Enriching the female experience

Title: Zard Pannik Daer

Author: Nighat Saheba

Year of Publication: 2016

Elizabeth Barret Browning is once reported to have said, “There are many great women of letters in England but where are female poets?”. Fortunately this is not the case with Kashmir; our literary paradigm is as much shaped by our female poets as by male poets. Sheikh Noor-Ud-Din Wali (RAH) and Lal Ded equally moulded our collective consciousness. Habba Khatoon and Rasool Mir have fairly contributed to our sense of romance and unrestrained lyricism. From antiquity to postmodernity our female poets have defined the standards of poetic acumen. Be it Lalla, Habba Khatoon, or present day greats like Naseem Shafai every poet has enriched the female experience and its multivalent response to the world around them. Following this tradition a fresh and enigmatic voice has ascended from South Kashmir, this female poet can be compared with Lalla for her use of mundane and ordinary objects of domesticity in a philosophical manner and with Habba Khatoon for her blithe spirit and unbridled lyricism. Nighat Saheba needs no introduction her remarkable style has won her applauds in poetic arenas. Her Maiden Book Zard Panik Daer is certainly going to immortalise her name and establish her position as front runner in Kashmiri Literary scene. Zard Pannik Daer is ablaze with passion and intellectual flair. The poems in the collection are thoughtful elocutions that render a feminine world view in an emotional and poignant idiom. Zard pannik Daer revives the melody and music in Kashmiri poetry. The poems are close to the Vatsun tradition in sheer beauty of expression, sensuality, subjectivity, melody and exuberant emotions that were forgotten for quite some time. Her poems like:
Dazze Zoon Tchandeharich baeshumaar zoone Raetchan
Dazze Yusufin kitabiy lage Naar Zoone raetchan
Saki aesith chum ne haqhey kanh banan paeth
Channe waleyn hund naav leykith paeymanan paeth
keeps a reader spell bound. The verses work as musical notes that continue to resonate even after the soft words vanish, their cadence can leave even streams mesmerised. The unbridled emotional intensity of these poems quickens the senses like an odour that lives in memory. The intensity expressed in her poems is as much personal as universal.
The zard pann of her title is a recurring metaphor throughout the book though every time it is metamorphosed into something new. zard pann transforms its meanings from being a livid pestering presence to an escape from the mundane reality that she perceives around her. It symbolises solace, consolation, self, loss, grief, and suffering.

Zard Panik Daer establishes Nighat as our first truly feminist poet. Lalla Ded and Habba Khatoon, Arnimal and other female writers represent their monopolization by women, ill treatment meted out to them and the suffering caused by unrequited love. Similarly Naseem Shafai through her poems speaks fearlessly for the trials and tribulations and the present devastation of Kashmir as the devastation of women. Her poetry is symptomatic of a particular context. It is replete with lament as Tanween Kawoosa asserts that Naseem witnessed the whole catastrophe with horror, as a helpless spectator she could do nothing but mourn through poetry.

Nighat on the other hand unravels the gender politics, oppressive patriarchy and inequality suffered by women in her society. Her poetry is marked by activism that is the hallmark of feminism. Nighat understands her position as a poet who has the responsibility to provide a paradigm for the other female poets to follow. She also has an intellectual know how of what is going around in contemporary feminist writing. She understands the implications of oppressive social initiation of women and how their roles are imposed on them. Through Zard pannik Daer she exposes these oppressive male dominated strictures that interpellate women and formulate their identity as the ‘Other’ of man. As Simone de Beauvoir contends that women is always perceived as the Other, she is defined and differentiated with reference to man and for Betty Frieden this Other is a myth invented by men to confine women to their oppressed state. Poems like Brainwash and Pachan forcefully express how the identity of a woman is a social construction rather than a biological dispense.

Toutaam Aes Aeys Zuvaan Yikvatte
Vathaan Yikvatte
Gindaan yikwatte
…Pholaan yikwatte
Patte aav kustaan Azeem Insan
Bae vanne hav sabak
Asuulan te Qaiydan Hund
Tche taem vanuy par Alif sey Allah
Mei voun taem par Alif Sey Aqa
Parus dapun
che chakh vishwi
grazaan Chakh
Gyawaan Chakh
Yuhus Dapun
che chakh pachin
Khevaan chakh
Khevaan chakh
Through these poems Nighat debunks and exposes this ideological façade of a patriarchal society:

Poems in the collection have also great psychological depths and are deeply rooted in contemporary feminist thought. Many poems in Zard Pannik Daer fiddle with the notions that necessitate the subjection of women. Some poems call upon the dualism that acknowledges women as body and man as mind. This litany of contempt justifies the notion of women as object, irrational, and an exchangeable commodity. Nighat like a conscious writer strongly protests and rebels against this notion of women:

Bae chas hava kainse chas ne barri khochnavinam
Bae keh sirf badan chassa baemarre kochnavnam

She almost rebelliously protests against this Cartesian point of departure and out rightly rejects this ideological formulation that camouflages the workings of male hegemony.
Banjar is another poem exemplifying her invincible spirit. The oppression has created a state of war in her and like a sphinx she resurrects from her ashes every time she is destroyed.

This poem heaves with overwhelming power that women symbolise and manifests the epitome of self-knowledge:

Dapyotham che Banjar chakh Baey samar chakh
Samandar samith aaye myanyan Achan manz


Bae chas bint Hawa
Bae chas umme Isa
Bae zayas ne kainse
Mae zamit payambar


Yiman dardilan Aathe talvar thavakh

Timan vanze zindaey bae chas ta qayamat

Dohaey qatal karnam

Dohaey zindi vichnam

There are other motifs that run through Zard Pannik Daer one of them being the ongoing turmoil the pain and loss suffered by the people living in Kashmir. Nighat like a true daughter of soil reflects the ordeals of the people struggling with the circumstances in a realistic manner. It is in poems like:

Yette tatte subhas nayran goyil

Akher soniy vataan goyil


Golav yim ney tim kabran manz mujudaey

Majaen yim aes larre tal saevith tim kout gaey

That she comes close to Literary Realism. She express’s her concerns with utmost urgency; she resents questions and scrutinises the plight of people.

Zard Pannik Daer is replete with literary experiments. Nighat uses a wide variety of metres, which vouches for her versatility, artistic profundity and a sound knowledge of prosody. To make it more precise Zard Pannik Daer is an essential read. The book will surprise you with its wide range of themes and experiments that give birth to a sublime experience. Zard Pannik Daer will take you to the new horizons and will eventually lead you to transcendence. I will not claim that she is the greatest what Kashmiri poetic Tradition has to offer but I will ardently advocate that she deserves a serious and passionate reading.

Shahnawaz Muntazir teaches English at GDC Budgam.

[Note: This article first appeared in Greater Kashmir]

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