Ka:ne Va:lay – A Collection of Poetry by Dr. Showket Shifa

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By: Muhammad Ulfat Anjan

Ka:ne Va:lay, the debut collection of poetry by Dr. Showkat Shifa is an ocean full of nacres varied. It is a canvas on which he is painting with absolute delicacy his emotions and feelings using colourful crayons. Going through the book is akin to undertaking a journey into the depths of an unexploredworld full of awe and fascination.It unfolds before us a multidimensional universe where we live many lives at a time and finally turn into sophisticated beings.

The book has been titled Ka:n Va:lay and the title itself is symbolic. It is a typical Kashmiri word meaning plucking the leftover fruit (walnuts) from the tree when it has already been thrashed and the fruit picked up. Here the title refers to the plucking of multifarious themes from the mighty and infinite tree of poetry. Every time the poet throws his stick, a theme falls down in his lap. Yes, the poet has successfully dealt with themes like religion and spirituality, dependence on God, search for truth, life, death and destruction, separation, dejection, alienation, absurdity, happiness, self-identity and self-realization, transformation, exploration, celebration etc. in Ka:n Va:lay. He knows no limits and boundaries and while going through his debut collection of poetry, one feels like a traveler journeying into the heart of knowledge, wisdom and enlightenment.

The book has been divided into six ‘bogs’ (parts) and every part begins with a hammud (poetic composition praising Allah s.w.t) followed by a naat (poetic composition praising prophet Muhammad p.b.u.h). In every hammud, Dr. Shifa celebrates and sings the oneness of Allah and chants with absolute modesty His noble attributes. The word ‘Kun’ has repeatedly been used by him while addressing the Lord of the universe. The book itself begins with the line:

Khoda chu kun, shuba:n chu kun, tekun chu bey shuba:n ne kanh.

(Allah is one and oneness to his exaltedness adds; no other being this trait bears)

He sings of his infinite love and attachment to his Lord at many places in the book. This attachment is divine and deep and gives meaning to his existence. Only a true servant of Allah can speak like this:

Tchaen tasbee chum dilluk dub dub para:n

Maa tchenish chum zanh towway doora:n mey dil

My pulsation chants thy praise, oh Lord

This is why my heart is never detached from you

In the Naats, he depicts his immense love for the Prophet of Allah and states that the real wisdom and sovereignty lies in this love of beloved Prophet (p.b.u.h):

Myaeni aepa:neh agar chukh ne gadaaye taiba

Baadshah aas tehchukh totti khasaaras ander

Dear me, if you are not a servant of Prophet beloved

You are a loser even if a sovereign you are

At another place he sings his love for beloved Prophet thus:

Chu divan myon ang ang ti Shifa amitch gavaehi

Mey banun chu Mustafaeyi, Mey banun chu Mustafaeyi

Every organ of mine is a witness to the fact

That I aspire to be a true Mohammedan

He clearly states that this love is useless without the spirit of tawheed (belief in the oneness of Allah) and it is this spirit of tawheed which makes this love of the Prophet (p.b.u.h) meaningful:

Ath hub-e-rasoolas ti chu tawheed divan aay

Tawheed leads perfects the love of beloved Prophet as well

In his duas (supplications), he bows down before Almighty with immense humility, humbleness and meekness. He teaches us the real way of making duas through Ka:ne Va:lay. He spreads his hands before Allah like a true slave and cries out his heart like this:

Ya illaehi kar afu at baari chim lachbaed gunaah

Sa:yinaey kerihem tche pa:nay kus diyyam jaanas panaah.

Oh Allah, forgive me, loads of sins I carry on my back

If you do not shield me, from whom shall I shelter seek

The poet uses a sublime and polished diction to fill the canvas of Ka:ne Va:ley. He is not restricted by tradition but he moves forward to embellish his mother tongue with a new freshness and vigor. Language that does not change with changing times has to face death and knowing this fact, Dr. Shifa has tried his best to introduce a vibrant diction as revealed by his use of imagery and symbolism into his tongue to take it to new, advanced heights. His diction gathers fragrance from tradition, takes bath in the hues of metaphysical verbiage and plucks some colourful flowers from the tree of romanticism and moves forward to develop into a new, advanced form.He combines intellect and feeling and delineates his reflection and contemplation smoothly in the language of emotions. Only a poet who has dived into the ocean of knowledge by unravelling different forms of literature can dare to perform such an experiment in his verse. He is sure that his tongue would continue to touch the heights of progress and refinement in future too and it would continue to be honoured and admired. He says:

