Learning without school

He has hardly been to school, but Sher Ali Mashgool is not just well read, but has two poetic publications to his credit. Afzal Sofi reports.

Sher Ali MashgoolHaya Kar, Chi Aay Malkul Motu Haya Kar
Meho Aagi Hazrat Rasool-i-Khuda Chum
Dekas Chui Mai Thande ye Dagi-e-Gulami
Amal Chham Thande, Omeedi Shafa Chum

The verses say a lot about the poet, except that he has never been to school or learnt poetry without a teacher.

Sher Ali Mashgool, 68, from Delina, Baramulla, was barely put into a school in his childhood, when his father died.

“I have very faint memories of my school days. I only remember one of the teachers who taught us letter writing,” said Mashgool.

However, his love for books and intensive self-study turned him into an accomplished poet with two published poetic collections to his credit.

“I was about 15 years old when my younger brother gave me an Urdu novel titled ‘Laraztay Aasoon’ (Shuddering Tears). I, with his help, made attempts to go through it. The novel was so interesting that I went through it several times till I read it correctly. That was when I started reading books,” Mashgool recalled.

After finishing the book his brother, he says, gave him Urdu text book of the class 10, which contained several poems and pictures of renowned Urdu poets. The book attracted him so much that he would carry it along and read it anytime.

“The book had very beautiful poems especially of Moin-ul-Hassan Jazbi, which I read again and again. The poem infused great interest in me about writing poetry,” said Mashgool.

To his good luck, a religious teacher Sayed Baker who taught in a local madrassa used to stay in his home. “He was very learned person. I would ask him the meaning of words, which I read or heard from others and I would memorize and use them often. I may have asked him the meaning of thousands of words from Urdu, Kashmiri and Persian,” said Mashgool.

Coming from a family of poets like, Tanha Ansari and Nishat Ansari, only added to his interest in poetry. He started writing poetry at the age of 20 but he did not show his compositions to anybody for a long time, “I was afraid that my composition did not adhere to poetic rules. After about five years I showed a poem to my cousin, who was also a poet. He corrected it as per the rules. After that I very often used to go to him with my poetry. He would correct it of his own but I did not understand any poetic rule from him,” he said.

“Once I read my poem in the local Musharia in my village which was incorrect. My cousin rebuked me in front of everybody about the lack of understanding of poetic rules, which pinched me. I was disheartened and left poetry for about one year. I would always weep during nights praying to Allah for help.”

Mashgool considers his return to poetry an answer to his tearful prayers.

Later he wrote a poem on Nallah Nigili, a rivulet passing through villages of block Wagoora of district Baramulla, which impressed his cousin greatly. “He told me that the poets of his area were once given challenge to write on Nallah Nigili, but none among them could write more than four verses. The poem and the praise infused fresh enthusiasm in me,” said Mashgool.

After that he not only followed the poetry rules but also corrected his earlier poems. Today Mashgool says he is well versed with at least 14 languages of poetry (Alimi Arooz).
He says poetry is not a mental workout but a spiritual inspiration.

At the time of writing, he says a poet gets into the state of sub-consciousness; his soul gets detached from the body and wanders through the sky.

“The state” he called “Wajdan”. “In that state the poet gets several ideas and thousands of words that roll before him, which he blends to present his idea in a pleasing manner,” he said, adding it was necessary for any poet to have cache of words which he could use in right sequence to present his idea.

Mashgool has made intensive study of Kashmiri, Urdu and Persian poets including Ghalib, Iqbal, Faiz and Rumi. Despite knowing Urdu and Persian, Mashgool has chosen Kashmiri for his poetry. He has written over two hundred poems in different genres of poetry mainly Gazal and Nazam.

Mashgool is often invited to Musharias by Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languaues (JKAACL), Doordarshan Srinagar and Radio Kashmir Srinagar. Apart from this, his gazals have been sung by several renowned artists of Doordarshan and Radio Kashmir.

Mashgool participated first time in a Musharia at the age of 23 when he was taken there by his cousin, “The poem I read there was highly praised by participants but I realized later that they only did it because of my young age as the poem was full of mistakes which I myself corrected later.”

His collection of poems titled ‘Raqsi Gardab’ (Dance of whirlpool) contains more than hundred poems has been published by JKAACL in 1998. Another collection of his poems titled ‘Haye Daswan’ (Bangle of flowers) is under process of publishing in the academy. Both these books have been praised by many prominent poets of valley.

Mashgool has also written a Qaseeda (another type of poetry) in the praise of Prophet Mohammad (SAW) that is considered as one of the best Qaseedas of Kashmiri language. “Ghulam Nabi Aatish, a prominent poet has termed it as best among the four famous Qaseedas written in Kashmiri language,” Mashgool claimed.

Mashgool also remembers some 5000 verses of different poets and is also Marsiya (elegy) reader in a local Imam Barda, he can recite 500 verses of Marsiya in one go, orally.

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