‘Lalwun naar’: The mood and music of Rasul Mir’s poetry

Gravesite of Rasul Mir, Dooru Shahabad.

Mir is faithful to the title of “leader of descriptive writers” bestowed on him by Rahman Rahi.

Dr Shiban K Kachru’s translation of Rasul Mir’s thirty selected poems is dedicated to the memory of the nineteenth century romantic poet. 

Kachru grounds his translation in Kashmiri literary criticism. He brings attention to the educational quality of poetry and offers an understanding of the work that poetry aims to do in the world. 

He draws on Abhinavgupta, a Kashmiri polymath who establishes how poetry not only intends to say something but invokes a range of moods in the reader. This citational reference follows from Abhinavgupta’s work on aesthetic theory which asks questions of artistic beauty, spectatorship and the instructional nature of art. 

Kachru flags Abhinavgupta’s caution at the beginning of his text, that informed and sympathetic readers are essential for the success of poetry. 

Kachru takes the reader through a brief history of Kashmiri poetry, how the language managed to hold its ground even as material conditions remained unstable under various regimes. He translates verses from Mahjoor, Rahi and Habba Khatoon in his introduction to the text, addressing the themes that have ebbed and flowed over time. Kachru indicates the aim of his translation to be the preservation of the mood and music of Rasul Mir’s work. 

In Mir’s Poetry, prayer and pleading are in conversation with the beloved’s beauty. The narratorial voice seeks to make the beloved stop and listen, to pay true heed to the travails of love: “Arazah karahay roz ati/ boaztam arzi/ mata loasnavtakh lusimati/ lo lati lo” 

Kachru in translating boaztam arzi renders it “Pray, pay heed to me.” He is able to capture the power-dynamic at the heart of the word arzi, indicating its petition. The voice of the beloved is silent, the reader doesn’t hear the other side. This communicates a sense of desperation in Mir’s lyrics: a constant supplication met with abject silence. 

Portrait of Rasul Mir by Mohan Raina.

The beloved’s beauty is characterized by its ability to mesmerize. The poet says that those who encounter it wander, fall, get lost, and are destroyed. The beloved’s nose is described as a silver sword: beauty becomes a weapon that slays its admirers, “dil khaste karthas, nas kyah chhey/ ropa sanz shamsher.” 

The force of the phrase dil khaste karthas is partly lost in Kachru rendering it, “my heart is shattered.” The wounded self and the long dismay communicated by khaste is absent. However, this choice can be chalked up to maintaining the structural integrity of the verse in English. This choice also complies with Kachru’s disclaimer that his translation paraphrases with some license where necessary. 

In another poem, Mir addresses this loneliness central to his all-consuming devotion, “madnan kerinam zad me badnas/ wadnas chum ne war/ ba kas wan baliye lo.” 

Even as his chest is perforated with the pain inflicted by his beloved, he finds himself with no tears left to cry, and no soul to confide in. Separation is unbearable. He describes himself as the one who is withered away to become an object of pity. His longing remains his sole companion.

Mir writes, “karthas be dewano/ janana yitamo.” Enchantment translates to madness in many of Mir’s poems. The beloved leads to a loss of hes or consciousness. This circles back to pleading, an appeal to make them stay, and a fall into the distress of separation. As opposed to the distressed narrator, the beloved is described as carefree and nonchalant, one who doesn’t lend an ear, and roams free. In some of his poems, Mir names death the only way for the lovers to unite, describing them as moths around a flame.

Mir is faithful to the title of “leader of descriptive writers” bestowed on him by Rahman Rahi. Mir places his beloved’s voice above that of the bulbul’s, he suggests that her curly hair be paired with a set of pearls, he calls on her as acchi nuriye, the light of his eyes. Mir compares her face to a tulip, her mouth to a rosebud. The imagery of nature’s beauty is replete throughout the text, culminating in the major assertion that Kashmir is a paradise because of the beloved’s beauty, “chani sati Kashmir/ janat tasir, samsar nate gham khanay…”

Mir says that his heart is in pieces, subjected to the weapons of the beloved. The latter embodies spears and arrows, her curls repeatedly likened to serpents. Mir writes, “mashok atash khanay / aashik chhuy nishanay” in one poem, rendering himself the target of fire. He names his love “lalwun naar,” an unrelenting fire, in another poem. However, he also attributes healing to the beloved’s gaze, “yar diyi na deedar bali bemar”. The life-giving and life-depleting stages of love are in constant conversation with each other. 

Kachru uses the metaphors of malady and sickness in his own original poetry as well. In the appendix of the book, he delineates the themes of unrequited love and longing by naming his beloved the cure to his illness.

Click to comment
To Top