Unhealed old wounds

Dr Nazir Azad isn’t an unknown figure in the literary and academic circles of the Kashmir Valley. He has already made his name by publishing many poetry collections—in Urdu and Kashmiri—and critical works. He is a researcher and has published some research-oriented books also.

The present collection of poems called waqte kis kath taam jazeeras mazn [On Some Unknown Island of Time] is his latest publication. According to the writer, many of these poems have already appeared on Facebook.. The book begins with a naat which is a beautiful exploration into finding a suitable ‘word’, a ‘simile’ or a ‘metaphor’ that would suitably describe and name the Prophet:

That word and that metaphor

Or a Symbol like that

When I get it

I’d cradle it in my lap

Kiss it with my eyes

Immerse it into my soul

And name it

Naat to Ahmad, the Prophet.  [15 (numeral refers to page nos)]

There is an encomium to the Sufi Saint poet, Sheikhul Alam. It is a huge poem of 116 lines in which last line of each couplet ends with laam or [l]. I won’t comment on the devotion that the poet has expressed in the poem, but these lines need a mention as they talk about the current situation in Kashmir:

For me moments of solace have become a dream

In the storm is the boat sinking these days.

No ray of solace dares to enter here

Why I feel life as a forest of sorrows.  [24]

There is another huge poem of 125 lines entitled ‘Abu Imroze Jumbani’.  I don’t know who this person was, but the way he has been described tells me that he is symbolic of creativity in the poet himself. That is what he says in these lines:

O people! If asked

Who Abu Imroze Jumbani is?

Tell them

That mad poet

Perhaps, Abu Imroze Jumbani is

Within me living

Or, in hearts us of all

. . .

Abu Imroze Jumbai is the name of the madness

That shows the way to the senses. [33]

Another huge poem entitled ‘Shumaila: Daughter of Winter-I, II & III’ appears to me the winter of Kashmir personified through the beautiful description of the girl:

They say the whole night you spend

Crying looking at the sky

They say for the whole day

You curse the sun. [35]

Shumaila doesn’t seem to be an ordinary girl. She has been portrayed as “worried letter”, “a sound that is clad in solace” [37] and “a word” that “gives birth to a thought” [44].  She is like Mehjoor’s ‘grees koor’ or Wordsworth’s Lucy who represents the ebb and flow of our social life. In in Part I she is a solace, in Parts II & III, she is reflection on the sad state of affairs prevailing in the society. The poet writes:

shumaila dokhtari zamistan!

zara panaeni sorma taeri tul thod

wudaesi tapul chu az saropa

tamaam basti zehr banith

qtra qatra telaan.

Shumaila is a longing, a desire and a wish of peace and tranquillity that have gone from the place for ages, which is why people are waiting for her to come. The locality is in a bad shape [64] and waiting to see when the fourteen-year banishment (banbaas) would come to an end [64]. It seems to me that the poet has taken flights into a different world where temporal and spatial aspects lose importance which is why he finds himself on some unknown island of time.

‘Schizophrenia’ [47], though a disease, is a flight into the unknown for the poet as he says, “Is it child’s play to diagnose love’s fever?” ‘Schizophrenia’ is really stretches our imagination, and we seem to travel with the poet into the unknown world:

How can I say

That all of us are

Fully victims of this disease!   [53]

Once again, Nazir Azad brings the timelessness of his poetry to the fore. Art is everlasting and keeps the poet alive through ages as Shakespeare says in his Sonnet 18:

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Art is immortal.  That is what seems to be in Azad’s mind when he writes,

Whenever Schizophrenic ailments

Take the shape of a pandemic

Traverse they from one generation to another.

Nazir Azad isn’t oblivious to what is happening around him. ‘Quarantine’ and ‘Lockdown’ have been in vogue since March 2019 and the poet has related these terms to our age-old situation that has made us virtually dead for ever. In ‘moodmitis kyah mari wabah’ (The dead can’t be killed by pandemic, 65). He has drawn a gory picture of our ill deeds and our indifference to not only the dead but also human values:

See, how foolish scientists are

What’ll Covid-19 etc do to us?

They’re just photocopies of our Conscience

Virus can infect the living soul

The dead can’t be killed by pandemic

We have since quarantined ourselves ‘

Though our Conscience is

In need of a grave.  [67-8]

bah moos [Twelve Months: 131-154] contains twelve ghazals named after the calendar month. Each month with its various moods is described in comparison to a beloved  whose “face radiates in spite of harsh winter” [131] in January while in April the “the sweet and clear water from her eyes extinguishes the hell fire” [137] and in December,  the poet feels lonely and “Chilaikalan was surprised to see him alone” [153].

waqte kis kath taam jazeeras mazn [At Some Unknown Island of Time] is full of imagery, similes and metaphors. Its diction is simple, though one must dive deep into their thematic concerns that manifest Azad’s grip over the poetic devices that he has decorated his poems with. It is a beautiful addition to Kashmir’s literary tradition and must be read with care as it contains many allusions which need to be fathomed historically.Professor Muhammad Aslam is ex HoD English, Kashmir University