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Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri



Dina Nath Nadim

by Braj B. Kachru
Department of Linguistics, University of Illinois
Urbana, Illinois 61801 U.S.A.

Reproduced from:
Naad, All India Kashmiri Samaj

Dina Nath Nadim (1916-1988): Epoch-maker and trend-setter in Kashmiri poetryDinanath Nadim and prose, Dina Nath Kaul Nadim was born in March, 1916 and passed away on April 8, 1988. We cherish his memory and as a token of our respectful homage to this great literatuer and a lovable human being, we reproduce here this article authored by Prof. Braj B Kachru, an America based linguist/scholar.

This article had appeared in the quarterly journal Kasmir (August, 1988) published from Ontario, Canada. It was made available to us by Shri M L KAUL, the former Gne. Secy and present Vice President of AIKS, for which NAAD is thankful. - Editor

The Renaissance of Kashmiri literature as of several other Indian literatures, is closely linked with post-independence literary activities. The political events in Kashmir, especially the 1947 attack, resulted in the mobilization of Kashmiri writers and other artists in defense of their valley. The first onslaught came around October 22, 1947. In response, the Cultural Front was hastily organized. For the first time artists were assigned a role in a period of turmoil and aggression. The Cultural Front had three units for writers, actors and painters. These units played an impressive and unprecedented role in keeping up public morale by taking the message of secularism, communal harmony and patriotism to the people in their own language in both rural and urban areas.

The establishment of Radio Kashmir on July 31, 1948, provided a daily forum and great opportunity for the use and development of Kashmiri language. Radio Kashmir used Kashmiri - until then generally called a "vernacular" - in a variety of new contexts. The implication of the new roles for the language was that creative writers seriously attempted those literary forms which had been neglected earlier, for example drama, short stories and discursive prose. Until this time the main literary form was poetry and the dominant themes were nationalism (defined rather narrowly), Kashmiri identity, and religious harmony, In 1958, the Jammu and Kashmir Academy for Art, Culture and Languages was founded; it provided further encouragement.

It was during this unexpected political turmoil in the otherwise calm valley that Dina Nath Nadim (b. 1916) came into the limelight. He has remained in the forefront of the Kashmiri literary scene ever since.

In the not-so-uncommon Indian tradition Nadim's mother had a significant influence on his growth as a poet, especially after his father Pandit Shankar Kaul died when Nadim was only eight years old. Nadim's widowed mother would sing the Vaks of Lalla and would recite Lilas of other poets and an occasional composition of her own to the boy and his sister. Her repertoire of Kashmiri poems was large since she originally came from a village Muran where the oral tradition of poetry was part of the culture. Nadim was educated in local schools with intermittent breaks. He matriculated in 1930, received his B.A. in 1943, and earned a Bachelor of Education degree in 1947.

There is no published collection of Nadim's work; indeed, he is somewhat indifferent about assembling one. (SHIHIL KUL - a collection of Nadim's poems has been published since, for which the poet was honoured with Sahitya Akaddemy Award-Ed.). Most of his poems were either presented in poetic symposia (musha'ira or kavi sammelan) or published in local journals. The total number of his poems is around one hundred and fifty including those in English, Hindi, and Urdu. Like his predecessors and some contemporaries, his decision to write in Kashmiri was a late one. Nadim's poetic career did not really start until late 1930's; before that he had composed some poems in English. Between 1938 and 1946, he wrote mainly in Urdu - and some poems in Hindi - under the influences of the Kashmiri Pandit poet Brij Narain Chakbast, Josh Malihabadi and Ehsan bin-Danish. This was essentially a period of apprenticeship under the ideological influences of Hinduism, Sufis and Khayyam. Nadim was trying to discover himself and his linguistic medium. He finally selected Kashmiri for, as he has said, "my mother tongue has greater claim on me."

This realization resulted in Nadim's almost exclusive concentration on Kashmiri. He had written his first Kashmiri poem in 1942 on "Maj Kasir" ("Mother Kashmir"), an appropriate topic for a time when Kashmir was passing through a critical phase with the mass movement slogan "Quit Kashmir" challenging the established Dogra dynasty. A handful of Kashmiri writers were expressing political sentiments ornately embroidered with gul-o-bulbul imagery, but Nadim did not become fully part of the movement until 1946. It was then in a musha'ira (poetic symposium) organized by a fellow poet, Arif, that Nadim read the poem Sonth ("The Spring").Then followed Aravali Prarakhna and Grav ("A Complaint"): poems of patriotism, revolution and freedom. Here he is asking the kinds of questions which members of the progressive writers movement were already asking in other parts of India. Consider, for example

Why should the share of a labourer be
stolen by a capitalist?
Why should a honey-bee circle the
flowers and take away their honey?

