Q&A with Naseem Shafaie

Poetry has always been soothing to one’s heart bestows moral as well as emotional strength; it is undeniably the best way to express one’s thoughts, feelings and ideas. There has been bountiful contribution by the Kashmiri poets without whom the Kashmiri literature would have never been so stirring, enlivening and versatile. In poetry it doesn’t matter, who is writing but what is written, it doesn’t matter whether it is jolted by a man or woman, black or white, high caste or low caste, poetry doesn’t espouse caste, color or creed.Whatcounts for the reader is content.

Kashmir has witnessed many great poetesses from the very start like Lal Ded, Habba Khatoon, Arnimal, who inspired generations to tread the trail. These superlative lady poets have left behind scores of marks in the field of literature which can never be pretermitted.

Naseem Shafaie, a 21st century poetess is one of the finest poets we have today, the first published lady poet who came up with an award winning book. Naseem Shafaie is a Kashmiri lady born at Gurubazar Karanagar Srinagar presently living at Rawatpora Srinagar. She has done her schooling from Kashapa School (of the locality) till 10th standard. For higher education she went to Maulana Azad Woman’s College Srinagar and for further studies she joinedUniversity of Kashmir. It was the time when Diploma in Kashmiri language was introduced in University of Kashmir and she got admission in the first batch. Masters was later introduced and she was again among the first batch who completed Masters in Kashmiri Language from University of Kashmir. In 1982 when 04 candidates from that first passed out batch got appointed as Lecturers Naseem Shafaie was one of them. She has served her duties in various colleges during her tenure viz. Maulana Azad Woman’s College Srinagar, Woman’s College Anantnag, Abdul Ahad Memorial Degree College Bemina Srinagar and Nawakadal College.

Naseem Shafaie was influenced towards the field of literature at a very young age because of her brother Shafi Shafaie who used to work in Radio Kashmir Srinagar. In conversation she said that she has read book “Aag Ka Dariya” by Qurrat ul Ain Hyder (An influential Urdu Novelist/ Short story writer/ an academic and a journalist) in 5th standard and that’s a pretty high standard.In childhood she used to read literary books covertly; she doesn’t know why but girls were not allowed to read poetry books and novels in those days. While studying she would keep chemistry or any other book in her lap to show her parents what she reads but under that book she would place Deewan e Ghalib or any other poetry book; when she was left alone in her room, she would start reading them. In a jokey way she re-counted that it wasn’t less than a miracle to qualify 10th class examination because most of the time she used to read poetries, short stories and Novels. The books in syllabus were alien to her especially Mathematics which was always out of her comprehension.

Khouer Piyaav Ni Pather Tem Dour Halam

Nazrav Maenz Sozun Boseh Nazr

Atheh Pilvith Dupnam Traav Kadam

(Khabas Manz)

Foot was yet to touch the surface, he offered hem

Within the glances he gifted a kiss

Hands he bedded and said now tread.

Naseem Shafaie started writing poetry in between 1971-1975 when she was studying in Maulana Azad Woman’s College Srinagar which she believes was just a child’s play but gave her initiation, a spark which kept lighting her poetic journey. She found steps to the ladder and ink to the pen of real poetic career in University of Kashmir which is still inditing the stories of this enigmatic world.

Naseem Shafaie has written 02 poetry books in Kashmiri Language namely “Daarichi Mitchrith” published in 1999 and Na Thsai Na Aks (Neither shadow nor reflection) in 2007. She loves to read the poesy of great Sufi poets of the valley but heartilyshe is inclined towards the poetry of Rasul Mir. There are few other poets from the valley she loves to read are Shafi Shauq (her teacher), Rehman Rahi, Ghazal of Amil Kamil & Rafiq Raaz and Nazm of Deena Nath Nadim.

In her childhood when girls were somehow restricted to read literary/ fictional/ mythical works, her mother who is alive used to show interest in her writings. Sometimes Naseem Shafaie used to recite her verses infront of her parents.

She has participated in many live Mushairais (literary function) organized by Radio Kashmir Srinagar time to time. She has visited many states in India viz. Mumbai, Delhi, Rajasthan, Kolkata etc. and outside country she has been invited to Korea, Germany and Italy.

