Srinagar: Noted poet, lyricist, academic and Jnanpith awardee, Prof Rahman Rahi passed away at his Vicharnag residence in Srinagar on Monday after a prolonged illness. He was 98.
His Nimaz-e-Jinazah was held at the shrine of Khawaja Habibullah Nowshehri (RA) in which a large gathering of people from all walks of life participated.
Rahi is survived by two sons and a daughter.
His death has been widely mourned by people from different sections of the society, especially the literary circles.
Calling Rahi’s departure a great loss to the Kashmiri language and literature, scores of literary figures in Kashmir spoke to Greater Kashmir and paid their final tributes to inarguably Kashmir’s greatest poet.
Poet and long-time associate of Rahi, Vehshi Syed said, “Rahi is the Ghalib of Kashmiri poetry.
He was truly experimental. He dealt with all aspects of humanity. Recently I invited him to the release of my new edition of ‘Nagina’. He really wanted to attend but excused himself on account of ill health.”
Noted playwright and President of Adbi Markaz Kamraz, Amin Bhat said: “He inspired hundreds of literary workers to promote and preserve Kashmiri language and literature. He was a man of style in his poetry, which he invented and pursued and made many others follow.
It is a great loss. Losing Rahi is like getting bereft of a school literate. He has the distinction of having groomed a chain of soldiers to work for the cause of Kashmiri language and literature.”
Talking about his early association with Rahi, Bhat said, “In the early nineties when I was at my parental house in Baramulla, there was a crackdown in the town. We lived on the outskirts and our area was free. I went to find out if anyone required any help.
I was astonished to see Prof Rahi and his wife stuck on the roadside. On enquiring, he told me that he was coming from Handwara and was to visit his brother-in-law Sheikh Khurshid, an education officer.
I pursued him to come to my home but he insisted that I could lead him to his in-law’s place. I took him through paddy fields and made him reach his destination. He was highly gateful. I promised to visit him the next day.
Next, while I was approaching his in-law’s place, I found him surrounded by some youngsters of Baramulla. One of them asked him: ‘Rahi Sahab, what’s your poetic take on what is happening around us? Spontaneous reply came from Rahi Sahab: ‘Zinda rozana baapat chi maran lukh, tcha marakh na. Loti paathi chekha pyala kyho uff ti karakh naa.’”
President of the Halqua-e-Adab Sonawari (HAS), Shakir Shafi remembered the close association of Prof Rahi with Halqua-e-Adab Sonawari.
“Prof Rahi has always been of great support to the organisation. He has rarely missed any major events of the organisation and would always ensure his presence on Prof Mohuiddin Hajini Day. His magnificent presence in such events would be badly missed by all of us and his fans,” Shafi said.
All the senior members and literary persons associated with the organisation have expressed their condolences to the bereaved family and prayed for the departed soul.
“With the passing away of Prof Rahman Rahi, Kashmir has lost an era, a culturist, an institution, and a grand versifier,” said Khalid Bazaz, a scholar at the University of Kashmir.
Bazaz quoted a verse from Rahi’s work, “Din gawaehi myaene kaene, yem praene kaene daewaar meane (Stone wall remnants would speak for me).”
Recalling the literary contribution of Rahi, Editor and literary critic of Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art Culture and Languages, (JKAACL), Abid Ahmad said, “This is quite visible in his poetry of this period which not only helps in tracing the evolution of Rahi as a poet but also in understanding his everlasting engagement with the pursuit of art in its purest sense. This compounding of the romantic with his passion for pure art is visible in many of his poems including Sheayir (The poet), Husn-e-Lazawal (The immortal beauty) and above all in Fann Baraye Fann (Art for art’s sake). Fann Baraye Fann celebrates art as an attitude which in itself is sufficient to survive in life.”
Ahmad said that in his search for his own diction, Rahi fundamentally changed the idiom of Kashmiri poetry, thereby changing the traditional perceptions in Kashmir’s cultural constructs.
“Through his creative expressions, Rahi literally created a fresh worldview that was more suitable for and more accommodating of the contemporary sensibility and contemporary realities. The result was poetry that has enriched the Kashmiri imagination, expression and idiom in an unparalleled way,” he said. “Rahi’s poetry mirrors contemporary sensibility that reflects life’s tragic sense, its vulnerability, its awareness of the sense of fragmentation as experienced in contemporary times due to a higher level of consciousness, the latest research in sciences, both abstract and material, the historical evolution and the changed meanings of basic human emotions like love,” he said.