Pot ka:l zabardast, ammyuk ha:l zabardast

Bronh kun ti yizev rozzi beher ha:l zabardast

Its past glorious and magnificent its present too

Future too would add grandeur to this tongue

He adorns it with an unmatching imagery and symbolism. His imagery is so bright and vivid that the reader feels mesmerized and enchanted. This symbolism helps him to hum complex themes/subjects through the flute of poetry which otherwise would not have been an easy thing to do. The poem titled ‘Bubloo’ is full of such distinct versification. Here an appeal is made to a beloved one lost in the cycle of violence to return to his home/homeland in a very picturesque and arresting way:

Yikhna kotch dimahay boni shuhul

Viri vaari kikul guhlich shehlath

Ath kochi manz thaavay sonteh obbur

Beyyi roodeh jerren manz gind naavath

Come, I will gift you the shade of Chinar

The dewiness of a willowy plot,

In your lap I will gather spring clouds

And sprinkle rainy showers on your play

Shabnam saethen rabbi kho:r challay

Handi vethrov aeraq vathraaway

Shesh Nagg ki vach kuy vo:en chakkith

Zaalen tehatten dag shehlaaway

With dew your muddy feet I will wash

Your sweat I will wipe with fenugreek leaves

The water from the bosom of Sheshnag, on your wounds I will sprinkle

And thus, your bruises balm

At another place we find this instance of bright imagery which only a poet like Shifa can beget:


Tepevanprev chu tammyuk yam saran chus be sanaan

The stars carving your name in heaven’s heart my attention arrest

And its reflection falling on lagoons beneath I reflect upon

The metaphorical usage in the below listed examplesalso reveals how advanced and unique his diction is:

Akhtaabeh tchekun zoon vuchit yes leh tchataan noor

Chukh paaneh wuchaan van te tche kath nooreh fattis kun

Sun, your sight makes the moon scatter light in abundance

Tell me, to which lump of light you yourself gaze at

Soh naage aabeh diganaes paryi ramb naavan

Pevaan yaad achan az chi merni vozlaavaan

Yutuy chu pozzi be chus vandehbuz von shishmeh shehar

Su vaadeh yaar balluk chum mey azti grek naawan

Shaffaq nasayi chi aenas andar akesbandi

Tassun khayal chu shamanyi pathri voshlaavaan

The spring water’s surge that would nymphs lull and becalm

With its reminiscence doth redden my eyes,

This much is truth now that a frozen, winter-struck city I am

And my being seethed by the affiance at the tryst spot,

Not the twilight but a reflection in mirror trapped

Her thought at eventide doth make the ground aflame

Vuchith pak raath kyuth hey zoon mouji

Keraan chakh taarkan hund gash latmonji

Walk with care in darkness, oh mother moon

You are trampling the luminescence of stars

The reminiscence of childhood memories and boyhood days can be found in the book too. Dr. Shifa uses the visual imagery in such a way that we return to those pleasing stages of life and live those stages of life again. The poems‘Lokchaar’ and ‘Daeslab’ fall in the category.

Every writer is a product of his age and in his/her work we come across the untold stories of his land. Dr. Shifa too paints the historic anguish, agony, death and destruction, suffering and frustration, unfulfilled dreams and wilted hopes, separation, the lost brotherhood and unity as he experienced it in real life in his verse. Like every artist in Kashmir, he finds himself chained and finds himself caught in clutches to express his heart due to the prevailing circumstances. He clearly states that:

Paet achan dith kathan quluf chu laggith

Meeli, Kalman, athan quluf chu laggith

Eyes blindfolded, our tongues locked and sealed

Ink, pen and hands all locked and sealed.

Yet the poet dares to express himself and he does so by making the poetic devices his weapon. He does it using a refined diction, vibrant imagery and symbolism. The following instances reveal how artistically he has portrayed it all in Ka:ne Va: lay:

Kustam Shifa fu’r jazbaatan, kemtaamath heut chur ehsaasan

Ravantyol, vochdag, bay bondut, miltchaar barabar oush haaran

Someone robbed us of our emotions and strangled our feelings

The pain of loss in our breasts bruised -brotherhood, harmony all shedding tears

The poet laments the loss of his land’s prosperity and paints a picture of the ruination in very emblematic and emphatic way-

Yetten ous paryi darshan, wigni vanvun, az timan jaeyyan

Sajaavan maqbarey, bas maqbarey, bas maqbarey ha ha

The spots where nymphs would take seats and sing

These days embellish graveyards alone

Laashan chi laggith de:r te sang mil gammit gaeb

Tyoota chu bahaan khoon chi vonni jheel gammet gaeb

The dead bodies in piles have buried the milestones

The blood to such an extent spilled has the lakes filled.

