A prolific but unsung writer

It is so painful, and strange too, that a writer like Shaheedi hasn’t got a recognition that he deserves in public and official circles.
A prolific but unsung writer
GK Photo

My acquaintance with a great prolific writer Sultan-al-Haque Shaheedi was, until recently, confined to a few seminars or book-release functions where he would be introduced to me by the organisers. However, lately, he was kind enough to invite me to his home and present a bouquet of his writings that include his poetic translations and collections. Among the books he gifted me are:

Nuurun ‘ala nuur (Urdu versified translation of Sheikhul Aalam’s shruks)

Payam-i-Mashriq (Kashmiri versified translation of Iqbal’s Message From East)

Lalay-e-Tuur (Urdu versified translation of Iqbal’s quatrains)

Mussaddas: Madd-o-Jazr-i-Islam (Kashmiri versified translation of Khwaja Altaf Hussain Hali’s ‘Mussadas’

Kuliyat-i-Aziz Bahrari (Poetic collection of Aziz Bahrari)

Teshay-e-Gul (Poetic collection of Shaheedi)

Besides these, Shaheedi has translated works of Mahjoor, Rumi, Ahmad Batwari, Quatrains of Bahauddin Naqshbandi and many other works of different writers. However, his own poetic collections include ‘tenshay-i-gul’ (1973), ‘inkishaaf’ (1994) and ‘barg barg’ (1996) which are in Urdu. His Kashmir collection of poetry include, ‘vicharnaag’ (1990) and ‘rad-i-bida’t (nd). He has published a prose collection ‘guldastay-i-nasr’ (nd) also. He has written a book on paper machie the art that he has inherited from his father.

Who is Shaheedi? Sultan-al-Haque Shaheedi is from the old city of Srinagar and has worked ate a teacher in the Education Department. He has already superannuated but continues to spend time in translating and with his own ancestral profession—paper machie. He appears to have spent quite some time at Charari Sharief which has helped him strengthen his attachment with the saint about which he speaks in detail in his ‘nuurun ‘ala nuur’, the poetic collection of Sheikhul Aalam (pp. 34-37). Shaheedi expresses his deep love for the saint and why he felt the need to translating him into Urdu. He says that his father instilled in him the love for the Sheikh’s shruks. As a teacher he was transferred to Charar Sharief and, thus, got an opportunity to spend more time at his mausoleum: “mera mishan tha ki hazrat sheikh ka Kashmiri kalam urdu duniya ko pesh karke unki khushnoodi haasil karoon.” How would the Sheikh know that Shaheedi has translated his work in Kashmiri, the translator doesn’t explain that?

From the works that Shaheedi has done, it is evident that he has spent most of his time in translating work of great writers like Iqbal, Rumi, Sheikhul Aalam etc so that they become available to a larger audience in Kashmir. One can understand the importance of translating works of Rumi into Urdu for Persian isn’t understood by all here but translating works of Iqbal into Kashmiri when not many people are able to read in the Nastaleeq appears to me unnecessary burden that Shaheedi has shouldered. Interestingly, Sheikhul Aalam has been translated by many people in Urdu, though not necessarily in a versified form. Late Judge Gowhar, Afaaqi and Professor Shaad are some of the names who have translated the Sheikh in Urdu. Shaheedi’s versification is free from any rhyme scheme. Frankly speaking, I find it more prosaic than poetic in rendering, though at times he has tried to maintain the rhyme. An illustration or two would make things clear:

nafs mo van baday

nafs saeti soda chuy

nafs ratun maali haday

nafs praznith khoda chuy

Shaheedi’s translation goes like this:

tum khud apne aap ko hargiz bura na jaaniyo

hai tumhaara vaqt apne aap se

haan magr puri hop yare eik shart i’tidaal

dekh le ga voh khuda smjhe jo apne aap ko

In the following, Shaheedi has tried to maintain the thyme scheme:

mala chi masheedan achdaro

yithi batta chii potlen path

saasa manz akha toro

nata saarni shaitan govo neth

mula masjid main hai jaise ik ajgar

baat yehi hai Saadiq oy apney pandit par

paar hazaaroon main hai utre koyee ek

shaitanoon ke saathi lekin dekh anek.

However, Shaheedi has maintained the rhyme in his Kashmiri versification of ‘Mussadas-i-Hali’. Here is a sample:

t'assub ki hai dushman nov-i-insaan

bhare ghar kiye sainkdoon jis ne veeran

huyi bazmi namrood jis se pareshan

kiya jis ne firaun ko nazr-i toofan

Its Kashmiri rendering is as under:

yi taasub chu bas dushman nav-i insaan

karin saasa baedi khaana az taam vaeraan

sapaez bazmi namrood yemi kini pareshaan

firaunas aem chekran onuy toofaan

As a poet, Shaheedi is dynamic and multifaceted. He is at once classical, modern, post modern and romantic. He knows what he is writing about. He declares that his canvas is the whole universe and the present times:

vaqt ki nabz par hai apna haath

vaqt ky tarjuman hain yeh ash’ar

[My hand is on my time’s pulse/these lines are representing my times]

At another place, he says:

‘asri haazir hai kenvaas apna

aur ash’ar? chitrkari hai

[My canvas the present time/And the lines? Drawing pictures]

Shaheedi wails for poor condition of the artists and curses their exploiters:

ahli-hunar hain sham’i-farozaan

oroon ki zeenat khud apna nuqsal

zulm-o-jafa ke devo khareedo

mera lahu hai har vaqt arzaan

These lines sound like Shelly’s revolutionary message to the men of England in his ‘Song’. Although the rich exploit the poor Kashmiri artists, Shaheedi is hopeful that things would change for good. He says that a time would come when there would be human being in the real sense all around:

ik daur aysaa ayega hamdam

insaan hi insaan dekhainge insaan

Shaheedi is bold and beautiful in calling a spade a spade without any fear:

kisi zaalim ko hamdard kehna nahi aata

kisi rahzan ko miri-karvaan kehna nahi aata

[Can’t call a tyrant merciful/ Can’t call a robber a leader]

He understands that this attitude won’t be liked by he isn’t afraid of telling the truth:

khilaafi maslihat hi hai mujhe maloom hai lekin

kisi gulchin ko ab baghban kehna nahi aata

Shaheedi knows the place of man in the universe. He knows that only those who follow the path of righteousness can succeed. He says:

main jab se huva banda-i hazrat haq

meri bandgi kar raha hai zamana

For understanding poetry, you need the ‘sight’ that would appreciate and comprehend both the music and thought in poetry. Shaheedi says:

ahli chaman ki maang kya hai kuch khabar nahi

yeh baat aam hai ki koyi dedahvar nahi

Shaheedi is doing his job, no matter whether people read him or not:

jo ‘aazm-i-safar hain nizam-i-‘amal ke saath

unko kabhi bhi fikr-i-shikast-o-zafar nahi

It is so painful, and strange too, that a writer like Shaheedi hasn’t got a recognition that he deserves in public and official circles. He should have won many award so far, but it seems that mediocrity has become the norm now. Our indifference towards our own writers speaks volumes about our apathy. I wish writers like Shaheedi are read and critically evaluated so that he found his due place in the literary world of Kashmir.

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