Ghulam Nabi Aatash: Sweetening the Language

In 1981, together with S L Pardesi, he translated Russian poet Alexander Pushkin’s poems into Kashmiri. The book received Soviet Land Nehru Award for the in the same year.
Ghulam Nabi Aatash: Sweetening the Language

Somewhere in 1951 Ghulam Nabi Pandit, a student of class 5 at a government school in Anantnag, had a daily chore of buying bread, filling water in Hookah, lighting stove for tea, and other such work assigned by the teachers. For the last five years he had never understood a word from any of the books taught in the school. Branding him as good for nothing, many a time his teachers suggested his father to put the boy in some carpet weaving shop. However that summer something stuck to a pandit teacher at his school. He asked him 'what are you supposed to do with your life, class 5 examination is round the corner, do you have any preparation?' The boy answered in negative. The teacher told him to come to him during recess. The boy duly followed. The teacher started teaching him right from the begening – class Ist books. It was primarily Urdu, little bit of Maths and English. The practice remained for next four to five months till the annual examination time. During this time he was taught all the books from Class 1-5 and surprisingly the boy was actually a genius and picked up fast every word that was taught to him. 

Pandit cleared the class 5th  examination much to the shock and surprise of other teachers, and even villagers. After that there was no looking back and he cleared all examinations with flying colours. In class 10th  he was one of the toppers in his district and he went on to have a distinguished career as an educationist and writer spanning around five decades and still going. The transformation of  Ghulam Nabi Pandit to renowned writer Ghulam Nabi Aatash is an inspirational story which shows how a teacher can turn an ordinary student into a legend. 

"Sometimes I wonder how all this happened," said Ghulam Nabi Aatash who was recently honoured at a function at Jammu Kashmir Academy of Art Culture and Languages. "In class 6, as if it was command of Allah to others, I was made Secretary of Bazme Adab, a literary forum. You can imagine just one year ago I was lighting stove and filling water in hookah in school and now I was writing proceedings of the elite gatherings."

Though Aatash was lucky at many times, but it was his hard work and dedication that helped to capitalise on that luck. At the Bazme Adab, Aatash leaned towards writing, art and culture. He even became part of dramatic club. Much like other poets and writers, Kashmir and its social history attracted Aatash. Seeing his writing his Pandit teacher gave him pen name Aatash, who told him that it symbolise sour taste which has emerged after a lot of bitterness of life. 

His family situation was not good either but he picked the best out of those difficult times. 

"My mother was bedridden for seven years but she had amazing memory. She knew tonnes of folklores, phrases and traditional songs. I could connect my literary leaning and information from my mother. In addition to it my posting as a teacher in far off places and learning from their culture increased my knowledge," said Aatash.

Known as the biggest name in Kashmiri Folklore, Aatash's work in this genre has helped preserve a trove of knowledge for posterity. His books like Koshur Louke Shairi Vakhnay ti vetchnay (Kashmiri Folk poetry, research, analysis and its study in social perspective, Koshur Look Voture, Tahqeeq ti Tajheez (Kashmiri folklore research and analysis in historical and sociological perspective), Koshur Folklore, (Kashmiri folklore Research and analysis) and various volumes of Kashmiri folksongs, Kashmiri sayings and Kashmiri folktales indicate the amount of work Aatash has put in its endeavour.

"Folklore helps to understand the history of a nation. Its customs and working of society," said Aatash. "Every word and phrase has sea of knowledge in it."

In addition to the books, Aaatsh has published more than 100 entries in Kashur Encylclopedia Folklore, giving him a special name among the literary giants.

It is said that whenever JKAACL, Radio Kashmir or Doordarshan get stuck on some topic in Kashmiri and there seems to be no way out, they approach Aatish who within no time produced a quality paper based one research for them. 

Parallel to his literary career, Aatash also progressed on his academic career which started first as a private school teacher and then as a government school teacher, which ultimately ended in his retirement as a lecturer in Kashmiri language. Most of his higher studies were done after his appointment as a teacher. He did his MA in Kashmiri and B.Ed from University of Kashmir. 

Not only a folklorist, Aatash is a poet, critic, researcher, compiler and an expert on children's literature too. His  Khencha Mencha series for children has been well received in academic circles. In 2013 he wrote a Kashir Shur Adbich Sombran, (An anthology of Children's literature in Kashmiri). He was awarded Bal Sahitya Puriskar for children literature in 2011. 

His expertise was utilised by Board of School Education (BOSE) roping him in as a member of expert committee for preparation of syllabus and text books of Kashmiri language from class 1st to 12. What could have taken half a decade or even a decade to complete, Aatash managed to complete the work, along with other members, in just 18 months.

"If you ask me about my pen, I would attribute a great deal of its refinement to Prof Amin Kamili and his legendary magazine Naeb. This quality magazine gave me a platform and its strict editing gave me a direction," said Aatash. "Once Kamili saheb sent me back my draft seven times, before finding it worthy to publish. In todays time such a thing is unheard of."

In 1978 when Aatash wrote a poetic collection Zool Amaran Huend  (Illumination of longings), he thought nobody will like it. But the book ended up winning best book award for the year 1979. "At that time I was a simpleton. I didn't even knew that books get award too. Somebody told me that JKAACL is accepting books for award but when I went to their office they said that date is already over and we had advertised it in radio and newspapers too. I replied that I neither have newspaper of radio access and somehow they accepted my entry," said Aatash. "And then out of sudden I got the award."

In 1981 together with S L Pardesi he translated Russian poet Alexander Pushkin's poems into Kashmiri. The book received Soviet Land Nehru Award for the in the same year.

In Research and Criticism, one of the best books of Aatash is his Kasheer Hazrat Sheikh Noor-u-Din Reshi sends kalamas manz, (Kashmiri compilation about Kashmir as reflected in the poetry of Hazrat Sheikh Noor-u-Din Reshi RA) published in 1994. He has also been instrumental in bringing to fore some forgotten brilliant writers of Kashmir like Shamus Din Ahmad, Iqbal Nath Vanpoh, Abdul Ghani Thokar and others. 

He has written two books in Urdu language too, Kashmiri Lok Adab (Kashmiri folk literature) and Kashmir Angrazi Sayahaon kay Safar Namoo me (Kashmir as reflected in the travelogues of British visitors). Two more books in urdu are unpublished and seven more in Kashmiri languages in different genres await publication.

A cancer survivor, Aatash is workaholic making the  most of his time. He has to his credit more than 40 books and hundreds of research articles. From 1978 on an average he has published one book every year, an astonishing achievement for anybody. Attesting to his worth, a biography titled Ghulam Nabi Aatish Shakhsiyat Te Adbi Khidmaat has been written by Gulzar Ahmad Rather. 

"I have done my work for Kashmiri language and culture now it is time for us to follow what we say" said Aatash who is pained to see the present condition of his beloved language. "People say that Kashmiri language is not under threat but look at houses only elders speak Kashmiri and not youngsters. What will happen in next 20-30 years nobody will speak Kashmiri. We demand government to preserve it but it is for us to preserve it. It pains me when I see youngsters speaking in atrocious urdu instead of natural Kashmiri."

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