Preth posh langas nish von yi manzar chu gassan dreenth

Bulbul chu dennan chaente sombraan chamman chaen…

Kya kya ne farrith gos te kaem kaem ne korus looth

Ker ker ne amm aous Shifa soun wattan chaen

Every blossom now such a sight doth offer

The bulbul crooning destruction and the garden gathering the same,

Whatnot did become its robber? who left it without loot?

Tell me Shifa,when our homeland was not a devastation?

The pain and frustration felt by the poet shapes his verse throughout Ka:ne Va:ley. It has been well said that if you wish to write pain, you have to chew it first and this is true of Dr. Shifa as a poet as well. His verse paints a picture of a withered heart in an exemplary style. His feelings and emotions fall on paper and we read tales of anguish and ache:

Bahaaras manz yivaan chum bouy hardech

Shifaa bulbul dilas gulzaar rovvum

In spring I smell an autumnal whiff

Shifa, I lost the springtide of my jubilant heart.

Khoone jigreke rangov nabbek taarakh

Lolleh lollas vandov rathaa be teche

With the blood of our beings, let’s paint the stars of heaven

Beloved, let’s bestow blood on love together.

The predicament of aimless existence surrounded by an air of uncertainty too finds  a place in the book. The metaphors used to describe such a situation are apt and of the highest order. Who other than Shifa can paint things like this:

Yeti chi saery hokhen saran manz band

Aabeh rustuy samanderan manz band

Pog vezthy fullay laggy her su

Posh kaetyaa chi maqbarranmanz band

Here everyone is trapped in lagoons dry,

And in waterless oceans,

the bugle would scatter flowerets everywhere

Countless flowers in graveyards are trapped.

Yeth shahaars ander chu varzun vaav

Mor kus kaem kammis khabbar ventov

Here in this city, winds of ruin blow

Whose beloved was butchered by whom, oh reveal.

The below given lines sum up the predicament of the denizens of the wasteland, Kashmir in a moving way:

Som bat sund makaan hue be Shifa

Pash te labeh tchor, dari bar ne kunny

Like Pandit Som’s house am I Shifa

A roof and four walls I possess but no doors and windows.

The poet finds his prayers too ineffective in such a state and screams with a doleful bosom:

Saen mang mang chi rotteh shunhis manz

Aasmaanan sattan quluf chi laggith

Our prayers stuck somewherein state of nothingness

As the heavens seven are locked and sealed.

The poet is worried about what tomorrow is going to bring and the unpredictable future too has been portrayed beautifully in the following lines:

Khot kaali obbur

Gat zol chu ganaan

Wuzmal chi gassaan

Gagraayi grezaan

Day zaani amma kya vopdi paggah

Cimmerian clouds have gathered

Darkness is densifying,

Lightening can be perceived

And thunderstorms are reverberating,

Almighty knows what tomorrow is going to bring.

But he has an optimistic vision and dreams of a ‘nooraeni seher, nundboun pagah’ (bright morning and promising future) which is the trait of a true artist.

Ka:neVa:ley is a satire on modern life too and the poet makes irony his weapon to convey the required idea. It mocks and ridicules the false practices of modern man and makes a scathing attack on our ego. We realize our folly and are artistically led to self-identification and self-realization.  After going through the pages of this book we read ourselves and realize our meanness. From our outward appearance we present ourselves to be faithful believers/servants of Allah but from within, we are hollow. A so-called believer’s dilemma has been pictured artistically in the following instances which teach us a valuable lesson in an ironical way and we are left to laugh at ourselves:

Bu’t dillas manz hazaar sombraeyith

Moomino chukh che kaefirran zaagaan

With thousands of idols in your being,

You are after the disbelievers oh, believer

Zyevi saeth wanaan yus chu mohobbat te suchus be

Dilsaeth thavaan yus chu adaavatte te chus be

It’s me who sings love with his tongue

And it’s me whose heart chants the melodies of hatred too.

