Rehman Rahi, a true poet of Kashmiriyat (Profile)

November 7th, 2008 - 12:26 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghSrinagar, Nov 7 (IANS) He is truly a poet of “Kashmiriyat” who has boldly voiced the pain and agony incurred by the land of peace and love during two decades of violence. That’s how fans and friends describe Rehman Rahi, the recipient of this year’s Jnanpith award - India’s highest literary honour.
Rahi was Thursday conferred the award by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at a function in the national capital.

For 83-year-old Rahi, the first Kashmiri to be given the honour, it was a joyous moment blended with sorrow.

“The award is not only an honour for my poetry but is also in recognition of language … the language of our speech and thought,” Rahi told IANS.

“I am happy and sad,” he said. “Happy, because I was honoured. Sad, because my people continue to be in distress.”

The frail looking Rahi, in whose poetry you may find a touch of Nietzsche’s philosophy, is aptly regarded as the greatest living Kashmiri poet.

Rahi, the author of more than a dozen books, including the poetic collection “Farmove Zartushtan” - the title Nietzsche used for his seminal work “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” - became the youngest Indian to win the Sahitya Akademi award in 1961. In 1999, he was honoured with the Padmashri.

Rahi began his career as a government clerk and was associated with the Progressive Writers’ Association, of which he later became the general secretary. He was a sub-editor with an Urdu daily in Kashmir before he joined the University of Kashmir, from where he retired as a professor in 1983.

“He protected the Kashmiri language from Persian and Urdu influences. With his every written and spoken word, he tries to bring to the fore the essential inclusiveness of Kashmiri culture - the Kashmiriyat,” said Bashir Manzar, a poet and an editor of an English daily published from Srinagar.

“Rahi is a poet of Kashmiris - Hindus and Muslims. He is a proud figure for both,” Manzar said.

In 1947, then a budding poet, Rahi founded the Kashmiri Cultural Congress - a movement that earned Kashmiri literature a recognition in line with other major languages of the Indian sub-continent.

Rahi has earned credit for giving the Kashmiri language its modern idiom of expression and has been one of the forces behind writing the encyclopaedia of Kashmir.

“We, as Kashmiris, owe Rahi Sahib a lot. He has created idioms for our language. His honour is an award for the Kashmiri language,” says Rafeeq Masoodi, director of the Srinagar Doordarshan Kendra.

His friends say much of Rahi’s writing, which portrays the present dark period of Kashmir, has still not been printed. However, despite that, Rahi has voiced the pain he felt due to the last two decades of turmoil.

His book “Siyah Roode Jaren Manz” (In Black Showers) - a collection of Kashmiri poetry - reflects the agony of Kashmiris in the conflict of identities.

“Restitution of its historical position to Kashmir is important. I want the pride of Kashmiris be restored,” Rahi said in an interview with a Srinagar daily recently.

“My dream is to see a peaceful and prosperous Kashmir; a Kashmir that can truly be described as a paradise.”

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