Ahmad said that Rahi was the name of an ever-unfolding evolution, always open and receptive to changes outside and to growing maturity inside.
“From being a celebrated poet to a trend-setting critic and literary theorist, Rahi remains one of the most formidable influences on Kashmiri culture and literature. His distinct approach to the Kashmiri language and its adoption to convey universal themes remains unique. His legacy of having created his own idiom for his expression sets him apart from his contemporaries. His artistic accomplishments have expanded the imaginative and poetic world of the Kashmir language in an unprecedented way,” he said. “Rahi’s poetry mirrors contemporary sensibility that reflects life’s tragic sense, its vulnerability, its awareness of the sense of fragmentation as experienced in contemporary times due to a higher level of consciousness.”
Recalling his association with Rahi, prominent actor, filmmaker and theatre personality, M K Raina said, “I knew Rahi Sahib when I was a child actor in Srinagar. Those were the times when all great icons of culture used to share their art and their world with us. Later Sahatiya Akademi, New Delhi asked me to make a film on him. This started our association, which lasted till recent times. That film on him gave me an entry point into Rahi’s world.”
He said: “Reading his poems, I realised that he himself did not know his stature in the literary world of the Indian subcontinent. He stands today among the contemporary greats in India and tallest in the Kashmiri language. During my long conversations and interviews with him, his radical humanism always poured out and his lonely lament about the tragedy of Kashmir was like a persistent pain.”
Raina said that Rahi’s early poetry at many times reminded him of (Percy Bysshe) Shelley and his recent poems were like the works of any contemporary poet whose anger and pain echo the suffering of the ordinary.
“For me, he was (Eugen Berthold Friedrich) Brecht, (Faqeer Mohammad) Darvesh, Pash (Avtar Singh Sandhu), Faiz (Ahmad Faiz), and sometimes even (Jalaluddin Muḥammad) Rumi,” Raina said. “He was our extraordinary personality who gave the Kashmiri language an honour nationally. I will miss him whenever I need any guidance in my Kashmir projects. I loved directing his one short play where death leaves her lover because she is in pure love with her beloved. I will miss him whenever I will perform at Tagore Hall where he used to come and watch my work. I will miss his lectures where he used to interact with my workshop students.”
Prominent broadcaster, poet and former DDG Doordarshan, Rafiq Masoodi, in his memoir of Rahi said, “My association with Rahi Saeb goes back 40 to 45 years. I first met Rahi Sahab when I was a student at JNU doing an M Phil. Later when I joined Radio and DD, my association with Rahi Saeb grew stronger as he would come to Radio to attend literary programmes done by Avtaar Kishen Rehbar. The association grew stronger and sweeter.”
Masoodi said, “His death to me means the end of an era. What he contributed to the Kashmiri language is most important. It is the most outstanding contribution by any literary personality.”
Masoodi recalled Rahi as ‘Lafz Gur’ (Someone who is a master in coining new terms in any language).
“He would coin words which you wouldn’t find in any dictionary or language. For example welcome, Khush Amdeed, Khush Aamad. He coined a word in Kashmiri ‘Khush Aawai.’ That is the reason he would be lovingly called Lafz Gur in literary circles. He was a super-master in coining the words.’
Anchor and media secretary, Halque Adab Sonawari, Azhar Hajini in his tribute to Prof Rahi said: “Rahi Sahab’s demise is truly a tragedy for every Kashmiri who has an understanding of the importance of our mother tongue and its ethos. Youngsters like me who work for the promotion of Kashmiri literature have always looked up to such towering personalities of Kashmiri literature as Prof Rahman Rahi. He is our pride. Kashmir owes him. We owe him a lot.”
Kashmiri actor, Bihari Kak, in his adieu said: “Rahi was a great poet with a progressive mindset. His demise put a vacuum in the literary circles. I was privileged to be part of a team which interviewed him at his residence in Srinagar in 1996-97.”
Early Life and Education
Prof Rahi’s original name was Abdur Rehman Mir. He was born in Srinagar in 1925. He did his schooling at Islamia High School, Srinagar, and his first postgraduation in Persian and then in English Literature from the University of Jammu and Kashmir. Soon after he was appointed lecturer in a government college. A few years later, Rahi joined the Department of Persian at the University of Kashmir (KU). Prior to that he also worked as a cleric with the Power Development Department where his first posting was in north Kashmir’s district of Baramulla. In 1977, he joined the newly established Department of Kashmiri at KU where he taught till his retirement.
