What is it that defines Kashmir’s women writers today? The same question put a bibliophile on a literary trip in Vale.
By Hirra Sultan
My curiosity brewing in literati circles of Delhi—where being bibliophile was an entry ticket into the fascinating world of literature—put me on an exploratory trip back home. Soon I bumped into, not just one, but many women writers of Kashmir.
As storytellers, they did not let anything come in between their writing passion and expression to connect with the larger world out there.
The first one I ran into was Rubayata Umeed—a 14-year-old writer, who does not really know what it means to be a published author at such a tender age.
As a kid, she took to writing as a form of expression, of letting that imagination of mind create whatever it could. “It’s not me who writes,” Poet of East Allama Iqbal once said, “it is He who sends it to me.”
When I asked Rubayata about her ideas, she vindicated Allama by innocently replying: “They just come to me.”
It isn’t she who’s yearning for a story, but the story looking for a worthy author — someone who could do justice to it.
Delving into sci-fi and using whatever she has learnt from various means—her school, family, relations and Doraemon—she has already published a book. A sequel is ready to be published, and two more books are in the process.
As her mother describes the plot for her next book, she makes sure the details are right. “Nahi Mumma! Earth ke neeche wo humans jaise hote hain aur earth ke upar disguised as insects” (No, Mom! They look like humans inside earth and insects outside it.)
As a young author, Rubayata is working solely on ‘cartoonish creativity’—and that’s what makes this teen writer of Kashmir a different wordsmith in her growing tribe.
When I talked to Azra Mufti, another young woman writer, I found the same thing—the same spark, which’s now driving these young Kashmiri women on the creative path. But unlike Rubayata, Azra pens about the human emotions, caught in different circumstances.
But before coming to age, she had started at 10, with letter writing to people, to objects, to whoever she wanted to talk. It gradually developed into article writing, editorials, newspaper columns, till one day her family questioned the absence of a book.
Already a published author of two books with a third in mind now, she emphasizes on hard work as a writer.
“Years of persistence and discipline,” she made the writing ingredients succinct. “Constant readings, travel, interactions with people. It isn’t a joke to delve into writing. But yes, slog and humbleness do wonders.”
While both Rubayata and Azra are blessed with their family support, expression of feelings was considered a taboo at Nighat Sahiba’s place. Her initial writings were pretty much the rebellion and need to let things out. An outburst.
It was her sheer persistence at poetry and the recognition of the same by the world around her that made her a well known face in Kashmiri literature today. As a renowned poet, she’s a recipient of many literary awards.
Much of her fame stemmed from the virtual world. A good use of social media, one should say, did it for her—like it’s doing for so many young aspiring writers from Kashmir.
But as one of the few poets who write in Kashmiri language today, she expressed her concern and challenge towards the dwindling use of Kashmiri language. “The lack of modern Kashmiri literature needs to be fixed,” she reckons. “As a poet and as a dreamer, I am at the forefront of achieving the same.”
Apart from poets and dreamers, there’re other writers in the strife-stricken society, who’re giving voice to their circumstances and lived experiences through their writings. Anjum Zamarrud Habib happens to be one such writer.
As an activist, she had raised many issues with the powers of the day and faced the jail. It was the expression of the pain she suffered in the 5-long years in prison that made her writer.
When her prison memoir came, it was more of a cry for help, not only for her own self, but also for so many people who are logged in jails, being tortured every single day—many times, even without a trial.
“The writing of the book took me back to the prison, and I felt I was writing while being there,” she said. “Many a times, I simply rushed through it, as I feared the next round of torture!”
Zamrooda is currently drafting her second book—whose introduction completely eludes her. “The conflict plays with your psyche in many ways,” she said. “It shatters you to the point that you fail to recognize who you are; what your existence is.”
From the youngest to the eldest, the Kashmiri women reflect many shades of life through their writings. The list is big, whose works are driven by innocence and sheer creativity.
As learners and dreamers, they not just desire big for themselves, but yearn to let the world know about their circumstances and their lived experiences.
And everyone’s struggles show that unflickering will to go on, and beyond. That’s what defines Kashmir’s women wordsmiths today.
This story first appeared in December Print Issue of The Indus Post.