In Conversation with GHULAM NABI AATASH
Kashmir is a place endowed by divinity from every niche. From eons, the valley has been witnessing umpteen legendary writers, scholars and poets. Besides breathtaking, splendiferous natural beauty, Kashmir has rich historical traditions. Folklore is one of the important parts of our culture which is passed down from generation to generation. Folklore is an oral history preserved by the people; these traditions include stories, myths, legends, history and songs.
Ghulam Nabi Aatash, a well known name in the field of Kashmiri literature, was born on 27th of April 1949 at Nanil, a beautiful village located on the banks of majestic lidder in district Anantnag. Being a child of poor famer, his father still sent him to Madrasa (School). He did his initial schooling from a Govt. school in the vicinity of his birth place. After passing the 10th examination he was appointed as a government Teacher. He completed his further studies through private mode. Later Aatash completed his M.A in Kashmiri and B.Ed from Kashmir University. He joined School Education Department in the year 1966 as a Teacher and in April 2007 he superannuated from services as Lecturer.
He has been a member of expert committee constituted by BOSE for preparing the syllabus and text books of Kashmiri language for classes 1st to 12th. He is a multidimensional personality who as a critic, poet, folklorist, compiler and expert of children’s books has nearly 60 books to his credit.
Having a thorough conversation with Ghulam Nabi Aatash is indeed a delightful experience. It’s always an inspiration to have a chat with such literary figures of our valley whose contribution to the Kashmiri literature has been massive. Here is an excerpt of this conversation.
- When did you start writing? When was the first spark ignited?
I think I was destined to be a writer at the very birth. When I was born, within a very limited time my mother suffered from a lifetime ailment, her whole body got paralyzed. I was just a child when she got affected with paralysis. She was left powerless and was unable to function or move. She was in such a bad condition that she was not able to hold me in her lap so I could be fed but was gifted with sharp memory. She was encyclopedia of folklore and folk songs. She used to keep me in-front of her day in day out and would recite me the tales, myths, stories and songs of past glory and these tales kept reverberating in my mind for years till I started to jot them down. This is one of the reasons I have worked unflaggingly on folklore and produced many books on the subject.
- What was your first published work? And how it all happened?
I was influenced by folklore and folk music from the beginning which later turned out to be the initial trigger. Listening to the folk songs enkindled interest in me and I commenced to weave poetry which had a Sufi touch in initial stages. My first poem got published in Khidmat, a reputed newspaper of the time. Then Shiraza published my works continuously for a long time. After writing for years I decided to compile my poems and in the first instance in the year 1966 I published a pamphlet namely Shesh Yinder (Glassy Spinning Wheel), collection of poems.
I had a joint publication with my friend Sultan Mohammad Sultan. We wrote a series of rhymes together and compiled them in a book ‘Keentsa Meentsa (Poems for children). One reason behind this joint publication was at that point I was not in a position to publish a book of my own due to financial crunch. Then caravan kept going and with time numerous works of mine got published in various esteemed magazines, journals and newspapers. As you too might have come to know that my interest has always been in folklore so in later years I started to write prose more.
- You began your journey in this field as a poet and as a poet we would love to hear some verses of your favorite poems.
Yes, I did start this journey as a poet and few couplets of couple of my ghazals I do remember which I would like to share with you.
Bemaar, Be-anhaar, na lagi haar ti hael kael
Tohi ma tchu kunun kahn zi bi tchus sher hewaan mael
Sick, faceless, lacking any value and defected
Do you want to vend any? As I am an emptor of verses
Tati sonti suliy bulbulan pakhi trashh hewaan aess
Dai zanni kas kith shabnaman suliy roi gulan shael
In the early spring they cut the wings of nightingale
God knows why would dew wash the face of flowers!
Tem hek ni vunistaam jakith sonth aanith seal
Yem buzni buthen gaazih malith bengri shronev wael
They strived but couldn’t fetch spring till date, even on invitation
They who were bewitched by the fake faces and the beats of bangles
Few couplets of another ghazal which I remember:
Waawan wunnam bambear pawaan
Seki peth kya chukh lekhith thawaan
Precipitously wind said to me
On the sands, what are you inditing?
Daanan peth hyuth baanav woolun
Daathur kav ba chukh wehrawaan
Vessels on earthen stove have started to feel annoyed
Why are to trying to clutch things which are out of your reach!
Aatash soban houp doup hytmout
Nai kehn bozaan nai kehn bawaan
Aatash sahib has decided to hush up
Neither he listens nor does he speak!
- What is your take about Kashir Sufi Poetry? Have you been inspired by any Kashmiri Sufi Poet?
Sufi poetry has a universal appeal so is written all over the world in all languages. It expresses universal aspirations of spiritual seekers. I don’t think there would be any literary person who is not impressed or inspired by Sufi thoughts one way or the other, especially when Sufi poetry is set to music it creates ecstatic waves in the hearts of listeners. When we talk about Kashir Sufi poetry it is undoubtedly something out of this world. Shams Faqir, Sochh Kral, Wahab Khar, Ahad Zargar, these legends of our soil have burnt the oil of veins for nights so could pen down such high class poetry which touches the most inner chords of readers/ listeners.
“Sheenya Gatchthi Oss Myon Oolui, Emm Ishq Naaran Zooliyee” can you ideate the profundity of this couplet of Shams Faqir, its beauty is unique and unparalleled. When we go through the writings of Lal Ded, Sheikh ul Alam, Shams Faqir, Sochh Kral, we get to know the depths and heights of poetry and we get to know that our Sufi literature is as rich as in any other language.
