Gulshan Badrani, the cultural activist unearthing literary treasure of Kashmir

File Photo
File Photo

As a child, Gulshan Badrani always found himself surroundedby poets, artists, musicians and people of similar genre. The Badran area of Magam,Budgam was the hub of theatre groups and musicians. At home his maternalgrandfather Mohammed Ramzan Beigh's image loomed large. He was a poet,intellectual and a known personality of his era, whose friends included legendslike Mahjoor and Samad Mir.

The atmosphere deeply influenced Gulshan and he wasautomatically was drawn towards the field of art. He approached one of the manytheatre groups and got readily accepted as a child artist.

 "Pre 90s was the golden era of art, culture and literature. I had the privilege of witnessing it in 1980s," said Gulshan who was born as Mohammed Akbar Dar in 1969 in Badran, Magam, the area which was taken over by a wave of cultural activities at that time.

"Our theatre group used to go to rural areas and the day of play would be a day of festivities for that entire village. People would come on foot from as far as 15 kms to watch the play that used to continue till 11-12 in night. Locals used to prepare special dishes as they knew that on that day their relatives would visit to see the play."

The onset of 90s saw the end of almost all culturalactivities and Gulshan's routine also got limited to studies and someoccasional literary activities.

To cope up with the vacuum, Gulshan took up the pen. Be it at home or during his degree of Master in Kashmiri literature, Gulshan studied the treasure of Kashmiri poets and writers.

One of things he discovered during his discussions and research was that there are numerous Kashmiri writers who had written brilliant set of works in different genres, but their name has remained unknown.

In 90s Gulshan established a cultural organisation Gulshan Cultural Forum to work on the promotion of art and culture, and also undertake research to unearth the hidden gems of Kashmiri literature.

Gulshan was instrumental in bringing forth the great work of Ghulam Hassan Shahbaz, who besides being a poet was an accomplished researcher. Shahbaz, a government teacher, who passed away in 1989, was way ahead of his times.

To his credit is the first zoology book in Kashmiri, which he wrote while travelling all around Kashmir. Gulshan compiled and edited the scattered unpublished work in the shape of a book titled Zou Zaetch (animal kingdom). The book is a must for anybody who wants to understand the fascinating world of animals in Kashmir.

 "Shahbaz was highlyintelligent and workaholic person. The book contains description of hundredsof  animals found in Kashmir. He hasdocumented almost every living being right from an ant to a buffalo. He thenhas described their life cycle and their behaviour. For example in the case ofhorses, he has described that over 100 species of horses, most of which havebecome extinct now much like other animals. He even has written how the horseswalk," said Gulshan.

In the book Shahbaz has taken on the subject of mythical andparanormal beings too. He has described traditional Kashmiri ghosts likeTasruf, Raantas, Troonch etc and written their characteristics too. On someoccasions he has even detailed the address where he has heard that a particularkind of ghost can be found.

Gulshan was instrumental in highlighting the unknown aspect of Shahbaz. "Once I took Rahman Rahi to his library. Gulshan recounts that after reading his work, Rahi said that "I feel too small before Shahbaz. He has done enormous work in poetry, spirituality and other subjects".

Gulshan also edited and compiled poetry collection of Shahbaz by the name of Kulyat-e-Shahbaz, ten year after the death of the poet.Shahbaz's work has found its way in Kashmiri Encyclopaedia through many rich entries. His other work includes research on Medicinal plants of Kashmir and Ayurvedic treatment of ailment like Breast Cancer and kidney stones.

Central Institute of Indian Languages Mysore was impressedwith his proposal on Shahbaz and they financed the entire project, so thatworld can know about the forgotten poet and researcher.

In continuance with his research work, Gulshan was selectedby Jammu Kashmir Academy of Art Culture and Languages to write a monograph onold Kashmiri poetess Arnimaal. The existence of the poetess has been subject ofdebate over the years, with some terming Arnimaal as a fiction of imaginationand other vouching for her existence and work.

Gulshan sought to end the debate by producing a 100 pagemonograph on her. "In my research I have found strong evidences in favour ofArnimaal. She was a poetess who lived in Palhalan Pattan. Even now there arevarious places in her name, like there is a spring called Arnimaal Naag. I havequoted the elderly persons of that area, who told me how they have learned fromtheir forefathers about the poetess," said Gulshan. "In addition to it I havegiven historical references from various books too."

One of the extensive works of Gulshan has been his bookSaazas Dimou Mizraab, a research oriented book on folk tunes of Kashmir. The225 page book describes the musical genres like Ladishah, Baand paether andother types in detail. The book, which is a valuable addition to the musicalliterature of Kashmir also highlights the present status of musical legacy inKashmir. "It was the work of my two year research  as part of fellowship from union departmentof culture," said Gulshan. The work was later turned into a TV series of samename by Gulshan

Besides being a researcher Gulshan is also a poet, writer,radio presenter and TV anchor. His strength lies in hosting and producing  literary programmes. He has been presentingweekly Gandhi Katha based on Mahatma Gandhi's teachings on Radio.

He has also written Zune Gaashas Manz,  a poetry collection which has been receivedwell in literary circles. He has also written four dramas that also includesimpressive drama Modern Noush sponsored by Sangeet Natak Akademi.

Till date he has edited around a dozen books and many moreare in the offing. He also compiled Dag Chi Kuni, a translation of selectedpoems from around the world and translated by Satish Vimal.

One of the best things about Gulshan has been his continuousdedication with the cultural world. At a time when scene of art and literatureis yet to regain its status in Kashmir, Gulshan Cultural Forum has beencontinuously organising various programmes like drama performances, poeticsymposiums and art festivals.

Their yearly annual cultural festival of Samanbal has givenhis native Village a new identity. Even a place where the artists and writersfrom the State meet and discuss, is now known as Samanbal. "From Rahi saheb toyoung poets, the event gives platform to all. It has been now going on for adecade," said Gulshan. The union department of culture actively supportsGulshan in this endeavour.

Though the situation is pessimistic but Gulshan is always insearch of a hope, even a fainter one.

 "There was a timewhen we used to stage plays in open, in villages and even during night. Peoplewould come in thousands with no issue," said Gulshan. "Nowdays we have to stagea play inside a closed door auditorium of Tagore Hall that too before a selectand trustworthy audience. Theatre and music has become Shajr-e-Mamnooa (theforbidden fruit). In our village barring few persons, the entire theatre andmusical legacy has gone extinct."

Gulshan feels the field of art and culture needs to bede-politicised, only then the situation would change.  

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