Friday, 25 April 2014

Mir Ghulam Rasool Nazki: The Poet of Masses

Reading Kulliyat-i-Nazki, in Kashmiri, compiled by Ayaz Nazki

G. R. Nazki is in many respects an encyclopaedic man. I will neither call him Razi nor Rumi (he thought  that later critics would recognize him as Razi and Rumi of Kashmir) nor Umar Khayaam nor Iqbal of  Kashmir but important assimilator and exponent of some aspects of Kashmiri Tradition.  He is, after Sufi  poets, in a way, the most popular poet. 
Seen as ‘last living representative of symbols of Kashmiri cultural ethos – its najabet, sharaafat, wazadaeri and ilm, Nazki has been praised by important local and national critics. Great sensitivity and power of observation coupled with wide readings in many languages  and a courage to express both his ecstasies and doubts in the same breath – a rare combination of heart and mind, faith and reason, theological and mystical approaches contribute to make G R Nazki a unique poet who not only delights with his exquisite imagery and attention to niceties of form – “ he has complete mastery over expression” – but engages our minds as well. Reading him is refreshing, to say the least. One can present from his work samples of brilliant wit, tantalizing humour, passionate cry of a Muslim and reformist soul and lucid exposition of Kashmiri values. Nazki’s such verses
Jabeenuk daag, deenuk sraeh, diluk soaz
Maddenuk ishq, seenuk jashni nawroaz 

as epitaph to Namrood Nama sum up his essential qualities as a poet of faith, love, passion and tradition. He doesn’t know aestheticism or poetry for poetry’s sake. We can’t forget his translations of rather difficult works in a language and idiom that is worthy of the poet he has chosen to translate (his translation of parts of Lalliae Toor find a place in this Kulliyat). His poetry is at once intellectually and aesthetically rich. He can be enjoyed by the sophisticated and the not so sophisticated almost equally. He can be quoted from the pulpit and the political or any social platform. He has subtle humour of a social critic, warm conviction of a devoted believer, catholicity of a mystic. He is a quintessentially Kashmiri poet – believing questioning, celebrating jovial, status quoist in practice and sometimes cynical or revolutionary. He is heir of the best in sufi, folk and modern poetry. Though not a Sufi poet his poetry has the perfume of Sufism that gives it both depth and universality. He will remain a popular poet but I wonder why he is not sung so often in the media. Nazki’s suggestive titles  like Kaw-i- yeniwoal, Aawaz-i- Doast, Namrood Nama speak a lot about the layered meaning spaces of his works. Nazki is didactic but his choice of words and images redeems him. He is pleasing to ears and sweet to the intellect and if poetry is what has both moral and spiritual function in the traditional theory his didacticism is no poetic sin. His is didactic in the same way as Iqbal is and that goes to his credit.
Although broadcasting almost consumed him – I think it somewhat sapped his both moral and creative energy and how ironic that Namroods he fought in his poetry were not far from him and even had their nets cast around him – and prevented him from focusing on more creative endeavours, he nevertheless kept his other self alive though, for many, at some cost to the innocence of the soul. 
Despite being conscious of his high standards and achievements and great potential that I think, unfortunately for Kashmir, could only partially be realized, there are some quite ordinary verses, even poems like Nagmai Tawhid. 
He has many distinctions that haven’t been fully appreciated. After Sheikhul Alam(r.a) and major Sufi poets he has a place among the most popular poets of the 20th century Kashmir. He has all the credentials to be proposed as a poet of masses – he has none of the abstractions of the modernists and none of the ideology inflected jargon of progressive or certain religious poets. He espouses a socio-politically conscious active prophetic mysticism. He assimilates the best from the wave of progressive poets that swept our litterateurs and one can place some of his verses including his justly famous Rubiyees in any anthology of progressive poetry. It appears that despite his “elitism” or aristocratic “bias” he is quite conscious of class divide.
Nazki is a master of making paraphrase of great moralists like Saadi and local poets and one can find echoes of his wide readings. He is self avowedly a man of tradition and does follow, at least, Tradition in juristic-theological sense. But for his literalism in theology and ignoring of philosophical idiom, he would have far greater reach. His view of original sin, of hell and heaven is not quite esoteric or metaphysical. That is why he has trouble with the problem of evil and can’t fully embrace the tragic.
A few of his quatrains and some exquisite verses alone would be enough to secure him a permanent place in the annals of Kashmiri poetry. One example of his immortal imagery is describing houri descending on earth in Kashmir and shedding tears when called back to heaven and those tears forming the lake of Mansbal !
 There is a criticism that substantial part of Nazki is appropriation even adaptation of preceding poets. However what is missed in such criticism is that he is no modernist who buys the cult of originality. He hasn’t always mentioned his sources but at times he needn’t have done this as a poet who only echoes Tradition.
 Nazki alone, in the galaxy of modern Kashmiri poets, has attempted an insightful though of course quite  limiting or inadequate theodicy. With all his moments of doubt, wild complaints, not so convincing  rationalizations, he remains a poet of the tragic who refuses easy consolations and laughs with Buddha on  the unanswered questions of life. 

He is the merry laughter and wailing shriek,
He is the hapless lamb and butcher’s knife is also His
He is the seller, the buyer He,

Tell me friend! Whom do you cheat?                          
What was destined and what I did
Compare my Lord ! I humbly say,
Any discrepancy if you find
Put it on me as you may             

In reality your foe is your friend,
His animosity turns you to your God; 
your   friends  are enemies in that they
keep  you merry and away from Lord                   
    G R Nazki (Trans. Ayaz Nazki)

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