Her book Na Thsai Na Aks (Neither shadow nor reflection) has won 02 grandeur awards, Tagore Literature Award in 2009 and Sathiya Academy Award in 2011.

It was a joint venture organized by Govt. of India and Govt. of Korea who then introduced a new category of awards called “Tagore Literature Award” given to the poets of 08 different languages and Naseem Shafaie’s book Na Thsai Na Aks (Neither shadow nor reflection) was among the first 08 honored with the award.

In this inspiring conversation I asked Naseem Shafaie,

Q :Did marriage bring any change to your poetic being”?

“Aha! Nothing at all, it was just a transfer from one family to another.My in-laws never intervened even my husband has always lent a helping hand, he motivated, encouraged and helped me to get my first book “Daarichi Mitchrith” published”.Kashmir is a valley which has produced some exceptional/ unparalleled poets among them are all time greatest Lal Ded and Habba Khatoon, when they were able to express their feelings in such circumstances, how couldn’t we! I think every lady living in this fecund land is actually a poet. A mother cuddling her child in lap hums something poetic, when she is dismayed, with numb eyes she sheds something poetic and when she is joyous her whirling tresses yells something poetic, even I believe that there must have been some anonymous, unsung poetesses whose verses remained shut and hazed in their wedded locks and boxes”, She replied.

Q : Your most loved and acknowledged poem”?

“My favorite and most treasured poem is ‘Bi Na Thsai Na Aks’ (I’m neither shadow nor reflection) after which I named my 2nd book, I have translated it in Urdu language too for the listeners who doesn’t understand Kashmiri. Once I met a Pakistani lady who conversed with me about the poem, she had read it many times and had even memorized half of the poem. The poem is loved by my friends circle too who in most occasions request me to recite it.

Tchi Aakh Az Ti Baras Paeth Tithai, Wonuth Ni Kihn

Agar Mai Aachar Motha Aesiha Bi Shaerhaie Tch Wuthan

Ti Boozha Soh Rihij Kath Yemuk Tch Haawas Tchuie

Buthuie Togum Neh Parun Nazri Hund Tachar Tcheunum

 Today, again, as usual you came to my doorsill and said nought,

If I havea handful of words, I would embellish your lips (with them)

And would listen to those tidings which hold your desires,

Icouldn’t read your face yet the warmth of your glances I intuited.

 Agar Tchi Krishan Banith Yun Yetchakh Ti Veh Badlavakh

Bi Aasai Soiee Meera Tchi Kadmeh Kadmeh Namaie

Thavakh Tchi Lookeh Kathan Kan Dapakh Be Azmavath

Bi Naareh Tan Zaelith Ti Ram Ram Parie

 If you would like to change your face and come to me as Krishna

I will be (your) that Meera who would worship you in every step,

If you pay heed to the guffs of masses and would wish to test me

Even burning my whole body I would still be reciting Ram Ram.

(It is a breathtaking poem, every line in every stanza delineates its worth. The poet has also mentioned some legendry poets in the poem like Lal Ded, Habba Khatton, Rasool Mir and has mingled her verses with theirs which has taken the poem to the next level.)

My other favorite poem is “Shaam Dalith” because there is a beautiful incident connected with it. I was in Gulmarg but was not feeling well that day. Under a tree I took pen and paper in my hand and started writing, it’s a poem where I don’t think was any conscious effort in writing it.  Under the shade of branches words were falling from above and my only effort was to arrange them and put them on paper. I think it was all done in my absence, when I came back to my real senses I found a complete poem penned on paper”, She replied.

Tchi Chhuie Malal Zi Chhaiem Ni Chani Shokaie Gul

Tchi Chhuie Gumaan’ni zi Tchai Hetch Chhai Ye Adam Boi

Agar Tchi Az Ti Rachakh Patch Tchi Yeezi Shaam Dalith

Agar Tchi Az Ti Pachiyee Man Tchi Yeezi Shaam Dalith

Tchi Yeezi Shaam Dalith Saenn Kin Wuchakh Pannaie

You have a complaint that I didn’t accept the corsage of your love,

You are off-beam to deem that you are the only man with human feelings

If you still believe, do come after sunset,

If your heart still wishes, do come after dusk,

Do come after evening to the lanes of my abode, you will see (yourself).

