BY SHOWKAT SHAFI
Emerson’s famous words, ‘whosoever is a great man is a non –conformist’, fits so well to Amin Kamil. This major voice in Kashmir poetry and one of the chief exponents of modern Ghazal, whose influence is widely accepted by his contemporaries and later generations, passed away at 90, six years back.
Being a public servant at University one comes across a cross section of intellectuals, writers and academics whom you love to hear. I have heard Kamil at several literary events held at Kashmir University over the years. One could not miss his genius and originality of thought over issues of contemporary relevance. Sometimes you could disagree with him at the most, but never afford to ignore him or be indifferent to his utterances.
“A thought provoking intellectual who would challenge all the forms and styles in prose and poetry, and focused himself on Kashmir specific research”, is how Faruq Masudi, a writer, and a film maker, describes his ‘un-conventional’ way of ‘doing’. The road he tread on the landscape of Kashmiri language and literature, was the one less travelled by, Faruq said. And that for great literary genius Robert Frost “makes the difference”.
Born at Kapran Kulgam, a village in south Kashmir, on 3rd august 1924, Kamil moved to Srinagar at a very young age; graduated in Arts from the Punjab University and later took a degree in law from the AMU, Aligarah. He joined the Bar in 1947 and continued to practice law till he was appointed a lecturer in Sri Pratap College, Srinagar in 1949. He remained closely associated with the writers’ movement of that era and under its influence switched over from Urdu to Kashmiri as his medium of expression. He joined the State Cultural Academy when it was set up in 1958 and was appointed the convener for Kashmiri. Kamil later became Editor for Kashmiri section and edited the two journals of the Academy for many years.
Recalling Kamil’s days as editor Sheeraza, the poet critic and translator of Kashmir languages Muneeb-ur-Rehman, one of his old blogs describes Kamil as “an editor par excellence”. “Kamil would value and respond to all forms of literature – new and old with equal interest and treatment. His unprejudiced outlook on all genres and styles culminated in the popularity of Shiraza among a cross section of Kashmiri writers , recalls Muneeb.
Kamil was instrumental in fashioning Kashmiri Ghazal into an entity distinct from its Urdu and Persian counterparts. His poetry is marked by freshness of sensibility, maturity of expression and striking technical innovation which together give him a diction uniquely his own.
Ninder chi tosi katan wajnaen paemitch
Yinder chu toti nachaan intizaar
Wheel spinners have long slept
But the wheel will continue to move on,
Wait for tomorrow.
Kamil employs subtle humor and satire with devastating effect in his poetry. Through it he mirrors contemporary life and makes a social comment on his milieu. His satire or humour, however, does not bruise, but heals.
“Yeti chu soroei fiza Karamaech hund ,
Yeti chi prath mehkamus chalawaan laash
With us miracles are quite common,
everywhere the dead rule the living
He has the quality of being simple as well as profound at the same time. This he does in purely Kashmiri tenor. In spite of his great academic knowledge he has never fallen prey to the transplantation of an alien metaphor, borrowing of a foreign concept or trend in literature. His use of language is exceptional in the literary history of Kashmir.
Kamil’s contribution in the field of fiction adds to his stature. In 1958, Gati Manz Gaash (Light Amidst Darkness), a novel written in context of the aftermath of the partition of the Indian sub-continent in 1947, won him acclaim.
Kamil’s collection of short stories, Kathi Manz Kath (Story Within Story) published in mid-60s includes his masterpiece, Kokar Jang (The Cockfight). The Cockfight is considered as the most popular story in the Kashmiri literature. It has been translated into many Indian languages and has appeared in anthologies such as Indian Short Stories Contemporary, Kashmiri Short Stories and Contemporary Indian Short Stories. It has also appeared in Best Loved Indian Stories of the Century, published by Penguin India in 1999.
Kamil like many great writers world over believed humour and satire as “effective weapons for social change”. His wonderful compilation Asan Trayi is a great example of satire and humour. Kamil also established himself as a creative prose writer and critic.
His great contribution is the publication of Kashmiri Sufi Poetry (3 volumes ) and revisiting the traditional Habba Khatoon and presenting a fresh and “vivid” picture of this great historical character.
Apart from a number of anthologies he edited, Kamil has published two books of literary criticism Jawaban Chu Arz (In Reply, vol 1 & 2) and a book Mehjoornen Bonen Tal (Under the Chinars of Mehjoor) on the popular Kashmiri poet of 1930s, Ghulam Ahmad Mehjoor.
A great lover of Kashmiri language Kamil’s dictum, ”Kashri saeten Kashir sairi” ( Kashmiris are because of Kashmiri language) remained close to his heart all his life. ‘Can we just be ourselves, pledge not to copy whether in thought or diction, and reap the benefits of this rich language’ , he was often quoted as saying.
Naerow, Manzil Chi warah door paek,
Yemi chi sayri kochi bay gul nor paek
let us move, the goal is yet too far,
All these lanes are devoid of flowers, move on
At a day national seminar at Aligarh Muslim University Aligarah held in early 2009 on “Critical Perspective on Kashmiri Poet Amin Kamil looked at the genius of Kamil from many angles. In the seminar, Professor Gulshan Majeed, noted writer, critic revealed that Kamil’s use of words is oriented to liberating us from the prison-house of systems, ideologies and meta-narratives. Prof majeed added that “Kamil employs metaphors and paradoxes with a view to transcending the normal parameters of the communicability”
Besides his recognition at the national level, Kamil had his little share as yet at the international level too. Language for a New Century — Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia & Beyond, an anthology of eastern poetry published by a renowned international publisher W.W. Norton & Co, for the first time included poems by many Kashmiri poets. The anthology included poems by Kashmiri poets Amin Kamil, Rehman Rahi and Rafiq Raaz. Muneebur Rahman says ‘It’s for the first time that Kashmiri poets are featured in an international anthology,” said Muneeb to a local English daily. “The anthology includes poems from about 60 nationalities, wildly divergent cultures and voices.” Translations of Amin Kamil ‘Ghazals, Dew and Water which appeared in the anthology were also part of an international workshop held at Chicago, sponsored by University of Chicago. Poet, and editor Ravi Shankar of Central Connecticut State University also conducted a discussion of works by Korean poet Ko Un, Chinese poet Bei Dao, Japanese poet Tada Chimako, and Kashmiri poet Amin Kamil among four other poets from the Middle East.
“A writer exists on three planes—the plane of relationships, the plane of social ties, and the plane of individuality and he or she can’t do away with any of these”. Kamil was quoted as saying by a local English daily 7 years back. Poetry for Kamil is an art of giving meaning and metaphoric value to words and situations.”I can say that literature is an indirect art”, he had said.
A former faculty Deptt. of Journalism, the author is presently Dy. Director for Internal quality Assurance Kashmir University, can be reached at [email protected]