Achieving a remarkable feat in Kashmiri poetry, Shahnaz Rasheed, the illustrious poet and translator hailing from the enchanting Apple town of Sopore in Kashmir, was honored with the prestigious SaMaPa award last month. The achievement has added yet another jewel to his literary crown.
The prestigious award will be presented to him and other winners during the 19th Annual SaMaPa Sangeet Sammelan, a highly regarded classical music festival in Delhi.
With an unparalleled dedication and commitment towards the mother tongue of Kashmiri, Shahnaz etched the milestone and clinched the SaMaPa award. Due to his immense love towards Kashmiri language he emerged as a grounded voice of present day Kashmiri poetry.
Born and brought up in Nowpora area of Sopore, the poet's artistic spirit lay dormant, a well-kept secret, until he had woven the tapestry of his academic journey.
As his graduation came to an end, the floodgates of his creative expression burst open, and he embarked on a journey of crafting soulful poetry and evocative Urdu articles.
Then Shahnaz started reading and writing. He wrote his first Urdu novel titled “Zakhmi Panchi” his first attempt, which was then loved and liked by people.
He was drawn to poetry after frequenting a local literary organization which would later influence him to take up Kashmiri as his medium of expression.
“Later after meeting some of the best poets and writers in Sopore they suggested that I write in our mother tongue Kashmiri which would be the best platform to express. I think it was the right decision at the right time,” he said.
Sahahnaz became more serious about writing and learning the language. He said writing Kashmiri poetry was inside him and he expressed it lately.
When Shahnaz's first book titled ‘Doad Khatith Guldanan Manz’ (Pain concealed in flower vases) was published in 2006, it caused such a stir that even legendary poet Rehman Rahi had to comment at Tagore Hall and he said, “At the time of my sunset, it seems sunrise has happened in the shape of Shahnaz Rashid.”
Many poets and writers had then congratulated the author for coming up with the attractive composition and said that the poet in his poems had sketched some occurrences and described them beautifully by turning sadness, disappointment into victory and triumph.
It wasn’t a work of an established poet but rather an aspiring one. Similarly, he got appreciation from many poets and writers.
Shahnaz never looked back ; instead, he surged forward, garnering acclaim for his innovative explorations in prose, form, and metaphors. These literary devices had been absent from modern Kashmiri literature for a while, but he breathed fresh life into them with his creative reinventions.
His second collection of poems, ‘Door Pahan Dewaran Manz’ (In distant walls) came nearly a decade after his first anthology. It only cemented his place as one of the boldest poetic voices of modern Kashmir.
Additionally, he has undertaken the translation of two significant works published by the Sahitya Akademi, an institution devoted to the advancement of literature across the diverse languages of India.
Shahnaaz has also translated the poetry and biography of Vemana, Indian philosopher and poet in the Telugu language, popularly known as Yogi Vemana.
He has further enriched his portfolio by translating the writings of Balraj Komal (1928-2013), a distinguished Indian poet and Urdu literature luminary.
Shahnaz’s stunning command on language helps him connect it to the contemporary mood and reflection in an effortless manner.
Shahnaz’s ghazals have a unique diaphanous quality that people rarely witness in his contemporaries. But undeniably there is no ambiguity of image or metaphor in his verse, which, however, does not exclude deeper or layered meanings from his poetry.
This quality of accessibility, together with indigenous historico-cultural allusions, has allowed Shahnaz to accrue a widespread appeal.
Shahnaz’s book (Door Pahan Dewaran Manz) contains 80 compelling ghazals and 40 persuasive nazms, laying out his 196-page journey through life’s “rainbow of loss and gain”.
He said whenever he writes poetry, he often thinks of Kashmir, past, present, future and surroundings including the land, lakes, rivers, green pastures and environment degradation.
“Agricultural and horticulture land is shrinking day by day. It is the main theme when I write poetry. I love and like to write on it,” he said.
Shahnaz’s poetry eschews romanticism, instead embracing a profound and contemplative tone, reflecting a depth of thought and seriousness in his work.
A retired government employee, who is also a translator and poet, holds an MA in Political Science. His poetry books are distinctive, bearing a unique poetic style. “I am very thankful that my two books have received recognition in the literary circles in Kashmir.” he said.
He said reading is very important for aspiring poets and writers. “They should remain dedicated to what they want to do,” he said.
“Study of contemporary and classical literature is very important. They should also know the voices that are there in the present time. They should write and remain aware about issues and challenges a society faces,” he said.
Social problems are many and need to be highlighted. “There is no dearth of platforms in the valley and they should do something for themselves. A natural tendency and hard work is also very important,” he added.