Baran Chhu Az Ti Likith Intizaar Kastaa’n Sund

Ti Dareh Aaseh Avaizaa’n Nazar Wuchaan Kahn Wath

Parakh Agar Tchi Tangie Buth Parun Yi Seeneh Sipaar

Labakh Jawaab Sawalan Agar Tachhun Tchi Tagiee

Tchi Yeezi Shaam Dalith Saenn Kin Wuchakh Pannaie

“Waiting for someone” is still inscribed on the doors

Glances dangling through the windows for a coup d’oeil,

Read, if you could read the faces and the Holy book of hearts

You will find the answer of every question, if you know what to seek!

Do come after evening to the lanes of my abode, you will see (yourself).

Q :Any interesting/ attention-grabbing episode you remember?

“Aha! Yes, it is too related to my poem ‘Bi Na Thsai Na Aks’ (I’m neither shadow nor reflection), I was invited to Delhi in connection with a kind of Mushaira (literary function) when I penned this poem. I have a habit, I don’t know good or bad but when I write anything I throw the trash paper on one side and keep the correct one on other side and had done same on that day too. My sweeper had come in my absence and had burnt the correct one leaving behind the trash copies in my room. When I came back I was appalled to see, it really came like a shock! The poem had taken a lot of effort and time to write.It was a long and beautiful poem. I had to leave next day but after this incident I was lost. I was upset seated in chair when my husband arrived, right-away he got to know about the incident and said that I should try to write it again. At first I was exasperated with the idea but laterrealized that there is no way out but to write it again. Huh! Believe me I started to write it again and it was almost 3 am in the morning when I completed the poem. I think I wrote it exactly same line by line as the lost one was poetized. I don’t know how but writing it second time I was able to retrieve the previous one. I believe losing this poem would have been a great loss for me and may be the name of my second book would have been something different”. She replied.

Q : Read the first poem ‘Baakh’ of your Book ‘Daarichi Mitchrith’ may you tell us something about the poem?”

“Yeah, it’s a small poem penned in two parts ‘Alif’ and ‘Bay’, the poem too has a background, a reason which has been a reason for many poets/ authors/ writers to pen down innumerous painful tales. I have recited it a few times at different occasions in its original script. It has been translated in English by BBC World and was later broadcasted. Some years back four girls from Pune Institute came to Kashmir in connection with some kind of project, they named their film after the poem’s first line “Yi Aes Akh Paadshah Bai”. The poem is still being quoted as it is greatly relevant to ongoing conflict in valley Kashmir. Let me tell you a reality, we Kashmiri are watching this conflict from 1989 and we poets/writers can never keep our feelings/ thoughts out of it, sometimes these emotions strike us from inside and eventually through the nib of pen they find a vent”, She replied.

Yi Aess Akh Paadshah Bai

Yahai Aes Preth Doh Shaman

Bar Mitchravith Praran Panen

Lokten Lokten Shahzaadan

 

A Queen She was!

Who, on every evening

With open doors would wait

For her little princes

 

Kehntcha Mandchith Kehntcha Trahrith

Humsai Bayen Aess Pritchaan

Tohi Ti Chhiva Wen Shuer Az Nebrai

Mainen Ghareh Chhuneh Yaad Pivaan

Zaneh Khuda Kath Kun Gai Neerith

Bateh Fael Chhikh Na Banen Sheerith

 

Sometimes in shy utterance, sometimes quivering

She would ask her neighbours

“Are your children too still outside

Mine have forgotten their home

God knows where they have been

Food is waiting for them in plates”.

 

Emsiee Kaem Taa’n Kehtaa’n Wun Adeh

Darih Ti Bar Truprith Beath

Oopuz Rootleh Grekh Tchatith Sodran

Humsayevv Booz Baakha Zeeath

 

Someone has told something (To her),

Ah! With closed door and windows

She has confined herself in

But the night ilk sea seethed and the

Neighbours heard a long dolorous shriek,

 

Mat Maer Tav Wen Chhiv Na Wanseh Kam

Mat Maer Tav Wen Chhiv Na Maenzeh Nam

Oh you! Don’t die, you are too young,

Don’t die with henna on your nails.

Naseem Shafaie is indeed a fine poetess, her verses have earned a high place in our hearts. She is counted as one of the best poets we have today and has set an example for coming generations from any gender. I wish her a healthy and prosperous life ahead.