Rafiq Raaz- the peoples poet!
Kashmir is a fecund land which has a history of producing world class poets from LalDed and Sheikh ul Alam and to the present day poets. Rafiq Raaz is one among the most celebrated poets of today’s Kashmir and his poetic excellence is well established now.
Born on 10thof March 1950 at Braripora Srinagar (also known as DoudmutKhankah/ Khankah e Sokht), he was just two years old when his father Khaja Ali Mohd Shamrock bought a new house and shifted to Chamarduri near ZainaKadal. For the next 38 years Raaz lived there and at the age of 40 he shifted to Bagat Srinagar where he is presently living.
He completed his schooling in various schools, did his M.A in Urdu Language from Kashmir University and in 1975-76 after completing Masters Degree he began his research (Ph.D). It was the time when Kashmiri language department was introduced in the university. Rehman Rahi was the Professor of Persian and was given the charge of Kashmiri department. Till that date university of Kashmir had Kashmiri research cell only, then teaching of Kashmiri language was introduced. At the inception of this new programnme Rehman Rahi asked Rafiq Raaz and other few students of research cell to teach newly admitted students of Kashmiri language department and were appointed as Lecturers on Adhoc basis.
Rafiq Raaz continued with the department until he was selected as Programme Executive at Radio Kashmir Srinagar. He served the department for next 30 years and in 2010 he superannuated from services as Director Radio Kashmir Srinagar.
I spoke with this legendary person and here are the excerpts:
When did you tread your first step in the realm of poetry?
“Hmm, I was in 9th standard when I put my shoulder to the wheel of poetic domain, I still recollect how spell-bound I was while reading the poetry of various Urdu poets which was a part of my syllabus. I don’t remember now what I used to write then but that was the initiation when I began to clasp pen for this purpose. At first I tried to show my writings to the teacher who used to teach me at home but he bawled out and advised me to concentrate on coming examinations. Fortunately it didn’t stop me, I continued to write but didn’t show anyone for next few years.
When I joined S.P. College in 11th standard I came to know that some professors interested in literature conduct meetings of Bazm-e-Adab on every Saturday. In this connection a boy would come class to class inquiring if any of the students write and wanted to join the meeting. One day I replied him in affirmative and got my name included. On coming Saturday I went to the meeting to read my poem. Till date I never knew that poetry can be written in Kashmiri language too, I thought it is only for Urdu language. When I entered the room I was flabbergasted to see some best scholars seated in there.
I saw Prof. Mohi-ud-Din Hanji, Prof. Gh. NabiFiraq, Prof. Dullu etc. I don’t remember the names of all now. They were the finest we had that time in the field of literature. Whenever someone read anything infront of them first they would listen keenlylater would offer their precious suggestions/ advices wherever needed. When I recited my first poem, obviously it was written in Urdu, Prof. Hanjiyelled at me saying, “Are you from Lucknow?” I replied, “No Sir, I’m from Srinagar”, “Why don’t you write in Kashmiri then which is our mother tongue”, He scolded.
Then, yes, it was I think 1970-71 when I started to write in Kashmiri Language. It was a strenuous job in initial stages but with time things happened to get better. Soon I realized that I should show my poems to someone who would do proofreading and fortunately Amin Kamil (one of the finest poets of his time) used to live in my neighborhood. So I went to him for further guidance. He helped me toa very great extentto meliorate my writings, when I used to write something new I would visit him and he always displayed great interest and support. One day he said, “Your writings are so beautiful that you have started to influence me”. It was his good gesture to appreciate my writings and these words kindled fire in me and I bugged out to write better and better.
I think if he had not said those words to me I would have fallen by the wayside long ago. Amin Kamil even talked about me in his friend circle, people like Ali Mohd Lone,RehmaniRahi came to know me because of him. It has been a stupefying journey, every person who came in touch in this process lent a helping hand. Every person I met was appreciative whether it was Amin Kamil, Ali Mohd Lone, RehmanRahi, G.R. Santosh, Gh. NabiFiraq or SatarShahid all showed their great love and support towards me.
And on the other hand I didn’t stop writing in Urdu language I continued to pen down my writings in both languages but used to send my Urdu Ghazals outside state for publication in different newspapers and magazines”, He replied.
“To get work published is always a moment of great felicity and exhilaration. How was your excitement when your first piece got published?”
“Yeah undoubtedly it was a great excitement and moment of utter delight which cannot be put into words. It was the same time when Prof. Hanji scolded me for writing in Urdu only. After that I started to indite in Kashmiri and in a couple of months I came up with a Kashmiri Ghazal which I think was a good piece to be sent for publication and was later published in a daily newspaper called Khidmat, its office was located at Bund Srinagar. The editor of the newspaper was a Pandith who himself was a poet (humorous poet). Almost 50 of my Ghazals were published in the same newspaper but none of them is included in my first book because when I shifted to Bagat, unfortunately all those Ghazals got misplaced”, He replied.
