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Updated: December 29, 2010 20:46 IST

Words' worth

SHAFEY KIDWAI
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Sheen Kaaf Nizam. Photo: Special Arrangement.
The HIndu Sheen Kaaf Nizam. Photo: Special Arrangement.

Sheen Kaaf Nizam, recently conferred the Sahitya Akademi Award talks about being a poet

Gradual and inescapable loss of the spoken and written word does not pave the way for indolence, it becomes a vestigial symbol of the painful effort to find some sense in the world of nonsense where everyone is afflicted with the malady of not listening to anything beyond mundane life. The poet is piqued at the loss of real words, images, symbols and metaphors.

Inevitable forfeiture of manuscripts and dissipation of the ringing bells of lost temples push the poet into the vortex of the unknown, and his vocabulary is made to look even sparser. This is what sums up the creative output of Sheen Kaaf Nizam, whose sixth collection of poems, titled “Gumshuda Dair ki Ghantiyan” (Ringing Bells of the Lost Temple) has won him the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award for this year.

Sheen Kaaf Nizam's creative dexterity is garbed in a language not his mother tongue. The soft spoken poet avers, “Urdu was not the mother tongue of Iqbal and Faiz. Further, there is an accomplished poet of modern sensibility, Meeraji, who would say my mother does not know Urdu. The issue of mother tongue is quite complicated; it means the language in which one has proven felicity and makes it the expression of one's most intimate thoughts. Language does reflect learned behaviour.

Urdu is the most visible cultural icon of our age-old composite culture. Culture is truly reflected through a language, and Urdu is the linguistic identity of our shared culture. I grew up with the devotional poetry of Kabir, Surdas and Meera and I was also surrounded by Amir Khusro and Asghar Gondavi. I was told that man's identity lies in his works and his name hardly has any bearing. Money or position has no place; one has to find a common point that binds different identities.”

Wiping out ignorance

Turning attention to his name he explains, “Shiv Kishan is my full name and I was born in a Brahmin family of scholars and that's why it is known as the Brahmin family that authenticates. It means my family is supposed to unlock the door of knowledge by wiping out the miasma of ignorance and confusion. Ganesh Das and Gouri were my parents. I am the only child. I got my early education away from Jodhpur in Jalore and then I joined a school located in the city of Mirabai, where my maternal uncle and aunt were teachers. I got my early education in Sanskrit and then returned to Jodhpur. I passed my high school education with science and mathematics and then joined an engineering college, but it didn't suit me. Later I joined SMK College. I changed my job 18 times. Now I am enjoying a retired life, and loneliness is my eternal companion. Besides Urdu I know Rajasthani, English and Hindi. I learnt Persian from Hakim Moinuddin Ahmed and whatever little Persian I know is taught by him. My life is marked by struggle — which is not something extraordinary as everyone faces problems and has to find his way by surmounting all sorts of troubles. I am an ordinary man and have to grapple with the vicissitudes of life. I don't believe in narrating a detailed list of harrowing experiences as I don't want to enlist anyone's sympathy.”

Discussing his opponents, Nizam says a living man always invites criticism, and praise is usually heaped on departed souls. “Man has to tread his path undeterred by opposition. To convey emotions in appropriate words is the basic job of a poet. Literature is a mirror but it has to be used to see oneself. It should not be a medium of showing. I learned a lot from many people and I still learn from many poets and scholars. I owe much to Maulana Mahirul Qaadri, Josh Malsihayini, Abr Ahsani, Manohar Sahai Anwar, Kalidas Gupta Raza, Wazir Agahaa, Gopichand Narand, Shams-ur-Rahman Farooqui, Waris Alvi.”

Sheen Kaaf Nizam has published a dozen books, including four books of criticism. He is a prolific writer and has participated in many international seminars and poetic symposiums in the U.S., the U.K., France, Pakistan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE and Bahrain.

For many years, my wife used to leave me speechless with her ability to recite Urdu couplets on demand. Standing in the kitchen, watching television, answering the phone, she had a couplet for each... »

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