This theme was not new for Indian poetry but it was new for Kashmiri.

The next phase came suddenly and unexpectedly in 1947 and 1948, when Maharaja Hari Singh left the state destitute at the time of Pakistan instigated invasion. This attack mobilized the Kashmiris, and writers and artists organized themselves under what was called the National Cultural Front.

Nadim was in the vanguard of the group. A withdrawn and soft- spoken figure, he was the life of mushairas and rallies, reading poetry of protest, revolution, and reassessment. These themes demanded new poetic forms and an extension of the earlier stylistic range of Kashmiri.

The borders of the state had turned into battle fields; the poets turned to patriotism, and poetry was used as an awakening call to Kashmir's youth. Here Nadim was again in the forefront. Even the titles of some of his poems are suggestive of turmoil of the period, for example, Tsi Mir-i Karavan ban ("You Become the Leader of the Caravan"), Naray Inqalab ("The Call for Revolution"), Me Chu H'ond ti Misalman beyi Insan Banavun ("I have to turn Hindus and Muslims into human beings again"), Servani Sund Khab ("The Dream of Sherwani"), and Pritshun Chum ("I Must Ask"). Although a translation cannot convey the flow and force of the original, the message of this period was

Burn and burn like the colourful field
of lalizar !
Roar and roar like a watertall !
You are fire
A furious fire of burning youth.
Come out
And cross the hills and dales
Raise a storm !
Contrast this with the melodious folk style which has a carefree lilt as it expresses underlying discontent:
Ya Sah-i Hamdan !
Ya Sah-i Hamdan !
Are we human?
Who says human?
The winter is ahead of us
The pocket is penniless
The hovel is roofless;
And the law is chasing us
Do you care?
I don't care !
Ya Sah-i Hamdan !
Ya Sah-i Hamdan !

The experimentation and searching continued, both for suitable poetic forms and for an ideology. Like many of his contemporaries, Nadim also joined the Communist Party. His elder contemporary Mahjur had already become a "fellow traveller.''

In 1950 Nadim provided a contrast with the traditional Kashmiri poetic forms by introducing blank verse in Bi G'avi ni Az ("I Will Not Sing Today"). This new poetic form caught the imagination of Kashmiris - literate and illiterate. Other poets, considering it an emancipation from rigid formal poetic constraints, soon followed this style. Rahaman Rahi's G'avun Chum ("I Have to Sing") clearly shows Nadim's influence. Not only did Bi G'avi ni Az demonstrate that blank verse could be used as an effective poetic form in Kashmiri, but in that poem he also showed his subtle feeling for an appropriate lexical choice, and for the proper blend of sound and sense. This effect is created neither by Persianization nor by Sanskritization; rather, he firmly established the process of Kashmirization:

Bi g'avi ni az
ti k'azi az chi jangbaz jalsaz
hol gandith
Kasiri m'ani zag h'ath.

Nadim included Jungbaz and Jalsaz because these words have been nativized and are an integral part of Kashmiri vocabulary. He chooses native collocations and embeds them in new contexts, e.g., holgandith, zagh'ath, ayigrayi. But it was the musical lilt of the poem which made it irresistible to Kashmiris; never before had their language been used with such alliteration and lexical dexterity:

bi g'avi ni az su nagmi kanh
ti k'azi az - ti k'azi az
be vayi jayi jayi tapi krayi zan
b'ehi zag h'ath
karan chi ayi grayi yuth tsalan
yi m'on bag h'ath...

I will not sing today,
I will not sing
of roses and of bulbuls
of irises and hyacinths
I will not sing
Those drunken and ravishing
Dulcet and sleepy-eyed songs.
No more such songs for me !
I will not sing those songs today.
Dust clouds of war have robbed the
iris of her hue,
The bulbul lies silenced by the
thunderous roar of guns,
Chains are all a-jingle in the
haunts of hyacinths.
A haze has blinded lightning's eyes,
Hill and mountain lie crouched in fear,
And black death
Holds all cloud tops in its embrace,
I will not sing today
For the wily warmonger with loins girt
Lies in ambush for my land.

