio Kashmir, where I quietly absorbed the voices of great poets and writers, had a profoundly attracted me to Kashmiri reading.

Today, even as the eminent lights of Kashmiri literature are fading, there is also a sillver lining of hope. Non traditional mediums like Sharda Radio have become a cherished resource promoting Kashmiri language and literature. The way I see it, it could be a great medium for promoting this language among Kashmiri Diaspora, who, especially the children, experience a native linguistic and cultural deficit. Personally, I find Sharda Radio a fulfilling companion throughout my travels, offering a fascinating resource for exploring Kashmiri literature, folklore and music.

Whilst my personal interactions with Nazki sahab were limited, but his words at literary events always left me awestruck. However, my main insights into Nazki family’s literary tastes came through my college friend and hostel mate, Wajahat Nazki, a noble gentleman. Once, after publishing my book “Omar Abdullah – the Burden of Inheritance”, while serving as Media Advisor to the National Conference, Nazki sahab expressed a desire for us to meet. Unfortunately, as fate had it, that meeting never happened.

On Wednesday when I saw Naeem Akhtar sahab leading Nazki sahab’s Jinaza, it was an emotional moment, not only for the loss of Nazki sahab but also for the feeling that the shining lights of Kashmiri literature are fading away fast.

Like many other languages, the legacy of Kashmiri literature faces fragility in today’s fast-paced digital world. Original literature, as we know it, is under increasing pressure from digital innovations. However, there is a renewed curiosity among a section of young people to reconnect with their literary roots.

The least we could do in these times is to preserve the books and write ups of these amazing poets and thinkers. A large treasure of books and other important publications, in recent years, has gone into waste collectors’ carts from our homes. That should never happen again. We need a Kashmiri Rekhta to preserve all this treasure, including Kashmiri Sufi poetry.

As what Nazki sahab said –




May God bless Nazki sahab’s soul.

The writer is founder of Ziraat Times 

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