By: Ravinder Gurtoo
While the violence in the Kashmir Valley is often talked about, not much is said of the success of its people in fields of academia, sports and entertainment. Same is the case with literature. Now, however, several young and budding writers from the region have come to the fore much to the delight of book lovers.
Over the past several years , many young writers have made their debut through their novels and poetry and one such big name is Sunita Raina Pandit.
Here is the transcript of my conversation with her :
Q. How the writer inside you woke up and when did this happen ?
SRP : I was 14 years old when I picked up the pen. It was something inside which was prompting me to write. Now I do realise that most of the born poets and writers have actually started their work at this age.
I initially started with Bhajans (Leela) and slowly it reached to Vaakhs,Vatchuns ,Ghazals, Two liners etc. I had no idea to execute my thoughts because at that point of time my age and exposure, both were not in my favour. After some time I could realise that in fact no higher qualifications or degrees are needed to put your mind on the paper. I was very fond of listening to ghazals especially of Pakistani origin and it helped me to observe my writings. After a couple of years I started writing in both Hindi and Kashmiri.
Q. Did you face any problems while traveling into this profession ?
SRP : Expectations of my parents were different, they wanted me to devote my attention towards my studies.On number of occasions I was scolded for my behaviour but the poet inside me was not listening. Whatever I used to write, I used to conceal It somewhere from the eyes of my parents. After my marriage I did my best to engage myself into new home but the poet inside me kept knocking. It was very difficult to carry on with both but being a woman,I had to.
Q. Whom do you give the credit of your success ?
SRP : Credit of my success goes to my husband Ashok Pandit, who not only helped me in the marketing of my material but also helped me to register myself in the history. He managed all my events, publishing and helped me to prove my worth . He provoked me to write and i got more recognition than i deserved. I have dedicated one of my Ghazal collections “ Sonzal “ to my husband.
Q. How did exodus influence your writing skills ?
SRP : In 1986, when I left valley due to some unrest in certain parts of Kashmir, I started writing in Hindi because at that point of time I thought that I will have no one to follow my literature in Kashmiri.Kashmiri poet in me stopped for some time but after the exodus of my community in 1989, I decided to derive something from the pain, separation, restlessness and I started taking the advantage of the frustration inside me. I converted the sufferings of community into poetry. I could get a feeling of “ Vaikhuri “ . Sidarth Tiku, a short filmmaker contacted me for a song for one of his films. I wrote…“ Yi Gudrun Lani Gav Lekhit Su Dodah, Kaleyes, Zev Tcheni Ishar Rovum “
Q. How difficult was it to choose this field ?
SRP : There was no resource and guidance when I decided to choose this field. As a child I was uncertain of my future. This was never chosen as an earning profession. This profession is a God’s gift and in fact is not chosen wilfully.
Q. How do you see the future of Kashmiri script ?
SRP : No script ever dies…. yes it gets damaged when it doesn’t get processed and processing takes place when languages are spoken and respected. Children of both Pandit and Muslim communities of Kashmir have adapted to other languages of their choices which is really unfortunate. This hasn’t happened with other languages.Literature is the soul of a language and it can’t run without that, this is certainly a matter of concern for me and other people who have worked hard to preserve it.
Q. What are the areas you have tried to cover in your poetry?
SRP : Normally all the areas get automatically covered in a poetry.Every day we experience new things in our lives and these are the real areas. Poetry has to be contemporary and it has traveled ages. Thought worldwide is same but there are different ways to project it. Contemporary poetry helps it to reach masses. It helps In prolonging the age of poetry. We should never write to make audience happy, we should write to reach out to the audience. Future generations should come to know the social, economical, cultural and traditional values of the time when a poetry has been written. Poetry should give a feeling to the reader that he is a part of it.
Q. Have you written in other languages as well ?
SRP. : My first book “ Chinar Ke Aansu“ was in Hindi and it was published in 1998. I have mostly written in Kashmiri and Hindi.
Q. How many books are to your credit and which one got the maximum appreciation ?
SRP : In Hindi my first collection was “ Chinar Ke Aansu “. Then five Ghazal collections in Kashmiri. Besides that my books were translated in english by Prof Arvind Gigoo and Late Prof R N Kaul. The titles of books are “ Light and Shade” and “ A Walk Through The Mist”. All my books got great appreciation beyond my expectations.
Q. How many of your books have been translated in other languages?
SRP : Besides the translations done by Prof. Arvind Gigoo and Prof R N Kaul some of my work was translated by Mr. Arvind Shah and Mr. Amar Nath Dhar in english. Mr Gouri Shanker has translated some work in Hindi. Dr Nazir Azad from Kashmir has translated some of my Ghazals into Urdu. Some of my work also stands translated into Telgu and Kanada.
Q. Has your lyrics ever been used by singers and who are they ?
SRP : Assad Ullah Yetu, Shazia Bashir, Ravi Bhan, Sunita Bhat and Deepali Wattal are some singers who have used my compositions but overall much of my lyrics has not been used by the singers , maybe due to my absence in the state because there are many factors revolving around singers.
Q. What was the public reaction to your poetry ?
SRP : Besides recognition in the Sahitya fraternity, I was well received in the public domain. People from all streams found themselves attached to my writings. This was really the best award I could have won.
Q. Felicitations and rewards to your credit ?
SRP : Vishv Samvaad kendra Meerut has awarded me with Keshav Samvad Samaan for Kashmiri literature. Nagrad Sangam, Jammu Kashmir Vichar Manch, KECSS Delhi, AIKS are other organisations which have honoured me from time to time.
Q. Whom do you see as your inspiration for this long journey ?
SRP : My surroundings, my pains and adverse conditions compel me to write. Then the contributions of my husband has been my support.Then above all the SELF is the biggest inspiration. “ Me Tchhe Haimtch Arzand Vaend Rashmetch, Me N Aadad Paknas Thaph Keir Keir “. Silence is a booster in itself .
Q. Who are other Kashmiri writers , whom you rate high… deceased or alive ?
SRP : It will be so low of me to name only a couple of people whom I admire.Literature of Kashmir is very rich and credit goes to several legends. I would not like to name anyone of such people who left this world before my entering into this field, however some living legends include Prof. Rahi, Jinab Farooq Nazki, Jinab Ayaz Nazki, Majruh Rasheed, Prof Shafi Shokh, Jaman Azurta, Moti Lal Naz ji, Autar Krishen Naz Ji, Bal Krishen Saniyasi ji,Brij Nath Betab ji, Ashok Ji Gauwhar, Ravinder Ravi Ji, Ashok Saraf ji, Moti Lal Masrouf Ji, Prof R L Shant ji… and many others.
Q. Are you worrying about the perishing Kashmiri literature ?
SRP : Kashmiri literature has lot of soul left in it and I don’t think much damage is done but yes the worth reading literature is yet to reach masses. The greatest threat is foreseeable. If the mother tongue is forgotten the way it is happening right now, we won’t see our future generations showing interest in Kashmiri literature and this will certainly lead to the damage. It is certainly worrisome.
Q. What is your message to the blooming young writers of Kashmiri literature.
SRP : My message to the upcoming and blooming writers of Kashmiri literature is a big one but I don’t see many budding writers in the line to hear me. I see a complete darkness ahead. Let’s hope it revives and new generations take interest in the Kashmiri script.