Another stylistic innovation, in the form of the dramatic monologue, came in Trivanzah ("Fifty-three"). These innovations excited the younger writers; slowly Nadim's spell spread, and the Nadim Era was born. Nadim's political activism continued during this period. He was active in defence of world peace, and was elected the General Secretary of the State Peace Council (1950). He participated in the Indian Peace Conferences of 1951 and 1952. His pacifism is based on his "hope of tomorrow,'' which he expresses in Me Cham Ash Paghic ("My Hope of Tomorrow:):

I dream of tomorrow
When the world will be beautiful !
O how bright the day, how green
the grass !
Flowers paradisal, earth aching
with joy,
And dancing tountains of love
in his breast !
The world will be beautitul !
A rare confluence of happy stars !
wim my eyes sparkling wimout
Rose-red nipples, breasts swelling
with milk
The world will be beautiful !
His peace is not abstract and incomprehensible. Rather, it is related to day-to-day emotions, the return of "my love" for whom
When me soft dark comes, I'll be a
Bursting with love, waiting behind the
He will be late, but I will be Patience.
I have a rendezvous!
They say war is breaking out,
But surely not tomorrow
When my husband is coming!
It can't break out tomorrow!

While these are "political" poems with a socialist background, the themes have been personalized. The result is that, even as "political pieces,'' they do not sound like slogan mongering.

Another poem of this period, Dal Hanzni Hund Vatsun ("The Song of The Boatwoman from the Lake Dar'), displays exquisite sensitivity in the selection of typically Kashmiri diction and awareness of appropriate style shifts. In Kashmiri poetry Gris' Kur ("The Peasant Girl") had been seen earlier as a personification of Himaal of Heaven or a "Caucasian Fairy," to whom flowers would whisper and bulbuls would sing. But now, for the first time, a Kashmiri boatwoman becomes an object of an intense poem. A dal hanzan' selling vegetables is as much a part of Kashmir as is the Sankaracharya temple of Srinagar; but a haazan had never been viewed with such pathos before, and with such close analysis of emotions. Nadim re-created the reality which had previously escaped the poets' eye.

I got these Crisp and fresh from
the Dal
Hay valay, come and buy! hay valay,
come and buy!
These are tiny eggplants, and these
are round gourds.
Hay valay, come and buy !
Hay valay, come and buy !

These are peppers, and these are
The brinjals are like pitchers of wine
banging their heads in this boat of
Hay valay, come and buy !
Hay valay, come and buy !

The crisp bundles of radishes
are glittering in the shade
of weeds, the red marsh turnip
is blushing like a blushing beauty,
as it the dawn has blossomed into
Hay valay, come and buy !
hay valay, come and buy !

May dust fall on you! Stop it !
You have taken enough now.
I know, dear lady, I cannot blame you,
tor the high prices are crushing us all
Let me go!
Come on, lend me a hand with this
basket, I really must go now.
Hay valay, come and buy !
Hay valay, come and buy !

What can I tell you, dear lady.
My child was born only last Thursday,
Though I didn't feel up to it, I dragged
myself out and left my little one behind.
It was paintul to leave him away
from me.
Hay valay, come and buy !
Hay valay, come and buy !

My little one !
My little one is pale like a radish,
My little one is pale like a jasmine,
My little one is naked and nude
shivering and cold like a lump of ice.
My little one is crying and crying, the
tears roll down from his eyes like drops
rolling down from lotus leaves.
Hay valay, come and buy !
Hay valay, come and buy !

My little one's nose is like a lotus seed,
just like his father's nose;
My little one's face is tiny, just like
his mother's face.
To us both he is like a lotus, sprung
from the mud of dalay hay
Hay valay, come and buy !
Hay valay, come and buy !

Lo ! I seem to hear a baby cry;
Lo ! I seem to feel a sensation in my
My heart doesn't seem to be here now.
Dear lady, I must really go now,
Hay valay, come and buy !
Hay valay, come and buy !

