As a tribute to legendary poet Prof Rahman Rahi, I am reproducing here a Freeze Frame column titled “Rahi and Roy” which appeared in 2008 in this newspaper.
In response, Rahi sahab dropped by my cabin the next day and gifted me some of his signed books. It was a beautiful surprise, an unbelievable rendezvous with a literary giant who I used to counter often while traveling home since he happened to reside nearby in the same locality.
I always yearned to speak to him but never mustered the courage. Since school and college days, his creative brilliance had impressed me, especially through the medium of Radio Kashmir.
I fervently used to listen to his wistful lyrics. And then one fine day after many years, the humble tall man visited me. It was an out of the world experience. He sat, talked and left mutely after keeping his right hand over my head. I was speechless. My ordinary piece of writing had made him come to me. What a great human being, besides a great genius!
Is there any ground for comparison between Arundhati Roy and Rahman Rahi? Probably yes as well as no. The difference between the two does not finish equal.
Both are genius and creative. Both possess a thinking brain and a sensitive heart. Equally they are the masters of imaginative and artistic pen. The similarities finish quite equal.
As far as differences between the two virtuoso writers, one has earned her name through thought-provoking prose, and the other has made an exceptional mark in stimulating poetry.
Roy is privileged enough to get all the dazzling recognition for her work, in India and abroad too. Rahi of Kashmir is an unsung poetic hero, who continues to live the life of a commoner.
An unknown thinker who could not turn into a socialite. The one who does not belong to any high class or high caste, and enjoys no high contacts with gentry. The poet with absolutely no elite linkages.
In the social outlay and cultural moorings around, Rahi is an erudite who travels in a public bus, with nobody even offering a seat to this ingenious old man. Rahi is a learned intellectual who leads a simple life, away from any kind of glitz and glam.
A silent face whose poetic expression is unique and inimitable, Rahi is ahead of his times. A poetic prodigy who has the distinction of experimenting with his subject matter and carrying out innovative trials successfully. He didn’t confine his poetry to Aashiq and Mashook, unlike many of his contemporaries.
Of course, the young Rahi was influenced by a particular school of thought. However, the same cannot rob the stupendous appeal of his poetry. The ‘doodling of youth’ can no way belittle his stature as a poet with a difference. What matters is what Rahi is now. Rest is trivial and holds no scholarly argument.
The organization which Rahi served dedicatedly also couldn’t fathom the creative connoisseur ala Rahi. The Gyan Paeth award that came his way quite late is in recognition of his thoughtful contribution to literature, from an outside group. Rahi deserves much more than this. Irony is that we as a nation failed to give him his due as a brilliant poet.
Not Rahi alone, we are the nation with a chronic tendency of not granting credit to any of our extraordinary minds within. We get bogged down by famous names without. Yes, we accept and admit the worth of ‘locals’ only when they are no more! We remember when people are gone. We condole when pearls perish. Agha Shahid and a few more met the same fate.
We are sick people. Shockingly, we on the contrary, leave no effort to strip off something that we cannot offer to our men of letters. And we stoop awfully low for such dishonest mugging!
Some quarters want Rahi to return back the Gyan Paeth award. But the question is: Why should he? The question is critical. And so is the answer. Let’s realize that Rahi is not Roy. And he should not be. Rahi is a genius poet with an individuality. He cannot be dictated. He cannot be told to emulate Roy.
Roy’s world is cosmopolitan. She was never let down by her people, though a certain group was antagonistic towards some of her ideas and opinions. Her people know her. She does not live in oblivion. Her context of framing is different, and so are her individual decisions.
The fact is that some people in Kashmir are left with no option but to survive on mere tokenism or symbolism. They are obsessed with gestures and actions that yield nothing substantial except a false bang that eventually ends in a feeble whimper.
One fails to understand what axe we want to grind from such ‘symbolism’. There is no need of stretching political thinking and mindset to every aspect, thereby tainting everything from art, literature to culture.
Rahi remains an uncelebrated poet by his countrymen. The man of matchless intellect, whose message has a specific audience, needs no preaching or bullying. The culture of respecting him and people of his ilk must not be allowed to degrade and dwindle. We need to stop harassing the thinking brains of this place, and discourage such “intellectual anarchy”.
And by the way, there are no sacred cows around who can raise fingers on the individual decisions of any literary person, or for that matter anyone who means substance. The mores of any decent society never advocate so.
So, no rulings and edicts, please! No shallow moralizing. Just stop. Mind your own business, if at all you have any, other than this.
Leave Rahi alone. Don’t dishonor him…Chup Chaap Apni Aag Main Jaltay Raho Faraz,
Duniya Tow Arz-i-Haal Say Be Bayabiru Karay….
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.