Words woven into tapestry

Born in the picturesque Aripora village of Kulgam, South  Kashmir, on April 12, 1956 to an educated family,  Prof Mohammad Ramzan Shah,  is popularly known as Shad Ramzan. He is nostalgic about Aripora. That stream called Vishou, he remembers,  flowing through his native village where he, along with other children, would stay for hours watching the water flow and birds chirp.  Shad says, besides his father, Khair ud Din Mohammad Shah, a Persian scholar, nature has been his best teacher and guide. “I felt an urge at a very tender age to give expression to that bewitching beauty of my village, and that is how I began writing poetry. I was just 15 then”, Shad reminisces.

Prof Shad Ramzan is the recipient of National literary Award 2014 by Sahitiya Academy, New Delhi for his poetic collection  “Kore Kaakud  Gome Pushrith ”.  He is also the recipient of national translation award for Anhaar Te Aks, 2009  (Kashmiri rendering of seventeen short stories written in different Indian languages)  by Sahitiya Academy New Delhi . The work, a lucid and honest rendering, reflects the translator’s clear understanding of the content and spirit of the original writing. Besides these, his work has been recognized widely in his own state and he has received prestigious awards like Khilati Harmuk, Khilat Shabaz,  Fhakri Maraz, Khilatai Noor, Khilati Moti Lal and Khilati fazil Kashmiri .

Prof Shad did his doctorate on the theme: “Intellectual Background of Kashmiri Mystic poets, from Lal Daed to Ahad Zargar” under the supervision of his guide and guru Prof Rehman Rahi, whom he terms as “ Our gift to the world of literature”.  Prof Shad taught cultural history of Kashmir, Sufi poetry and folk literature at Post Graduate Department of Kashmiri at Kashmir University for more than three decades.

He has written extensively on various themes concerning Kashmiri language and literature. He has authored and edited a number of books published by various national institutions like  Sahitya Acadamy,  National Book Trust of India, New Delhi, and J&K Academy of Art,  Culture and Languages. His work Ath Zulmatus Laal Kya Chhi Tai published  in 2005 has four research articles, and the rest is criticism. The book is considered a significant contribution to understanding Kashmiri prose and poetry. Prof Shad has made a path breaking study on Kashmiri folk literature. His work Sahal Chha Mani Bozun  is a collection of research articles on various themes relating to Kashmir language literature and folklore. These books have generated a lively debate on various aspects of Kashmiri literature especially Kashmiri poetry, and help broaden our understanding of  the subject. The author has assessed the contribution of various eminent Kashmiri poets and prose writers besides evaluated the trends, themes and the treatment of Kashmir poetry  in the context of classical  and the modern approaches to language and literature. Mohammad Maroof Shah, noted intellectual, critic and scholar in his review article ‘Impressions on Prof. Shad Ramzan’s Critical Works’ says;  “We have many critics in Kashmiri, for local audience at least, that deserve to be better known by general readers and students of indigenous language and literature. And when language is accessible, not too speculative or jargon ridden, one can’t but be enthusiastic about their wider consumption. Prof. Shad Ramzan’s work illustrates my point to a great extent”, adding that “his criticism is not what students of Kashmiri literature can afford to ignore”.

“It has been 45 years since. Days of continuous struggle, learning experiences, ups and downs, achievements. Life gives you much, but takes away something the absence of which haunts you every time” Shad Ramzan reflects on the life spent. In one of the very powerful poems Wasi Zooni Bai Kastan Khabray from his national award winning poetry collection  Kore Kakud  Gome Pushrith, Shad  gives powerful expression to that nostalgia:

