Honorifics in retrospect—why western branding is bad for Kashmiri literature

From Rasool Mir, being dubbed as ‘The John Keats’ of Kashmir, to Mehjoor as ‘The Wordsworth’ and Abdul Ahad Azad as ‘The P.B. Shelly’ of Kashmir, a lot needs to be rethought with regards to these eponyms.

You should be familiar with others, evinces Shafi Shauq, but you need to be different from them—and, it’s in being different that the real beauty lies. 

These evocative remarks of the conversation with Kashmir’s literary heavyweight—Shauq—perfectly set the premise for the discourse about the honorifics given to the greats of the Kashmiri literary trove. 

From Rasool Mir, being dubbed as ‘The John Keats’ of Kashmir, to Mehjoor as ‘The Wordsworth’ and Abdul Ahad Azad as ‘The P.B. Shelly’ of Kashmir, a lot needs to be rethought with regards to these eponyms. How the individuality of their genius becomes subdued, and they are hence, viewed through a borrowed prism of perception.

Undoubtedly, there must be thematic consonances in their writings but the delivery and context still have to be different, coming from two entirely different personalities. 

Mehjoor and Rasool Mir steered the vehicle of poetry into an era of romanticism and love for nature in Kashmir. It would not be wrong to extol them as the harbinger of the modern era in the literature of Kashmir. 

Abdul Ahad Azad, on the other hand, is the forbearer of nationalistic poetry along with the perspicacious themes of humanism. 

“Tagging these literary figures with such honorific, in my opinion, speaks of ignorance and inferiority complex pervading in people,” remarks Shauq. 

The statement holds weighted truth, as for anyone to draw parallels between two artists requires deep insights of their life and work. 

Not many would know that Mehjoor placed innuendos about the plight of women in his poetry, and the perils of patriarchal society. His early stint with poetry began with penning in Urdu, but much to his disappointment, could not actualise his potential. He quickly turned to Kashmiri and penned unconventionally great marvels. Mehjoor was unstoppable thereon and found the versatility of expression that the Kashmiri language offers.

All the Kashmiri literary figures brought about their own zenith of literature embellished with the hues of their individual and subjective thought, style and form, adding to the Kashmiri language. 

“One can only tell the genius of the greats of Kashmiri literature when one reads their work in its original form and style, and thus establish their individuality as well,” continues Shauq. 

“We can present our literary icons to the larger world only when we first understand their work in our own language, and then brand them as who they truly are without having to resort to the use of any eponyms.”


Often while translating work into other languages, certain emotional context goes amiss owing to the dearth of the right words that could convey the same emotion in the same manner, Shauq says. 

“So while translating Kashmiri literature is of paramount importance, it’s equally important to keep the originality of the literature intact, and to keep alive the essence of its original language. All our literary icons have paid great tribute to Kashmiri as a language, and always urged people to nurture it more and more.” 

It’s a matter of concern, Shauq says, as to how the syllabi of Kashmiri as a subject in the educational institutions are being devised, “as we have depleting number of readers of Kashmiri literature”. 

The works of Mahjoor, Rasool Mir, Azad, Akhtar Moihuddin, and many more need to be widely included in the syllabi for the generations to have the essence of the rich literary heritage “we have as a community,” he says. “It is only when we devote ourselves holistically to reading our literature that we can be efficient in branding our literary icons and do more good to our literary trove.” 

Apart from poetry, Kashmir has produced many prose writers, with Dina Nath Nadim and Soom Nath Zutshi being the prima facie ones whose short stories like Jawaabee Card and Yeli phol Gaash were published in Kwong Posh in March 1950. 

Taking the cue many more writers started short story writing. Amin Kamil, Umesh Kaul, Ghulam Ahmad Sofi, Akhtar Mohi-ud-din and Deepak Kaul are the ones who bore the forefront. The progressive movement motivated and shaped the form and content of their short stories. 

“These writers introduced the genre in Kashmiri and paved the way for new writers who were not bound by any political convention or some particular social philosophy,” notes the CIIL research. 

“They started to think for themselves and this affected their writings. Akhtar felt the change and tried to develop a short story according to the demands of creativity. He created realistic situations with moving characters. His short story collection Sath Sangar was published in 1955. His second collection Sonzal shows better growth of his creativity. Amin Kamil’s collection Kathi Manz Kath shows his understanding of character and deep observation of society. Kokar Jung is one of the most famous stories of Kamil and is translated to ‘cockfight’ in English.” 

Expressing discontent over the poor branding of Kashmiri literature, Kamil said in an interview with a Srinagar-based publication, “To be frank, I’m disappointed regarding the future of the Kashmiri literature. I don’t know what fate is in store for us. Like the alphabet of Kashmiri, new literary forums are formed. What is their contribution, I don’t know. Funds are released by the Cultural Academy but on what basis? That is a mystery. The language is not moving forward at all; it has lost its dynamism.”

Seconding Kamil, Shauq reiterates that Kashmir needs to embrace its literary trove and guard it against anything that tampers it. 

“Nobody other than us is to be blamed for the inefficient branding of our literary figures,” he says. “The onus falls on us to make sure that our icons are well-presented to the world, and we have failed miserably on that front. We have been busy fighting on what should be the right script for the Kashmiri language and have digressed from the essence of our literature.” 

Had the Kashmiri literature not been confined to just a department of a university, and had Kashmiris as a community taken to active reading and embracing of their literature, “today all our literary icons would have been at a much higher stature,” Shauq says. 

“We need to be familiar with and acknowledge everything but also need to fortify our disparate individuality. The world shall recognise only when we recognise ourselves first.”

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