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Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri

Panun Kashmir

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Lyricism in Nadim’s Poetry

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

At the outset let me make it clear that I am not a critic. I did not aspire to be one for fear of inviting the comment of Alexander Pope that ‘those who fail as poets become critics’. I am a poet and, therefore, I shall make my observations about Nadim’s poetry as a poet only. Pt. Dina Nath Koul ‘Nadim’ was born on March 18, 1916. His father, Pt. Shankar Kaul passed away when he was only six year old. His revered mother, Smt. Sukh Mali, who lived another two decades to give Nadim a firm base for writing poetry full of music and melody, brought him up. Initially he wrote in Urdu and Hindi but later he switched over to his mother tongue, Kashmiri, which augured well for him and for the language as well. Nadim struggled from his younger days and had to give tuitions to students in order to augment the earnings of his mother from her spinning wheel. His mother, a lady of great determination, would sing in the accompaniment of the spinning wheel that left an indelible mark on his young and fertile mind. 

 

Nadim
Pt. Dina Nath Koul ‘Nadim’ (
URL)

In one of his interviews Nadim has revealed to Shri Zafar Ahmad that initially Ghalib as also Iqbal influenced him. Later he was impressed by the poetry of Chakbast. In his youth Josh, Ahsan Danish and a local poet Mastana, who incidentally was an ascetic, influenced him a lot. Ideologically the writings of Nehru, Bertrand Russell, Mychovasky, Chekhov and the Neo-romantic writers of the English Classics affected him. In the same interview he has referred to his maternal grand father Pt. Vishnu Bhatt and his mother Smt. Sukh Mali both of whom used to write poetry in Kashmiri. This interview brings to light three very important areas of influence that shaped Nadim’s creativity, Mastana, Neo-romantic English poets and his mother. Once he told me that his mother used to sing the poems written by the great 18th century poetess Arnimal and a poem composed by a contemporary poet Dina Nath Almast, which had appeared in an issue of the ‘Pratap’ the college magazine of Shri Pratap College Srinagar. Arnimal was not only a poetess of repute but was well versed in Kashmiri Classical Music. According to the well known classical singer of Kashmir, Mohammad Abdullah Tibetbaqal, it was Arnimal who rearranged the ragas of Kashmiri Sufiana Kalam called Maqam, which are in vogue even to date. No wonder that her compositions are melodious and musical. 

Nadim has, it seems, acquired the delicacy of mysticism from the poetry of the ascetic poet Mastana, the scintillating musicality from the rich lyrics of Arnimal and sensitivity and emotional finesse from the writings of the Neo-romantic English poets. He has got the melody from the songs sung by his revered mother, which must have been resounding in his ears all the time. I am not discussing here the ideological influence that he absorbed from the writings of the great thinkers and writers mentioned by him, as my only intention is to highlight the beauty of form and the lyricism in his compositions and not the richness of thought and content, which no doubt they have. Any creative art has two aspects to it, its content and its form. The form invariably goes after the content and in case the form is not suitable to the content the poetry becomes weak and tasteless. An attractive form with a weak or shallow content may still attract for the sheer music of it soothing to the ears, as most of present day film songs, but even a meaningful content loses its effect and charm if the form is inappropriate. Nadim has been conscious of this fact and has invariably used a form best suited to the content of his composition. It is said in Sanskrit poetics that a tasteful sentence from which we derive pleasure is poetry, ‘Vakyam rasatmakam kavyam’. There is no doubt that a musical and lyrical composition does give us a pleasure in a great measure. 