- In this long and successful career as a Teacher as well as a literary figure there must have been some unforgettable moments. Any interesting incident which you would like to share?
Hmm, yes absolutely there have been loads of treasured moments which I do remember and yes I would like to share with you a fascinating tale in connection with my first place of posting when I was appointed in Education department. It was a lifetime experience which I underwent during that time. I got appointed as Teacher at a tender age when I was just 15 and half years old and was posted in a far-flung village called Poor Soaf. I didn’t know anything about the place so my maternal uncle Gani Maam accompanied me in this journey. We left home early in the morning towards the destination and I had no idea why Gani Maam took a bag of rice with him.
We reached village Hangalgund by bus which was the last stop and further we had to go by foot. We both were wholly ignorant about these villages so had to ask people frequently for guidance. Few people showed us the path which led us to village Soaf where Govt. Primary School was located. I showed my order copy to the master posted at Primary School who told me that the school in which I was posted was situated on other side of the hill. So it was quite obvious that we had to climb a hill first which didn’t seem to be an easy job. Gani Maam said to the Master that we didn’t know the way, so if he could be of some help. Master Ji directed two of his students to accompany us so as to show the track.
Me, Gani Maam and these two students kept walking through those wooded roads for hours till we reached next village called Panzgam. There were many small houses made of mud and wood, decked with grassy roof. Few houses had wooden balconies with stairs constructed outside the house. One of the students offered us a cup of tea which we had on one of the wooden balconies. As it was already late, the students could not accompany us anymore but they somehow gave us an idea about the further journey. Next village we had to cross was Kalnag which was situated on the hill top known for some medicinal plants.
To reach the final destination we had to move down the hill because school was situated at the foot of the hill in a village called Guhihard. Before reaching this village we crossed the famous river Bringi. It was complete dark when we reached the village Guhihard and finally found the house where in-charge teacher used to live as paying guest. From outside house we called for the teacher and a lady came out of the window and informed us that the teacher was on leave for seven days.
As it was late so we decided to stay there for a night, before accepting us as guests they asked if we had any rice with us and fortunately Gani Maam had taken a bag of rice with him. Later we came to know that the lady is also a teacher. She told us that the school had only four students, two of which were from Gujjar community who most of the time remained busy in cattle herding.
In the early morning we left and reached back Primary School Soaf where I had to submit my joining report for the drawl of salary and received the posting order at Guhihard Primary School. Yes, I do remember it was 27th of Oct. 1966 when I joined my duties for the first time after such hectic long journey.
As there were only 04 students admitted in the school who would come seldom. For two years I was posted there and in these two years I had a great chance to read classical literature which was translated from different languages into Kashmiri. Novels, legends, stories and songs I read in those years with keen interest. In those days’ books, folklores, folk songs were the only source of entertainment which had already given birth to book reading. People at evening used to assemble at one place and would listen to the book reader for hours who would read different stories, legends and myths and kept people engaged and entertained. I too was allowed to read books in those occasions which helped me further in this field. Those book reading sessions made me remember the tales of yore fully.
- You have worked on children’s literature, folklore and history. But you have also connected folklore with history, what is the connection between the two?
In every age people have strived to safeguard their history for the future generations. Every society has kept a record of their cultures, traditions and events. Sometimes when any past event get pretermitted and historian fails to find any authentic link which could later create a void on the pages of history, at that time folklore comes into play. Folklore helps to fill that gap to some extent because it carries some significant signs of every age. Sometimes it helps to connect the two chopped ends of history.
Yes, I have been writing children’s literature and about folklore from decades now and this credit goes to two people who influenced me towards folklore, Late Proff. Mohi-ud-Din Hajni and Mohammad Yousuf Teing.
I have written 09 books on folklore, 03 books I have compiled on folk songs for J&K Academy of Art Culture and Languages, whereas some works has already been done on the subject like Moti lal Saqi has compiled 05 books, Gh. Nabi Nazir has compiled 01 book and Soum Nath Sadhu has also compiled 01 book on folk songs. Other than these books I have also written on certain topics like Kashir Loki Shayari, Nag Raj (Raj dynasty), Pandaw Raj, Pathan Raj, Sikh Raj etc.
- As we already know that you have been facilitated with many awards time to time by different organizations of the country. Would you like to share some important ones with us?
I have been very fortunate and I am very thankful to each and every organization that facilitated and honored me with precious awards. Here are some awards which I cherish:
- Best Book Award for Zool Amaran Huend (Illumination of longings) by J&K Academy of Art Culture and Languages in 1979.
- Soviet Land Nehru Award in 1981.
- Best Teacher Award in 2005 by Education Department Kashmir.
- Sahitya Academy Award for the book Baaz Yaft (Rediscovered, research and criticism articles) in 2007.
- State Award in 2008 by SBOSE.
- Bal Sahitya Puraskar (Sahitya Academy Award for children’s literature) in 2011.
- Sharaf e Kamraz by Adbi Markaz Kamraz Sopore.
- Best Book Award for Sarmai-Ti-Saam (Research and Criticism) in 2012.
- Khilat e Mohi-ud-Din Hajni Award by Halqa e Adab Sonawari.
- Shaan e Maraz by Maraz Adbi Sangam Bijbehara.
- State Award by J&K Government in 2017.
Ghulam Nabi Aatash is undoubtedly a multidimensional literary figure of valley Kashmir whose contribution to the field of Kashmiri folklore can never be overlooked.