“It’s always a dream for a Poet/ Writer to publish a book under his own name, when did you accomplish this dream?”
“Yeah, let me tell you if you are a writer, it’salways adream to get published. Six of my books have been published till date, three in Urdu, two in Kashmiri and one I have penned onprosody. I wanted to publish my first book in 1982-83 but got postponed due to some reasons. At that time I gave 70-80 Ghazals to a calligrapher because compilation through computers was yet to reach valley. He failed to compile them for years and I too remained busy with my professional duties. I think after four or five years I got those Ghazals back from him. Then I started the compilation work again and in 1995 my first book “NaiTchiNalaan” (Kashmiri) was published. My Urdu Ghazals were also ready for compilation but being a Kashmiri I preferred to publish my first book in Kashmiri language. The book received great appreciation and massive feedback from the people. In 2004 I published my 2nd book, first in Urdu titled “Anhaar”, then in 2006 “Dastawaiz” (Kashmiri) got released, and in 2008 I wrote a book on prosody and versification of Kashmiri language & poetry titled “KashirZabaan, Shayari Ti Urooz. “Misraq” (Urdu) came in 2009 and in 2015 “Nakhl-e-Aab” (Collection of Urdu Ghazals) hit the floor. I have 04 more books, 02 in Kashmir and 02 in Urdu almost ready and will be releasing soon if God wishes”, He replied.
“For every successful person there has been a role model, someone worthy to be followed. Who has been your inspiration in the field of poesy?”
“In Urdu language I love to read those poets whose verses are difficult to comprehend, poems which keep me imbibed in profundity. I don’t like such poetry which fails to make me participate. I used to read Mir Taqi Mir but he could not keep me involved, means his couplets didn’t make me think for long. Yeah on the other hand MirzaGhalib has always kept me engrossed. I love to read him again and again, his style and choice of words is enthralling. I used to take intense interest while reading him even then I hadpurchased three or four interpretation books written on his poetry to understand him copiouslywhen money was not so easily accessible. I was a boy then but used to do some programmes in Radio Kashmir Srinagar which facilitated me to buy some books at that time. It was like Eid when my first ordered book reached home. My other favourite poet in Urdu is Zafar Iqbal (Poet, Writer, Attorney Journalist, Pakistan) who is alive. He is king of Ghazal, a master of the art. Many people speak against his writings but I love to read him.
In Kashmiri I have been strongly, madly, utterly in love with Sufi poets of the valley. In initial stage I didn’t read them but listened to their poems at home sung by different singers because my father used to arrange Samma functions (music sessions) at home twice a year. I was substantially beguiled by their poetry, the poetry which was never easy to understand, poetry which strictly hold great depths and is not everyone’s cup of tea to get the real meaning. I could find the sensitivity, perception in their verses which I had tasted while reading MirzaGhalib or MirzaBedil. I love all Sufi poets of the valley but hearty I am inclined towards the poetry of ShamasFaqeer(Sufi Mystic poet of 19th century) and Abdul AhadZargar (20th century Sufi poet). Their every jolted verse is soexquisitelyknittedthat it takes a reader to different realms. Their verses may look simple at first sight but they hold great complexities and meanings. They were outstanding poets who had absolute grip on the form and language, they knew how to mould words according to the need. When I now read Amin Kamil, RehmanRahi, Dina NathNadim, they are modern poets best known for their own style like Ghazal of Amin Kamil, Namz of RehmanRahi are famous throughout Kashmir but now they don’t mesmerize me anymore because now I am much inclined towards Sufi poetry and it keeps me committed to far-extant. The poetry penned by these Sufi legends can never be understood in one go. It takes a lot of time and effort to understand them properly”, He replied.
“You started to indite poetry in 9th standard and 10th class examination is always deemed as crucial, writing poetry at that stage could have affected your studies. So how was your parents’ first reaction when they came to know that you have decided to become a poet?”
“Huh! That’s true, it could have affected my studies but fortunately I was good at handling both things at the same time pretty nicely and my family would have reacted to it if they had come to know about it at the initial stage. They didn’t know anything about it, I had kept it a secret from them. I was the first person from my family who had decided to tread the trail of poetic world. No doubt my father was a well-read person, at that time he had purchasedMathnavi (Masnavi) by Maulana Rumi which was compiled in 18 books but had no interest in writing. I used to read his books which helped me to go further. When I started to do programmes for Radio and T.V many people who then had a T.V set at home saw me, I used to appear on T.V twice in a week, so few people of the locality noticed me and one by one they informed my parents that I had become a poet. At that time I had already entered the field, so they had no other choicebut to accept me as a poet, Hahaha”, He replied.