Once during a conversation with me he said that his mother used to sing Arnimal’s lyrics like ‘Gaen gaen mo kar ranga yandro, kanaryan ti phalilay malayo bo’, ‘Arni rang gome shrawaen hiye kar yiye darshun me diye’ and others. He also said that she liked the poem written by Almast in his college days, ‘Vyesiye tsala hai tsala hai tsala hai, sur panas mala hai, malith ti tsala hai vana naey’. Listening to his mother sing such powerful and musical lyrics brought home to him the importance of musicality and lyricism in poetry. Even when he wrote revolutionary poems like ‘Ba gyava na az’ he made a rich use of repetition of words and phrases to give it a musical effect. ‘Ba gyava na, gyava na, gyava na zanh’. The internal rhyming of the words made this powerful song attractive and smooth like a running brook, ‘Gulan ta Bulbulan’ ‘Khumara ho’t ta mara mo’t’. The effect got redoubled when it came to be used in pure lyrics like ‘Vegetable vendor’s song, ‘Dal Hanzyeni hund gyavun’,Kyah vanay paetmi brasvari pyayas, zor aesim na laeth zora drayas, do’da hyadur trovum pharitalai hai, hai volay hai, volay hai, volay hai’ or the song ‘My motherland’, ‘Myon Vatan’. Here he describes the motherland in this rich expression and rhyming similes: ‘Gama pyatha yatskael vo’thmut trela hyath zan mam hyu, Adanuk badam hyu’. Nadim was accused of using unsuitable similes at times. He has taken more care about the musical qualities of his compositions and for this he has used musical and lyrical rhymes even if the simile may not have been appropriate. He writes in his famous sonnet, ‘Zoon khaets tso’t hish, pana pana gaemaets pompaer po’t hish’. Again in that remarkable poem describing moles on the face of a damsel he says, ‘Lakhchi chhu lakhchun, taph prazalvun’. Many more such examples can be quoted where he has preferred melodious and musical expressions in spite of similes not fully appropriate. 

Arnimal has used internal rhyming with a great aplomb. Take for example this couplet of her: ‘Qanda naabada aerada mutui, phanda karith tsolum kotui, khanda kaernam lookan thiye, kar yiye darshun me diye’. Nadim follows suit in a number of his compositions. As an illustration let us take these excerpts from one of his poems: ‘Achhidari vonum vatnaech doluth, Sonahari dopum pazi hubi mehanath, Vanhari thovum rut naav, divath. Na chha shaha khasavas, na chha kuni Vosa dros’. In another song titled ‘The first Bloom’ ‘Adanuk Posh’ he writes, ‘Mo’t yavun zan po’t aam phirith’, ‘Zan drav buji kuji dedi kun zenani go’brah tankhahdara hyu’, ‘Mudai gandith me thali thali vuchhmas, do’pmas naevnai kunsaey bag’.  He does not give up this beautiful technique even when he writes a free verse. This gives his free verse compositions an effective smooth flow of a waterfall or a mountain brook. Take the case of a poem like ‘The thief’, ‘Tsoor’. He writes, ‘Doh dyan guzrovum zonum lo’b myay lo’b’ and ‘Asavun shokhah vasavaen mai’.     

Conservative writers have always emphasized the importance of the meter and the rhyme scheme in poetry. Nadim was a revolutionary. How could he afford not to revolt against the rigidity of the rules prescribed in various treatises on Poetics? He was head on in the political arena and a forerunner in the fight for the downtrodden. He was a committed writer who was opposed to all forms of exploitation, colonization and subjugation. He could not be cowed down to the restrictions of the meter and rhyme scheme as such. That is the reason perhaps that he did not write too many Ghazals. He wrote a lot in free verse. Yet he made it sure that the compositions did not lose on music or melody. Words in melodious arrangement came to him naturally and that too in a perfect order as if a fountain of water gushing forth from its source unhindered. I give here two examples to bring home this fact. ‘Gulan ta bulbulan ta so’mblan hundui, khumara ho’t ta mara mo’t, mo’dur mo’dur ta nyandri ho’t su nagma kanh, bo gyava na az’ and ‘Vushun vo’zul, vushun vushun, vushun vo’zul, vo’zul vo’zul, yi khoon myon.jawan chhus tuphan hyu janoon myon’. He has written a monumental masterpiece in defence of world peace called ‘Mye chham aash pagahaech’, ‘I have hope for tomorrow’. He read it in the Biscoe Memorial Hall in a conference of young writers presided over by the great legendary poet Master Zinda Kaul and Professor Jay Lal Kaul, the well-known connoisseur of literature raised his hat and gave him a standing ovation. The melody of this poem is marvelous, a treat to listen. ‘Do’has gash huri gul ta gulzar prazalan, zaminas saesar lagi ta sabzar prazalan, vachhas manz humis lola phamvar prazalan’ ‘Kazul laganay me gatshan aechh kazali, diyamtsaeh ta babityend gatshan me vo’zali, ta dahi vahaer dashahar yi son saeli’ – ‘Dapan jang chhu vo’thvun pagah gotsh na sapdun. 