In 1953 Nadim's experimentation took a different from; he wrote the first opera in Kashmiri, Bombur ti Yambirzal ("The Bumblebee and the Narcissus"). The theme depicted the ultimate triumph of good over evil. The interpretations of this opera were appropriate to the time: "exposing and defeating the conspiracies of Storm and Autumn against the Narcissus and the Bumble-Bee, who with their fellow-flowers symbolize the people and their aspirations for a spring and its joys". This opera was an instant success. But Nadim's experimentation with poetry continued; in Lakhei Chu Lakhcun ("Lakei Has a Mole"), for example.

There was a period of four years during which Nadim composed sonnets following both the Petrarchan and Shakespearean conventions. In them we again find selective diction, suggestive imagery, and delicate linguistic craftsmanship. Consider for example, this translation of Zun Khats Tsot Hish ("The Moon Rose Like a Tsot'):

That day, the tsot-like moon ascended
behind the hills looking
wane and worn like a gown of Pampur
with a tattered collar and loose collar-
revealing sad scars over her silvery
She was weary and tired and
as a counterfeit pallid
deceittully given to an
unsuspecting woman labourer
by a wily master.
The tsot-like moon ascended and the
hills grew hungry.
The clouds were slowly putting out
their cooking tires.
But the forest nymphs began to kindle
their oven tires.
And steaming rice seemed to shoot up
Over the hill tops.
And, murmuring hope to my
starving belly.
I gazed and gazed at the promising

In the 1960s, after trying new forms such as free verse, the sonnet, etc., Nadim came back to the native folk tradition, and the well-established Vak form which had reached its culmination in Lalla. In recent years Nadim has been experimenting with poetic compositions which he terms zit'nl ("fireflies"). In this new form he is following the Japanese haiku style, comprising seventeen syllables in three lines with 5, 7 and 5 syllables each. The Japanese originally used the haiku for objective descriptions of nature or of the seasons; it was intended to evoke an unstated but definite emotional response. Later its range was extended, but brevity and suggestiveness remained its main marks. In Zalir'Zal ("The Cobwebs") Nadim introduces pointillism or neo- impressionism. In some sense this is also present in zu'nt composition. Nadim's dexterity in stylistic innovation and the freshness of his themes helped him to steal "a march over the predecessors and contemporaries." His technique is simple: he seems lo use words rather as clever children use marbles with intriguing combinations and creative effects in a seemingly effortless display of craftsmanship. One is left wondering, why could not I think of that". Not many of Nadim's contemporaries could think of comparable devices, which explains why as his contemporary Lone says, they "were not only influenced by Nadim, but also inspired to write in his vein. Some of them went to the extent of copying his style while some adopted his themes in their poems."

The secret of Nadim's art seems to lie in his intuition for an effortless use of a limited but highly appropriate vocabulary, a keen ear for the sound and rhythm of his native language, and, above all, an artist's instinct for combining all his formal apparatus in fresh imagery. For example, in Iradi ("Determination"). Nadim handles an old theme with new lexical cohesion and effect. Iradi certainly is not his best poem; indeed, it may even be called a propaganda piece. But even in this poem one marks extremely effective lexical alteration, re-duplication, and alliteration. It is his use of such devices which separates Iradi from poems written on such patriotic themes by other Kashmiri poets.

This craftsmanship is more fully displayed in poems such as Lakhei Chu Lakhcun ("Lakhei Has a Mole"). Nabad ti T'athvani ("Rock Candy and Worm-seed"). In Iradi, the key lexical items seem to be vozul (red) and vusun (warm). Around these two words Nadim develops lexical sets of nouns and verbs, choosing members for each class with his eye on the total semantic effect. Nouns convey movement, turmoil and commotion; verbs connote sacrifice and martyrdom (e.g., fida gatshun, jan d'un, dazun). Consider, for example, the nouns avlun, jamun, jos, malakh, nar, tufan, vav, and vuzimali. Nature seems to be a party to this outward commotion and inward determination with veezimali (thunder) providing signs and bun'ul (earthquake) indicating restlessness. Reduplication further enhances this effect (e.g., vusunvisun, vozulvozul, yi avlun, yi avlun, tavay tavay). We have already seen suggestive imagery, a typical Nadimian device, in Zun Khats Tsot Hish.

Nadim has passed through many stages, and at each stage he has engaged in distinct thematic and stylistic experiments. That process still continues; so does the Nadim Era.

Kashmiri Writers B.B. Kachru


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