Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Friday, May 16, 2008

An Interview With a Native Man of Letters

An interesting interview with a native poet and author Mr. Satish Vimal

‘In this darkest period of our history I see the hope for a new dawn’

Satish Vimal was born in 1966 at Booch village of Tral in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district. Having a master’s degree in English literature, he is among the few known Kashmiri Pandits who went against the tide and decided to stay put in the Valley despite huge migration of Pandits from Kashmir after the outbreak of militancy in the Valley in early 90s. Presently working as a transmission executive in Radio Kashmir Srinagar, Satish became a household voice in the Valley during his tenure as a presenter of its current affairs programme Shehrbeen. He has many books to his credit as a poet and translator. He’s also the recipient of many literary awards. Satish spoke to etala’at Correspondent Manohar Lalgami. Excerpts:

In 1990, most of the Kashmiri Pandits left the Valley after the eruption of anti-India insurgency. You have chosen to stay back, any specific reason?

When guns started rattling in the Valley in 1990, amid chaos and confusion most of the people from minority community left to take shelter in the hot regions of Jammu and other parts of India. I don’t blame them but seeing this mass exodus I made a resolve that I will stay in my land no matter what may come. Because to do otherwise, would have been a mute submission to the elements who were bent upon polarizing the society at that time. I work in Radio Kashmir and I had some mild and acute pressures which could have contributed towards my migration but I refused to be guided by the fear.

When Kashmir is mentioned anywhere in the world, instantly a picture of human suffering comes to mind. As a poet how do you see the present situation?

We are passing through a very dark period of our history. Every sphere of our lives is filled with darkness. Naturally this darkness has a very distressing effect on our lives. Suffocation is everywhere and a breath of fresh air—free from fear—is a thing of the past, but what keeps my hopes alive is the belief that darkness means that a new dawn is in the offing. In this darkest period of our history I try to do my bit at a vey small level by lighting small candles of hope wherever I can.

What is your contribution?

It is the moment which decides what is to be done at a particular time or what to say to a particular person. I do not go about planning everything in advance. I don’t have energy for that stuff. I do not calculate things beforehand because life is a game of uncertainties How much one may prepare oneself, make decisions, calculate, think and plan, but the actual moment belongs to God…I do only what I feel right under the given circumstances.

What has been the influence of the prevailing conditions on your writings?

Naturally, conditions have an effect on it, but for me poetry is not only the expression of anguish but real poetry dives deep into everything which deals with the human heart and every human condition and give an expression to it. (Long pause) No, no, not an easy thing to explain in words…it is beyond words…better left to individual’s discretion.

What makes you a poet?

This is not some thing that is easy to answer. In fact the question is so personal that I don’t know the complete answer myself. But you need something to write so here is what I feel makes me a poet or to put it differently…puts me into poetry: from my teenage I developed a taste for solitude and unlike other children I started to spend most of my time studying not only my text books but other things not related to my usual studies. As I was not like other children in my behavior and tendencies, my mom too was not like other moms. Fortunately or unfortunately she was not alarmed by reclusive behavior of her son. In fact she encouraged me in my adventures…adventures if one may call them…more of mental than physical nature.

I believe this is what made me a poet because that exclusion in my younger days made me to plunge into the only depths that were available to me in my solitude that is myself and this exploration created such a sensitivity within me that it is not now possible to leave it even if I want to. This sensitivity is organic rather than psychological. It is not a make believe thing.

However, I am not of the view that to develop into a poet all you need to do is to put him in a secluded place and provide him coffee like my mom did. May be what has become of me happened despite myself .What I just said is what I think may be the reason. It may not be the real one, only God knows…hands up…I surrender.

Among the contemporary poets who has impressed you the most?

Amrita Pritam has impressed me a lot with her ability not only to express herself with clarity and precision but everything about her is her own. Her experiences are hers so is her way of expression. Even her songs which are sung in Punjab everywhere across the dividing line even by the women in fields are pregnant with depths of human sensitivity. Her poetry is open like the vast sky and it is devoid of any division or escapism.

Her poetry has the juice of her uniqueness and fresh drops trickle everywhere in words and the content behind them. What irritates me about some poetry is the evident phoniness. I am not able to digest secondhand experience and second hand expression. It is intolerable. Poetry is the thing of one’s own experience. To copy the content or expression is to destroy the whole thing. It is ridiculous. Poetry is giving expression to the felt experience so when I see it being taken as jugglery of words I am hurt, really hurt.

Poetry for me is not song-making. It is a different story all together. Poetry for me is to connect to the depths of ones being its flow and express the same with simplicity and preciseness using words economically as more words means more confusion. Mixing up words to make them lyrical is a different thing for me it not poetry. The same thing has entered the poetry in our Valley also. The originality or the lack of it is being buried under the dust of meter and measurement of non-essentials which basically are meant to make a song easy to sing. Gazal is a beautiful form of poetry but it has its limitations too. It is a descriptive poetry while in free verse a poet gives expression to experience. Lala Ded is the zenith of our poetry but her poetry does not fit into today’s descriptions.

What worries me is that many poets have lost their own song in the rate race of trying to confirm, that is, make a name for themselves. They are singing somebody else so as to sound big, but all this is proving futile because poetry is not an exercise in mimicry.

We are heirs to a rich heritage of Sufi poetry. They never bothered about who likes what they said, and paradox of paradoxes, we all have ended up not only liking them but having a great regard for them even up to the level of reverence. So when a person claiming to be a poet goes from door-to-door seeking approval and acceptance, I just…shed tears. That is the only thing I can do without bothering for its correctness.

Why does this happen?

There is confusion in some quarters that poetry means a group of words made to rhyme by design, better the design better the poetry. For me this is some thing I loathe. Poetry is the expression of that felt sense we all are dimly aware but usually not able to express. A poet is able to give expression to this part which is usually hidden in our day-to-day affairs…You remember the famous Emerson saying “In genius we find our own rejected thoughts.” Poetry is not simply words but something more…It is not easy to put it in words the expression of the paradox of life. Life which is always a beautiful combination of opposites, a hard thing for our logical minds to grasp which always insists on either this or that, while life is much more complex. Those who enter this domain to gain name or fame have a bitter disappointment waiting for them no matter how much they earn out of it.

You write in different languages like Kashmiri, Urdu and Hindi. Do you decide it first in which language to write?

No, it is not usually my decision in which language to write. As I said earlier it is the moment which decides. As I am not a commercial lyricist, I can afford the luxury. It is the mood which has a dominant role at the moment, and the words emerge. So I am not to be blamed or praised for it, as you see the decision does not rest with me. I first started writing in Hindi, Urdu started to flow and finally Kashmiri. It is all circumstantial.

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