If Poets Were Legislators
Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world as Shelley said
MUHAMMAD MAROOF SHAH
It is sometimes asked who represents us if not the elected politician. I think there is an answer, agreed by almost all the people of all civilizations. This is the poet. The poet may not solve my problems but at least gives me consciousness of loss and inspires me to action. When I am sad I sing his songs to soothe myself. Even in bathrooms his consolation is sought by all those who keep singing to themselves in silence. Poets give us identity. Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world as Shelley said. They show the way of the gods when gods seem to have fled as Heidegger said. Poets are the true ambassadors of masses. Where politicians divide poets unite. When the question of borders comes, politicians define and guard them but the writers like Mantu write “Toba Taik Singh” and “Teetwal Ka Kutta”. If there were no poets politicians – the agents of class rule – would destroy the world through artificial borders and walls. We need poets to humanize us and to teach us to be ourselves.
Sarhaden achi ki sarhadu sae guzarna acha
Bolyae aadmi acha ya parenda acha.
We may have progressed in terms of certain things but in terms of making the world a truly global village we have retrogressed from medieval times. Ibn Batuta could travel across continents without being asked to show passport anywhere. There were no such borders as exist today. Nationalism – a creation of Capitalism – has created borders and we accept them and even sacrifice lives of soldiers for guarding them. Poets – if they are not hired by the class we are exposing – at least can’t accept the borders or the logic of nationalism.
Visiting Poonch through Mughal Road along with a huge caravan of lovers of art should prove a historical visit and I expect other literary and cultural institutions would emulate Adbi Markaz Kamraz in future in arranging similar events. We need cultural pilgrimages to important and forgotten centers. I hope we organize events and proceed to such places as Harwan around which Nagarjuna, the greatest Indian logician and Buddhist thinker and Abhinavgupta, the greatest aesthetician of the world, lived. We should organize a conference on mysticism at Ahad Sahib Sopore’s shrine. Similarly we can plan literary events on important celebrations of our saints - urs. I hope we organize such events and go across the border to Mazar-i-Iqbal to commemorate Iqbal. More important than trade is cultural exchange. Cultural exchange brings hearts together and that builds the lasting foundations for any further relations between people.
We have ignored sciences and we have ignored humanities. We have one of the richest literary, aesthetic and cultural traditions in the world. We have produced first class international thinkers that rival Plato. We have Sufi poetry that for want of projection would find place in every important library and bookshop in the world. Adbai Markaz Kamraz and other literary institutions have huge challenges in this respect. Retrieving our Buddhist-Saivite Sanskrit-Islamic Persian and Kashmiri literary, philosophical heritage is a herculean task for which human resource needs to be trained. Arranging mushairas in which 90% poetry is only a bad imitation of other poets and not worthy of time of the audience is not a big deal. We need quality poetry recitations and quality criticism of it. But in an environment where even our literary critics can’t unembarassingly talk about Abhniavgupta’s aesthetics and critical ideas in the context of his extremely subtle metaphysics and scholarly study of mysticism that grounds most of our literary works is yet to begin in our academies making our critics morally and intellectually crippled; all of those who work for language and culture in Kashmir need to work really hard. We have yet to translate Sufi poetry for world audience and yet to introduce it to our new generation in an accessible style. We have conducted no conference on Abhinanagupta who is himself a formidable school and has been revived in many Western universities. Our critics – with very few exceptions – have little exposure to subtleties of Sufi metaphysics without which no good translation and commentary on Sufi poetry is possible. We have not given attention to philosophy without which we can’t claim to have good understanding of modern criticism that is heavily inflected with philosophy. We have made little effort to translate great Persian classics and our own Persian intellectual heritage and this incapacitates us from proper appreciation of our Sufi poets who have appropriated Persian linguistic and cultural motifs. Not only does our Kashmiri language face huge challenges but our literary culture (Sanskrit-Persian) is facing oblivion. Our academic and cultural institutions including NGOs devoted to art and language need to better identify the challenges and work towards solutions. One might ask, for instance, after Kashmiri is taught at all levels and it earns the status of classical language what are our short term and long term targets. We need to give content to our movement that now spans all regions of the State. I will suggest, for instance, preparation of Encyclopaedia of Kashmiri Thought. How poor is the situation of literary criticism in Kashmir can be gauged from the fact that we have few if any person to bank upon to enlighten us regarding difficulties in the texts of any great thinker from Plato to Derrida including our own Abhinavgupta, especially on those issues that relate literature to First Principles. So our critics need to gear up and our literary institutions need to wake from the slumber or they face irrelevance. We have some great poets and scholars of certain specialized areas from which new generation needs to learn but what is needed is quality institutional structure where anyone could go and get enlightened on a host of disciplines that are needed for proper appreciation of art and culture in contemporary idiom. The million dollar question is could we create such human resource and what plans our institituions like Adbi Markaz Kamraz and Maraz have in place for this.
Travelling to Poonch through Mughal Road with the caravan of Adbi Markaz Kamraz demonstrated the power of culture over politics. It showed that people cannot be divided. It showed how different regions of the state have been forcibly separated in the name of nationalism and how hatred between people is sponsored by Capital – military-industrial complex – that underlies the discourse of nationalism.
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Lastupdate on : Tue, 31 Jul 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 31 Jul 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 1 Aug 2012 00:00:00 IST
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