By Er.Shafi Ahmad
Hazrat Amir Kabir (RA) enquired ‘where is Ishaie?’ referring to the man who was punctual in offering Isha prayers behind him but was absent that evening. As such Ishaie got glued to that person’s name identified as Kh.Sangeen Shah, one among the large number of Sadaat who arrived in Kashmir along with the Amir(RA). Mula Tahir Gani Kashmiri, the famous Kashmiri poet of Persian language who aroused great interest among the scholars with the use of compound word ‘Krala pan ‘ the potter’s string was one of the descendants.
“One person in the clan was Gulam Mustapha Ashaie .He ,subsequently, was adopted as son in law by Mohamad Abdullah Bhat of Tapar Pattan who was head of a well to do family. This family possessed large chunk of agricultural land properties. One, Gulam Rasool Ashie, a descendant in the clan , was my father who served as a bureaucrat in the government. Though every luxury was available in abundance but one thing was plentiful particularly for the colleens…..and that was loneliness ,the Tanhaie. This loneliness, I used as a tool to express myself.” That is the woman with scholarly traits , deep understanding of poetry , courage to confront in words, stand as a trendsetting woman and still reject to be called feminist.
“ Unless the creative artist dips the nib of his reed or the lashes of his brush into the gulf of godly profundity ,the narrative and texture can never touch a human heart” is what she believes when she discusses her poetry. And these lines in the foreword of her collection titled ‘Nosegay of Nazms’ is the crux rather soul of her poetry. She has six collections of poetry to her name. One of the collections has been rendered into English by a very talented translator Mushtaq Barq and is titled as ‘Nosegay of Nazms’.
The blend of these properties is Shabnam Ashaie the woman who completed her PhD in Existentialism and wrote monograph titled Campus Concepts of Alienation.
When asked if she was influenced by Jan Paul Satre, the father of existentialism, she has categoric no. She rejects Satre as a sloganeer who did not give his “friends “ the same independence as he himself enjoyed.
Earlier she was a student of Journalism and Mass Communication in Kashmir when their group visited the local broadcasting station .Upon meeting the director a question was asked to the prospective journalists about the important news that day. The reply being the abduction of the then Home Minister’s daughter explains the overall situation . Subsequently , she became the news caster but chaos, confusion and her own death threat forced her to move to Aligarh whereupon she first took a bridge course . “The novel plague by Albert Camus had deep effect over my thought process as well as response to the social environment. One of the character’s response to God and creation of the world jolted me.” She replies.
Presently she is broadcaster at Radio Kashmir Srinagar. She has six poetic collections titled Akeli, Mai Sochti Hoon, Manbani, Catharsis, Manbavath (Kashmiri translation of Manbani) and Man Mein Jami Barf.
She has not taken the path of conventional Urdu poets of either sex who write ghazals with traditional meanings, words and imagery. The lover and the lover’s world view in traditional poetry has remained unchanged for centuries. The Nazm, however, did try to change that scenario but on the whole remained under the influence of the same customary imagery and meanings. But Shabnam Ashai is, without doubt, one of those new poets who have tried to completely break away from the orthodox mode of expression.
Her poems are witness to her talent – the powerful expression of intricate feelings of relationship in a fresh, thoughtful and reflective language. It’s saga of being. It’s a woman’s reflection on relationship. It’s not a confrontation but a narrative full of questions.
One of the paragraphs of her research paper reads, “Alienation has been a persistent problem for man since the beginning of civilization. But it has assumed importance in philosophy and literature in the society with the development of industry and technology on a mass scale. Earlier philosophers, particularly Greeks, were more concerned with the cosmos and ideas. Man was also treated as the manifestation of Rationality (Aristotle). Except Socrates no other western thinker seems to be interested in the individual man of flesh and bones, his sufferings, his choice of destiny, his growth and his death.”
Shabnam puts her foot down when called a feminist. “Why should a woman need to be tagged as a feminist. Woman after all has a different physical structure which is natural. Her feelings are different her response to vagaries of nature are different why should not be her poetry and literature be different . I, in response to such thought process changed my style of writing poetry and even called out to male counterparts that they should come out of the cobweb of zulf, kakul and long strands or braids of hair. World and societies are confronted with more important and hard realities so write about those.” Explains the new trend poet.
Her few poems are hereunder;
Tairta hai jo lahoo main meray
Bolta jo hai man main meray
……..ki koi khalish
To bhar deti hai talash ko
Jaisay bhar deti hai bansri ko
saans ki ……….
Is the say of the pen
Carved by your ego
And this echo
Is the broken voice
Of my actuality
Devoid of feminism
The widowed roads
Of a curfewed city
Are opening its eyes
In the womb of the city
What they see, don’t know
So astonished !
Perhaps the earth is bearing a child
The moon is silently peeping
Through the windows
The stray dogs
In groups are barking
And I am passing like the night
The entire valley is under curfew
“Although the loneliness served as inspiration for my poetry yet it could not be accepted as a continuous process. Then a time came in my life or may be my father realized that not enough time was given by him to his daughter. And this realization changed the whole scenario. The father and daughter duo became friends and ,particularly after my father’s retirement, we had a lot of travel together including visits to the holy land for Umra and Haj. My father departing for the other world too happened connected to our sojourns. On 14th February we returned from Umra , 15th he was taken ill and in few days he lost the battle giving another long spell of loneliness to me. “
Post script : Asked about some interesting or unusual episode in life the learned poet describes an incident while recording for a programme. “I could not speak as no word flow took place. I came down to the producer’s chamber requested for some other person to record. ‘But you are talking nicely .he said. “I went back to the studio but same thing was repeated.” I again came down with the similar request. ‘But you are talking nice.’he again said. “ I then had to get the recording engineer down to bear me out.”
And one thing she could not explain in poetry is this very episode!
Er.Shafi Wani can be reached at email@example.com)