Nisar Azam: Taking Kashmiri poetry to younger audience

The ease with Azam can express emotions and use of words from multiple languages in his writings gives him a unique edge.

Haroon Mirani
Srinagar, Publish Date: Jan 26 2018 11:04PM | Updated Date: Jan 27 2018 9:50AM
Nisar Azam: Taking Kashmiri poetry to younger audienceFile Photo

During his childhood Nassar Ahmad Shah 39 would often accompany his uncle Mohammed Yousuf Shah to small literary events that would often be hosted by art loving families. Be it a Sufi Mehfil or congregation of poets, these functions happening at regular events in remote Rafiabad area of North Kashmir had a deep impact on young Nassar. 

He too tried his hand on writing. His first poem was called Harud. Later he kept on writing in Kashmiri, Hindi, Urdu and even english, depicting the irregular, directionless and exciting phase of writer when a writer wants to try everything without realising that quality is getting compromised. 

During one such literary function Nassar had the privilege of showcasing his talent to poet Shahnaz Rasheed. “He (Shahnaz) along with Mohammed Yousuf Taing suggested me to stick to Kashmiri,” he remembers. “And my journey of writing in Kashmiri on professional literary lines started.”

The polished Nassar who later came to be known as Nisar Azam soon came up an award winning book Patte Leji Zoon Daras (Then the Moon’s eyes Froze). The book released in 2009 was popular among the audience as it beautifully depicted various facets of Kashmiri society. Be it contemporary situation, ghazals, nazams, Hamuds or natal, the poetic collection spread over 140 pages had it all.

The book went on to receive first ever Sahitya Akedmi Yuva Puraskar, 2011. The award aimed to encourage writers upto the age of 35 was constituted in that year and Azam was one of the first recipients of the award presented in Orissa.

The ease with Azam can express emotions and use of words from multiple languages in his writings gives him a unique edge.

 

Aawai ti timan raas yi daryaav kyah karan

Faet zen bathis pethie timan naav kyah karan

Gaamich khabar anan ti guzaran yi shab katyen

Meejikh ni agar jaay e panah kaaw kya karan

 

Azam’s poetry has been widely appreciated by the poets and critics. His writing has been published

by Kashmiri literary magazines Neab (Boston, USA), Nehij (Srinagar), Aalav (Srinagar), Sheeraza

(Srinagar), Prav (Sopore), Sangarmal (Srinagar) and others.

He is regular at the poetic symposia organised by Doordarshan, Radio Kashmir, J&K Academy of Art, Cultural and Languages, North Zone Cultural Centre, Patiala etc.

Azam’s hold on other languages also makes him a skilful translator. He can read and write Bengali, Gujarati, Punjabi, Hindi in addition to Kashmiri, Urdu and upto a greater extent Persian.

His learning of various languages has an interesting story behind it. “Actually I used to tutored by my elder brother Mohammed Altaf. Although he was not much educated but he was multilingual,” said Azam. “Interestingly he had picked these languages from newspapers and other clippings, which were used for packing apples. He had learnt Hindi from somewhere and then he used read Bengali, Punjabi, Gujarati and other newspapers. Meticulously he learned them word by word. It sounds unbelievable but he learned the languages that way.”

These languages opened new doors of new literature to him and used the knowledge efficiently in the translations.

He has translated various Hindi, Bengali and Punjabi poems in Kashmiri. His own poems has been published in Hindi too. 

He has also translated Punjabi writer Shiv Kumar Batalvi’s dastaan style epic verse play  Loona, a poetic folklore of Punjab. The Sahitya Academy Award winner book Loona is about the Puran Bhagat who lived in 17th century and his relation with his step mother Loona and society. The translated book is yet to be published.

The taking of name pen name Azam has an interesting story behind it too. “Once I went to visit Saifi Sopori along with other poets. I recited one of the poems before him and he appreciated it a lot. He asked for my name and I told him that I write under the pen name of Nasir Sanam. He was like, such a brilliant writing and such a worst name,” said Azam. “It is he who changed it to Azam and said it suits me better.”

Azam considers himself lucky to have been born in a place like Rafiabad, a culturally rich area that has been at the forefront of art and literature in North Kashmir. “There is something in air in Rafiabad which makes its land fertile for the artists, poets and writers,” said Azam. “In this small area we have three national award winners and the good thing is younger generation is equally enthusiastic in promoting the culture.”

Experts credit the Rafiabad Adbi Markaz whose regular literary meets in prior to 90’s set a foundation for strong culture for fields of art. The Rafiabad for Art and Literature has also been doing a commendable job in this regard. It is here that writers like Illyas Azad, Hassan Azhar, Shabnam Gulzar, Tarik Ahmad Tarik and others emerged on the literary scene of Kashmir. Incidentally Illyas is the cousin of Azam. 

“The culture of reading and writing has seeped into our family too. In fact my first interaction with writers was through my uncle Mohammed Yousuf Shah, who himself was a writer and regular attendant of these meets,” said Azam. “He has written a lot but unfortunately none of that has been published ever. Similarly my cousin Illyas is a excellent writer too and Rafiabad environment has played a great role in our emergence.”

Regarding youngsters, Azam feels more needs to be done to include them in the field of art. “The major thing we can do is to ease out the restrictions on our language. Our language has gained widely from Persian and Sanskrit in old times and that helped it to flourish,” said Azam. “Now is the time to adopt same approach with English and other languages. There are many word like crackdown, mobile which have become common words as there are no alternatives in Kashmiri. So adoption of these words will increase the acceptability among younger generations too.”

 

After an age, perhaps
It is upheaval all around
The Jalodbhava has emerged yet again
In different form, and in disguise
And he
Has a new name, a new attire
He roams in villages and towns
Plays a flute that mesmerizes
Anyone who listens, follows him
He strangely entices 
Attracts to fascinating ideas
He has laid his net on the street corners
Whosoever is visible, is consumed

In his book, Azam has extensively used words from Sanskrit, Hindi and even English. The poet feels that the use of such words takes the poems closer to the hearts of younger generation and entices them to read more.

As is the case with most of modern Kashmiri writers, Azam with PG in History has no major degree in Kashmiri. He has extensively self studied the language and been able to grasp it nuances. With poets like Azam in charge, Kashmiri language is set to conquer new heights as the experimentation continues. His next yet untitled book is set to be released in April thus further cementing his position in Kashmiri literature. 

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