“You have penned some master-piece Ghazalas which are popular throughout Kashmir but I want to know which one is your favourite?”
“My every Ghazal is my favourite I love them all. It’s like having children, every child is equal in the eye of parent. But yes there are manyGhazals which became trend of the time, one of them is “Zoon DimnaiBalai” which is sung many vocalists and got appreciation from every nook of the valley.
(For youMoon I shall sacrifice. Are you a dream!
Do you exist in there, in the eyes of deer!)
BootlanManzKonaie Meh NazrehGaiyekh
(Why couldn’t I find you in bottles,
Are you an already decantedsucculent wine!)
ChhaniBapath Be Haal e HairanChhuss
MainehBapathTchi Dar AzaabChhakhai
(For you I have been a deliriousrover
For me are you in grievous pain!)
Meh Kothukh Yi KaajHyeeTambloou
(The buttonhole of my coat has become appetent
Are you the sole bloomed rose of kitchen garden!)
(The Ghazal became so popular throughout valley that when Proff. Afaz Aziz compiled a book of most famous songs of the valley, he put this Ghazal in the forefront.)
Another one is “MainishWasakh Na”, the Ghazal is sung by Gh. Nabi Sheikh and is very popular. The Ghazal has been most requested song in Radio Kashmir Srinagar from last 20 years and is still being broadcasted”, He replied.
TChiChhuieKunner Ti LabieeKussVenJaieeJaieeNaisifRatech
Bo TChusKunnuie Ti Wasakh Na MainishKhudayiNaisifRatech
(Lonely you are, who shall find you in different places at midnight!
I am alone Oh God! Why wouldn’t you descend to me at midnight!)
TChi Ma PataZiWatthijDohAatchanGayaavKamissGaash
TChi Ma PataZiYemisKaemMoharTujaieNaisifRatech
(You might know who lost eye sight at infare!
You might know who broke his seal at midnight)
Yi Kya ChhiNindrehMattiYaethBool Bosh Karaa(n) Yuuth
Human Hushaar Dilan TayWahieeWatchaiiNaisifRatech
(Why only these drowsy people are tattling so much!
Revelationdescended on those awaken heats too at midnight.)
“Moving towards your professional life. You have been Director Radio Kashmir for years. What was your contribution to the field of literature as Director Radio Kashmir Srinagar?”
Yeah, I too tried my level best to contribute as I could and I think I did pretty well. There were hundreds of songs of various Sufi Poets sung by different singers of the valley but had many errors in the text, the words were not used correctly as written by the poets. When I became Director I took keen interest in it, as I myself am a poet I could easily find the faults or wrong use of textand decided to set the things right at the first instance. I took hold of 100 texts of various Sufi poets and gave that script to the specialists of the language to rectify the faults and retrieve the original text. After months of vigorous effort all texts were set right, then I hired all senior vocalists of the valley (most of them have already left this world now) and made them sing all songs again in correct text. These re-recorded songs with correct/ original text are available in Delhi’s Radio archaeology. It was not an easy job to do, it was a research task equal to Ph.D which took a lot of time and effort.
Another thing which I did during my tenure is that I introduced translation of Holy Quran in SehriProgramme which is still being broadcasted in that manner. To air the programme first I had to get approval from Delhi then for the translation I had to get approval from all Muslim sects of valley Kashmirwho first had to agree that the translations done is correct and shall not hurt the sentiments of any sect. After completing all the formalities I recorded whole translation in my own voice which we used to broadcast during the holy month of Ramadhan. Radio Kashmir Srinagar has still the same format, they have only replaced my voice”, He replied.
“In this illustrious careerthere must be some unforgettable moments. Any interesting incident of your life which you still remember?”
“Ohh! I think these last 29 years of turmoil made us forget all interesting incidents but there are many memories some sweet, some bitter, up’s and down’s is a part of life. Yeah I do remember an incident of my childhood, it might me interesting for you but for me, Ahh! Notat all, coz I was severely injured. I was just a kid like other children of the age who had a good interest in watching movies, T.V was not available at home so there was only one way to enjoy moviesand that was cinema. Whenever I had some money (saved or extra) I would run from school to go and watch movie in theater. On that day too I had bunked school and had gone to Paladium Cinemaat LalChowk to watch movie. I was standing in 3rd class row to get my ticket with a Plank (it’s a kind of wooden tablet/ small black board used by Kashmiri children to improve handwriting skills. In Kashmiri it is commonly known as ‘Mashiq’) in my hand when my elder brother spotted me. Ah! So unfortunate, he snatched the plank from my hand and hit me so hard on the forehead that within a fleeting moment it started bleeding. I bled a lot so he took me to the hospital where I got two stitches, the mark of which is still visible on my forehead”, with a smile on face he replied.
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