G R Josh: Reading the grief

Greater Kashmir

It is the pain and suffering that over shadows almost all human endeavours, and keeps the pot boiling for the endless stretch of agonies for mankind. The galleries of art, carvings on stones, and various other manifestations of human feelings and emotions paint the elegy of human suffering. Pleasure is an ephemeral break that fails to last long. Ghulam Rasool Josh, one of the remarkable modern poets of Kashmir, weaves his poetry around this phenomenon. Pain and grief constitute the major motifs of his poetics. He sings pain! He doesn’t celebrate it though. He has a strong aspirational tendency that prevents him from acceding this pain as something divine and predetermined. Nevertheless, procrastination prevails his poetic discourse. He makes a bold confession to this cunctation:

Labi ander taam gashi zechun manz ti fehlay yoos

Shahre manz aaes baang dapan me oos gomut cheer.

In the interiors of walls I spread through rays of light

Adhan was raised in the city, and I was late!

Surprisingly when the stalwarts of Kashmiri poetry and his contemporaries explored the theories of aestheticism and pleasure in poetry, Josh maintains his singularity. When Prof. Rahman Rahi, an icon of Kashmiri poetry and mentor of Josh, could not escape the luring attractions of life and wrote:

Su golaab roie deuthum bay az golaab chavaan

Me chi ven misaalene manz rambe ven khayaal ravaan

Josh remained unmoved.

Yi chu Josh zindagi huend jate josh vuchni Aamut

Nate harde kale kansta tsaraan bahar aasiya

Josh has come to discern the glitter of life

could there be someone searching Spring in Autumn

Thus the themes of isolation and grief are very dominate in his poetics. They may not be radically new or exclusively his own, nevertheless his treatment and perennial association with these themes make him an out-standing poet of grief.

Brought up in the second half of the 20th century when the fabric of family and society was thinning away and individuality overtook all earlier corporate and social dimensions of society the poet laments the loss of human feelings:

Bihith majlisi ander kanh lari ne kaansay

Akis akh kun tavy kathe kari ne kaansay

Together, yet all apart from each other

None talks to each other now

Josh is an anti-romantic and an iconoclast who shatters all hypocrisy, and illusion by the rod of truth:

Faaqae het lukh intizaaras manz stagus kun vuchan

Ishtihaaras peth lekhith oosukh azab te dilberi

Starved souls waitingly looking at the Podium

The Poster had been printed on; penance and romance.

He propounds a realism that is unromantic and unsentimental and thus devoid of any great outburst of emotions and sentiments. As Emerson sets off his aims in poetry:

“I will not read a pretty tale

To pretty people in a nice saloon

Borrowed from their expectation

But I will sing aloud and free

From the heart of the world”

Josh sets to unpack the mysteries of the heart of the world. He unravels his loneliness that seems enveloping him day in and day out. In his poem “ Saffar Saffar Tanha” he espouses:

Siriyes kariha kancha thour

Zameen ti nachiha ruch khand lot

Be ti dev labeha

Sani khamooshi manz

Ani gati

Pan ni tanhayee hund voont.”

May someone shield the sun

May the earth slow her rotation

So I may find

In the deep silence

And utter dark

The depth of my loneliness

The depth is unfathomable and a mere material and physical outreach can’t make the poet discover it. This loneliness is the common denominator of all mankind. An individual is caught in a fix in the modern age. As Firaq Gorakhpori puts it as:

Is door mai zindagi basher ki

Beemaar ki raat hogaye hai

The life of an individual in this age

Has become the night of a sick

Bade chi dapaan aasaar chi tith ven taraqee karo

Shure chi lamaan hagrus te dapaan hay rail vuchiv

Elders say that that signs of development there are

Street boys pull the cart and call it a rail!

The poet personifies the pain and agony outside and struggles against it. This struggle is painstaking and at times suffocating, however, the poet is not disappointed by such things. He says:

Chu ketihaan hoosh ravan yaam deshaan kainatek rung

Magar as Josh hoshus thaph kerith zagaan chu shaitaanan

Many lose consciousness at the sight of facets of the Universe

But Josh is now cautiously ambushing the Satans!

The socio-political injustices that have added miseries and woes of the masses disturb the poet. To deconstruct the power structure and outdo the authoritative establishments, the poet makes some daring choices. The poet, nevertheless, maintains his cool and saves himself from becoming a political sloganeer. He didn’t let the poetry become subservient to physical and material needs. He didn’t look down upon these needs though. He espouses the tyrant structures be pulled down with inteligence and inner power that every human being possess within. The poet laments all those structures that discourage the aspirational tendencies of mankind. He writes:

Sawala kor jawaba diyut te pake brounh

Vuniyuk taamuth dalaan chu ne ame neber kanh

Here is a question, there is an answer, and thus we move

Till now this is the limit of all the human movement

The poet is not, however, a Niobe figure. Niobe , as per greek mythology, lost all her sons to Leto. The poet, on the contrary, rises phoenix-like. Through out his ouvere he never succumbs,  and surrender is never an option in the scheme of things he devises. He doesn’t make his reader fall in a bottomless gorge. He finds him already  fallen. He has his own approach to make him out and that is not self destruction or self annihilation. That is the Self Realisation! However, the journey to the Self Realisation is not an easy go. It needs a strong, unflinching and unwavering character that shall overcome all the miseries and challenges on this path. The development of such a character is evolutionary. The poet believes that there is a metaphysical and spiritual force that guides one in this voyage of self. This voyage demands Sacrifice. Sacrifice is an antithesis to Self Anhilation.

Yi chi aze kathe mashemech yi chu shooq raaase gomut

Nate wante cha yi mumkin Mansoor khasi ne daarus.

It’s a forgotten tale and the Love has been eroded

Otherwise, is it possible that Mansoor kisses not the gallows

However, the poet doesn’t ignore the physical dimension of being in this supernatural foray. He achieves the self realisation through this physical and material orbit.

Banan tufaan bazay shooq miyounoe

magar chapi tati panun zuu jaan dede

My longing turns at times into a storm

It needs my immolation though.

The poet undoes all these things with a cool mind. In this journey his register is marked with soberness and there is no sense of urgency unlike most of the reformists and revolutionaries. This journey is one of metaphysical and transcendental nature, thus free from any hubbub and bedlam.

This Realisation leads to Reconstruction. The Self-effulgent nature of human soul shall illuminate the darkness that prevents the soul to reach its perfection. This stage is one of utter celebration and utter joy. The Realisation does not land you into some Utopean landscape. It makes you to live and live with your physical self. However, an immense reservoir of spiritual strength makes you to undo all the rough edges. Josh writes in poem Thor:

Zameen nachaan nachaan

Gov langi piyounta akh

Akhtabus thor



Shehjar me kiyut

The Earth while on rotation

A mere twig became

A shield to the Sun


A shade  for me.

Mohammad Shafi Rather is Lecturer in English, Govt Higher Secondary School Pakherpora.