The Transmigration of Ismail Aashina's Kashmiri Poetry

Professor Ismail Aashina started writing and composing poems during his college days initially in Urdu and Kashmiri but later in English as well. As a friend, I loved his Urdu poetry far more than his Kashmiri gazals purely on the basis of their respective merits, their overall appeal and particularly the care he took of the artistic requirements like rhythm, rhyme-scheme, the metre etc., while writing in Urdu which were compromised later while writing in Kashmiri. This reminds me of the quality Persian and Urdu poetry of late Prof. Ghulam Muhammad Shad which he wrote and published at the onset of his literary career but was hardly seen in his numerous collections of Kashmiri poetry thereafter. And surprisingly the English poetry of Aashina can easily be termed as his best because here he has chosen the “free verse” only as his form while the selection of words and creative use of language is far more impressive and better in all respects. Anyways, the latest or the fifth collection of poems, “The Unheard Songs” by Aashina, deserves a special attention and a careful reading both by those who have not read any of his previously published books as well as by the others (including myself) who have read all his published poetry in English as well as in Kashmiri. For the new readers “The Unheard Songs” is quite fresh and unique by dint of both the content and the form/style, while it is no less appealing for others though a large number of poems included are just a recurrence or like a rebirth of his poems presented and published previously also as finished products, first in Kashmiri and later in English as well.

A very small but beautiful poem “The Blue Spot”, for example that appears in “The Unheard Songs” at page no. 31 is given below:

Like a blue spot

In the midst of clouds

Am I

Behold me immediately

Or I will vanish

But oh!

The wind has risen

The clouds around me

Have caught fire

Like a blue spot

In the midst of clouds

Am I.

Anyone who reads it for the first time must enjoy and appreciate it well. In fact, it has, recently, been much liked by the reputed journal “The Criterion” so much so that a certificate of appreciation was also issued to the poet for it. It is appreciable for me as well but I had read it long back also when it first appeared in Aashina’s first (and the truly original) collection of Kashmiri poems “Ase Tog Ne Dazun” at page 86 as under:

Tcho Sey manz bagh obrus

Nyoul Tyok Hio

Rawoy Nabas manz woyn

Wochum Wyel Wyel

Magar Hai!  Waaw wuth woyn

Naar loug aendh aendh me obrus

Waay Tcho sey manz bagh obrus

Nyoul Tyok Hio

It stands published again in “Heart’s Avenues- II” (2007) at page. 36 also in its translated form while in the selfsame Kashmiri shape in “The Dense Woods of heart” (2009) also. I have read it every time it appeared and reappeared in all these books. So despite its worth as a good poem, I can’t but enjoy it with somewhat lesser zeal and interest because of having read it so many times earlier too. Shakespeare, Ghalib, Lal Ded, Shaikh ul Aalam or poets of their stature do keep shinning ever after centuries but every time we reprint their works we never make claims of their being something new or fresh but only the reproduction or reprint of already existing poetic works. Similarly, the poem “The Blue Spot” along with dozens of other poems which made their first appearances in the shape of Aashina’s Kashmiri collection of poems “Ase Tog Ne Dazun” in 1998 and thereafter kept reappearing or, let me say, getting transmigrated in his later published works also can surely be regarded as readable, like we read literary journals or newspapers of days gone at times because of some relevance. It is pertinent to mention here that Aashina’s first book “Ase Tog Ne Dazun” got published due to my personal efforts in 1997-78, otherwise the manuscript might have got misplaced or even lost forever due to the carelessness of the poet.

As a sincere and outspoken friend, I did my duty by telling Aashina not to include the already published poems in each of his later collections of poems but he could not be forced to comply with it. Whether in the original Kashmiri form, the poems like “The Blue Spot”, “I shall Take Birth at Countless Times”, Since Withered Centuries”, “The Poet and the Crow”, “Grandma and the Pomegranate”, “The Extinguishing Fire”, “The Dance of Flames”, “How Many Centuries Have We Been Waling”, “I have to Burn”, “We Couldn’t Learn to Burn” etc. or in the shape of Translations, (without any mention of having been translated from Kashmir and their being published) the stuff has been recycled and presented to the readers as if written for the first time now and only now. No logic and no morality can easily brush aside such willful lapses, or to use the proper legal language, the acts of omission and commission”

One thing, however, has to be admitted by every unbiased reader, that Aashina is a very successful translator. Generally, it is believed that the translation of a piece of poetry from one language to another is an uphill task. India’s first Noble laureate Rabindranath Tagore also seemed troubled while translating his Bangla poems into English. He had to drop many lines, I repeat, many lines, not just words or phrases during this process. But amazingly, Aashina seems to be at ease while translating his Kashmiri poems into English. The famous notion that while translating a poem from one language into another, what is usually lost, is the essence of the poetry itself usually does not come true in case of Aashina. This makes the poems initially presented in Kashmiri to fellow Kashmiris through “Ase Tog Ne Dazun” more valuable when reproduced through “Heart’s Avenues” or the so called latest collection “The Unheard Songs” though these poems still remain but translations only.

I am hopeful that Aashina, who happens to be involved in active politics and management of some private educational institutions also, besides being a poet, will publish the poetry in future without mixing up the fresh and the previously published poems and in case he must do so let him make a clear mention thereof. Professor Rahi has been very honest in giving the dates or years of writing his numerous poems during his long journey of literary activities beneath them which helps the readers in visualizing the evolution of his art through various stages of literary journey. Let Aashina follow him at least and produce, in future, fresh and better rather the best of his poetry.