Nadim excels in his diction. His use of words and phrases is unparalleled. True, the Kashmiri language cannot be dismissed as a dialect. It has a rich source in the Vedic Sanskrit from which it has originally been derived when it was called ‘Lok Bhasha’ or the common man’s lingua. It is enriched by the vocabulary drawn from so many languages, Sanskrit, Persian, Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi and so on. Yet when we read masters of this language we find that they have heavily borrowed from other languages, Sanskrit and Persian in particular. Mehmood Gami, Maqbool Kralawari and even Mehjoor have used Persian words in abundance. Paramanand, Krishna Razdan and many others have drawn from Sanskrit. Nadim has discovered an ocean-like depth in his mother tongue. He has found vast scope in ordinary day-to-day usages and has used them with a remarkable deftness, finesse and artistry. He writes, ‘Martsa vangan ta vangan chhi byon byon, mas malaer hiv ruvangan chhi byon byon, navi manz chhi karan tho’la tho’lay, hay vo’lay hay vo’lay hay’ and again ‘Taza muji baed chhi hili tshayi zotan, demba go’gjah vo’zaej beeba khotan, phula vangan ta paerimi alay hay, hay vo’lay hay, vo’lay hay, vo’lay hay’. No wonder, therefore, that the song ‘Bo’mbro bo’mbro shama ranga bo’mbro’ from his famous opera, ‘Bombaer ta yambaerzal’ should have become so popular throughout the country when it was used in a Hindi film sequence. Arjan Dev Majboor calls him ‘Monarch of Words’ and remarks that ‘when he picks his words they touch the loftiness of the sky’. His son Shantiveer has observed that ‘Nadim has superb control over the phonetics of his language and his lexical repertoire is phenomenal. His imagery is breathtaking and his lyricism intimate’. Ravinder Ravi has this to say: ‘He coined new words, created new imageries and symbols to enrich Kashmiri language. He extricated and excavated words, scanned and chiseled them and used them artistically in his couplets’. In his book ‘Kashmiri Sahitya Ka Itihaas’ Dr. Shashi Shekhar Toshkhani has stated that ‘Nadim not only exploited the strength and scope of the language to its full but also expanded it enormously. He was particularly conscious about the musicality of his compositions in addition to the usage of words. The originality that he possessed in the matter of symbols and imageries is unsurpassed and unparalleled’.  