Ander kin chus be sharhek mool praataan

Nebbir kin tchumsharayee chum, yi chaa kam

I am scything the roots of sharah from my inside

My outward appearance in its hues painted, is this not enough?

The doctors and teachers who have made a fun of their positions and indulge in wrong practices have been attacked at in a very ironical way:

Karaan hazchus agar business gunaa chaa

Be chus bod daakter alhumdulillah

If I indulge in business, is it a sin?

AlhumduLillah,a reputed physician I am

Mey fehlovvum vobba naakhwandgee hund

Vanaan chim master alhumdulillah

I spread the cancer of ignorance and illiteracy

AlhumduLillah, a teacher I am.

Dr. Shifa very adroitly and masterly makes an attack on our ego and vanity and leads us to self-realization and self-identification:

Be manche kreel mey hish kanh locket ne zaat Shifa

Magar hu baaleh thazzar chus wandan be khorbaanas

No other creation is as insignificant as I am, Shifa

And yet the height of that mountain I trample under my feet.

Yas chu basaan Himalaya hu paan

Suy chu challi challiyi vaan vassith baazay

He who thinks himself to be mount Himalaya

Falls down scattered at times

The poet very appealingly sums up the state of modern man blinded by materialism:

Mey khodaay zar, tche khudaay zar, betti jaanwar, tchetti jaanwar

Mey zarruk chu zar te zarruk tche zar, betti jaanwar, tchetti jaanwar

Metti brontheh kanni chu yi choun rath, tchetti bronth kanni chu yi myon rath

Na mey cheshmeh tar, nat che cheshmeh tar, betti jaanwar, tchetti jaanwar

Wealth is my God and your God too; I am a beast and a beast you’re too

Wealth has added to my ego and added to your ego too,I am a beast and a beast you’re too

Before me it’s your blood that I’ve spilled and before you it’s mine blood that you’ve spilled

Neither my eyes wet nor your eyes wet; I am a beast and a beast you’re too

Like every great artist Dr. Showket Shifa does not keep humour and wit out of the canvas of Ka:ne Va:ley. He does it too most adeptly, in an ironical way thus bringing to surface the behavioral crisis of both the sexes. The following instances deserve a mention here:

Mey path kun yelli nazar ditch aes ladki

Tammis von gov muzakkar aes vardi

Vanith vardee white yinneh koth zaenniv

Garrez vannuk mey chum zan aes mehnyu

When I looked back, I discovered a girl

Though in male robes she was clad,

Think it not a coat when I say the dress was white

She was like a man, this I want to convey

Mey thez haz aes chapne thoor taemsenz

Vonnum kya gudri tas banni hoor yemsenz

Her slipper’s heel was taller than me

What would befall on him whose hoor she would be, I thought.

Torrum haz fikri‘ souy keth’ kaen chi vopdaan

Mard yelli zaen banan pat kya chu sapdaan

Yes, I got it how the ‘vicious weed’ grows

And what happens when a man becomes a woman

Yod ne rudukh hadas ander tche Shifa

Krehni kaawo karry kukkil paagal

If you desist not from crossing the line, Shifa

The koil will send you to asylum, black crow.

Melody is another special feature of Dr. Shifa’s poetry and in Ka:ne Va:lay we find a treasure of such melodic verses which can be sung with ease. Be it a Hammud, Naat, Dua or Ghazal, the poet proves himself to be an enthralling lyricist everywhere. The following lines from a Ghazal establish this fact beautifully:

Hijjar chu myooth tovay kin chu intezaar shroenyal

Dazaan chi naar setha, bas chu lolehnaar shroenyal

Towway mushuq chi tchatta:n gul, tammis chi bosseh divan

Owway ronnen chu gassan shroen, chu myon yaar shroenyal

Separation is sweet thus wait so sacchariferous

Fires are myriad, but love’s flame sweet and luscious

The flowerets their fragrance spend and caresses offer

And jingle the bells to behold my love nectarous.

To conclude, Ka:ne Va:lay is an ocean incorporating in its bosom the sweetness of art. It depicts the journey of the poets’ creativity and highlights his expertness in dealing with the forms of versification in a novel way. The different ‘bogs’ (parts) of the book are springs varied and the reader gathers pearls from every page he reads.

(The author, hailing from Kulgam, is a teacher and can be reached at [email protected])

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