Though he was drawn to poetry from his childhood, Rahi started writing poems when he came under the influence of the progressive writers movement. In his early work of poetry, he comes off as an idealist romantic, aspiring for a perfect world where all his young passions would find fulfillment. His poetic collection Nouroz-i Saba bears the imprint of this mix of progressive ideology and romantic aspirations.
Awards and Honours
Prof Rahi was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1961 for his poetry collection Nouroz-i-Saba, the Padma Shri in 2000, and India's highest literary award, the Jnanpith Award (for the year 2004) in 2007.
He is the first Kashmiri writer to be awarded the Jnanpith, India's highest literary award for his poetic collection Siyah Rood Jaeren Manz (In Black Drizzle).
He was honored with Sahitya Akademi Fellowship in 2000 by Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi.
Prof Rahi was a living legend whose poetry and other literary work represented the tradition, culture, and ethos of Kashmir.
His poems, many sung by almost all famed singers, are and would be owned through tradition from generation to generation.
“Kashmiri literature has lost one more legend today. We, Kashmiris, are indebted to his contributions. My condolences to his family and literary circles of Jammu and Kashmir,” journalist and former BBC broadcaster, Nayeema Mehjoor said.
Celebrated author and journalist, Mirza Waheed, in his condolence message said, “It is said that every day in the world there are languages which die as there are no speakers. If the same happens with Kashmir, then what is Rahman Rahi, Dina Nath Nadim, or Mehjoor? A light has gone, may your words live long among us, Rahi Sa’eb.”
Political circles mourn
Lieutenant Governor Majoj Sinha, in his condolence message, said, “I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing away of Jnanpith awardee Prof Rahman Rahi, one of the most influential poets in Kashmiri in the recent times. His passing away marks the end of an era. My sincere condolences to his family, friends, and well-wishers.”
Former chief minister and National Conference Vice President Omar Abdullah said, “I am deeply saddened by the demise of legendary Kashmiri poet and lyricist Rahman Rahi Sahib. He will be remembered for his pre-eminent contribution as a poet and as a critic enriching Kashmiri language and literature in a profound manner. With his memorable and progressive poetry, he has left an indelible mark on the hearts of people. Today, the literary world of Kashmir has suffered a great loss. His death marks end of an era.”
Former chief minister and Democratic Azad Party President Ghulam Nabi Azad said that he was saddened by the demise of noted poet and lyricist from Kashmir, Prof Raham Rahi.
“Rehman Sahib's sublime poetry and writings have enriched Kashmir literature for decades. His works are unforgettable gems, which will live on and inspire many. May his soul rest in peace,” Azad said.
Former chief minister and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Mehbooba Mufti said, “Saddened to hear about the sad demise of towering literary personality and Gyaanpeeth Awardee Jinab Rehman Rahi Sahab. In his death, Kashmiri literature and society have been left with a void that can never be filled. My condolences to the family.”
Apni Party President Altaf Bukhari, in his condolence message, said, “My deepest condolences over the passing away of J&K’s iconic figure in Kashmiri literature and poetry, Prof Rahman Rahi Sahab. This is a collective loss for society. I pray for peace to his soul and strength for his family.
Peoples Conference President, Sajad Lone, in his condolence message, said, “Rahi was an iconic figure in Kashmiri literature and poetry. An outstanding poet and a literary figure.”
Awami National Conference (ANC) President Khalida Shah said, “Kashmir lost one of its finest sons of the literary world, a great poet and a great scholar.”
Mayor of Srinagar, Junaid Azim Mattoo said, “I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing away of Jnanpith awardee Prof Rahman Rahi, one of the most influential poets in Kashmiri in recent times. His passing away marks end of an era. My sincere condolences to his family, friends, and well-wishers.”
Social media networking sites remained flooded with condolence messages of netizens and literati recalling Rahi’s work and contribution toward Kashmir’s art and culture scenario.
“As a poet, Rehman Rahi was one of the best, globally. He may often have been criticised for his elusive politics, but, with his passing, we have lost the last of a repository of literary Kashmiri,” a netizen posted.