Nadim has been a trendsetter. He has for the first time written free verse, sonnet and opera in Kashmiri language. He has also used traditional forms of Geet, Ghazal, Rubai, Vatsun, and Nazm. He used to draw a plan for his compositions, determine an outline best suited to the message that he wanted to convey and then write using choicest words, superb technique and delicate phrases. He would give new meaning to ordinary words and play with his vocabulary as a master artist and craftsman that he was. He had a unique capacity to accommodate an ocean of idea in a small pot of verse. Once he told me about a four-liner called ‘Tukh’ written by him that he had originally planned to write a long poem on that topic. Then he decided to condense it into a ‘Nazm’ but eventually he settled on a four-liner. Reading his poems one wonders wherefrom he gets all these words and expressions and how he weaves them into an effective verse. One can site examples galore but suffice it to give a few of them here. ‘Vo’thi bagaech kukli koo koo kaer kaer baga babaer vuzunavane’, or ‘Aechharvalav daenan dits aesh pheryan do’n, pathar pyayi kagadas pyath mo’khta lar zan’ or ‘Un samrajuk pal vurkaevith chhamba din daerith – Allah ho’ or ‘Samayichi honji zan lakhchun prazlyav chamnan zan raet sontas sai, chilai kalanuk tapa do’ha hyu magas basyom hara hyu’ or ‘Tsa nar chhuk alav chhuk, tsa yavanuk jalav chhuk’.  

A poet observes what an ordinary person also observes but he sees through it and perceives the underlying essence of the object of observation. He then describes it in the backdrop of the life’s philosophy that he has evolved over the years. Nadim had an uncanny capacity to observe and then present it in a melodious composition. He would, on the one hand, write a powerful poem like ‘Trivanzah’ lamenting the plight of the hungry masses in these words: ‘Trivanzah trivanzah, khyemav kyah, khyemav kyah’. On the other hand he could take up an insignificant topic like ‘Haersath’ and drive home a message of unfulfilled aspiration with the help of the symbol of a torn shoe thrown on a wayside. ‘Boota kho’rah akh vati pyath pyomut, aesa vahrith tsharan tresh, hoonah akh aav lamuna ko’rnas, phuchi matsi buthi khanji dyutnas phesh, dakah dith nyun nali akis kun, treshi hatis ma az phut tresh?         

I have had the privilege of meeting Nadim Ji many a time, almost every time I went to Kashmir on a holiday. During my student days also I not only met him quite often but also participated in many Mushairas along with him and many contemporary senior poets. In his later years also I met him at the house of his brother-in-law Shri J.N.Kaul. In these private meetings and conversations I had the occasions to recite my own poems to him. He was a great listener. He would listen to other poets, young and old, with rapt attention. He would seldom hasten to clap or applaud but whenever he heard some poet recite a truly good piece he would say ‘Vah Vah’ and express his appreciation. He was a source of inspiration for many a young and budding poets. I used to write in Hindi those days and it was at his instance that I switched over to Kashmiri. I know from my own experience with him that he would appreciate musical and melodious compositions written in chaste Kashmiri with a powerful humanistic theme. Since he was associated with the political movement and concerned about scourges of war, exploitation, slavery and subjugation, his initial poems did sometime appear propagandist and bordering on slogan-ism e.g. ‘Jangbaaz khabardar’, ‘Mye chum taza yavun’, ‘Ba gyavana az’ etc. With the passage of time he matured into a serious poet of great merit and mettle. He wrote delicate poems on human emotions and feelings as also values of universal appeal e.g. Mye chham ash pagahaech’, ‘Dalhanznihund gyevun’, ‘Lakhchun’, ‘Baran coat, ‘Nabad tyethvyen’, ‘Adnuk Posh’ etc. In either case, however, his compositions were musical, melodious and lyrical. His diction, selection and usage of words and phrases, the flow in his poetry and the smoothness verse after verse, all were superb.    

It was perhaps the quality of lyricism in his poetry that prompted Nadim to write his famous operas, particularly because he found this medium very powerful to bring home his message for the emancipation of the downtrodden, spread of love and brotherhood and to strengthen the forces fighting for justice and peace. These operas include ‘Bomber ta yamberzal’, ‘Heemal Naegrai’, ‘Neeki badi’ ‘Safar ta Shehjar’ ‘Madanvar ta Zuvalmaal’ and many others written for Radio and then staged by various schools and institutions. Lyricism was in his blood perhaps because his soul was attuned to the singing and humming of his mother. He was ‘Rasa-siddha’, full of music and melody and his compositions are nectar to the ears.  

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