“Zoon Moji Bayi Bi Tarhah Dardigham

Bayi Bi Wochha Bali Panuk

Vishou Aaruk Mueth Shaam

Zindagi Samkhem ti Wanhus

Gas Wu Rach Husnas Jamaal

Gach  Wu Sar Ishqas Jalal

Oh Mother Moon, I yearn to go to that native land  of Dardigham again

To experience that childhood’s sweet sunset by the Vishav banks,

If I get to meet life now, I would nurture the bloom of beauty

Go and delve into the glory of love

Like  Mehjoor’s Meyanow Maloom Kaer Ni Meen Rai (They  did not ask for my opinion) and  Momin Khan Momin’s  Mae Khud Aaya Naheen Laya Gaya Hoon (I have not come on  my own, but sought) Shad Ramzan’s Kori Kakud Goem Pushrith, ( He handed over a blank paper to me ) is in consonance with the idea where life is believed to be  a blank canvas,  on which Shad, like  Mark Twain says, you need to “Explore. Dream. And Discover ”. But Shad cautions that  “despite one’s best efforts, there would never be the culmination of that picture on the canvas of  life” and “poetry becomes a representation of that helplessness”.

Good writers have, what Isaac Asimov, noted US writer calls a “capacity for clear thought,” an ability to go from point to point in an orderly sequence. This is true of great poets also.  If one looks at  “Choonth Kulis Tal “ ( Under an apple tree ), a long poem in free verse by Shad Ramzaan  written in the usual context of the larger  theme, fall of man,  Shad  beautifully creates an atmosphere for reunion of Adam and Eve  beneath the same apple tree.

“Baar Khudaya

Taeth Bagus Manz

Choonth Kolis Tal

Kar Ghachi Azlus Abduds Moel”

(Oh God, When, in that Garden

Under that apple tree

Will the beginning meet the end?)

Another poem Toeth Baeth Kanh ( A song like that ), projects a  philosophy while  the poet longs to be empowered  to write a song that if sung turns everything immortal.

Hai khuda wanda  bi kasssh

Soonchi sudras manz bodeth

Lekha toeth Baeth kenh

Zindagi gaewhae ti sapdae lazawaal

Oh God, if I could sink like a stone,

Beneath the ocean of thought,

And write a song,

Which life would sing,

And become immortal

Lekha toeth baeth kaenh boozthi

Husnas ti lolus sapdi moel

Aami pani sudras ti laghai nayi taar

Bali damin obri lung khasha ti

Washay rodi choel

( I long to  write one such song,

Which when heard will unite love and beauty,

Shall ferry across the river ‘a boat with tender thread’.

A cloud could ascend,

From the lap of mountains only to

Let rain unleash.)

Like many great poets Shad also believes that the basic component of poetry is language. “ It is the language only which leads a reader to an idea and  the poet can only be successful when he is able to make use of contemporary idiom”, he explains. I also believe that a poet should be able to give a personal touch to the idiom, and the usage should be original and indigenous. This is where Shad Ramzaan has succeeded. Shads’s mastery over rhyme and rhythm is such that he often creates a new vocabulary, wonderful idiom, phrases, similes, metaphors using the same old words, yet creating new feelings.  He has experimented with some expressions with a “novel and indigenous style” woven with the intention of helping his readers in their imagination. See the beauty of these expressions:

Shamma  Ti  Waaw Gindinaawun ( make a candle and wind play),  Sadaiv Sahar (Melodious morning) , Dadsoel Koem  ( Insect with deep, quenching  thrust)  Pazaeb schroen ( sound of an anklet)   Tapi Toek  ( A small patch of sunlight), and Ungjun Pun Gandun” (wearing  thread around fingers to remember something).

Great poetry for Shad Ramzaan means commitment to words. One does not come across much of the abstract, or jargon inflicted style in his verses.  “A poet should be aware of all shades of meaning of a word.  Words are part of language and they have historical, linguistic, social, and cultural associations besides our feelings” . According to Shad, commitment to words is important for a poet to the extent that if he misses it, a statement will remain there, not poetry.    He refers  to Lal Ded’s  famous line Kenh nata kenh nata kenh nata kenh  and says poetry has to be a  cry like that. In my world, says Shad, it  is Aadim waedhak ( human wailing). Protest is another powerful component of poetry, and my poetry is full of it, he adds. Saifi Sopori, the great Urdu poet of Kashmir  terms Shad an alchemist who carves “golden phrases and metaphors ”  out of usual experiences.

To be concluded

Showkat Shafi  is former faculty at the Department of Journalism, KU. He is presently Dy. Director DIQA, Kashmir University.