Naat Gou Sardar

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A school teacher grew with Muslim friends and was influenced by the eulogies sung in the praise of prophet of Islam, so he started composing in Punjabi, reports Umar Mukhtar

Gurnam Singh Arshi

When Gurnam Singh Arshi, 32, a resident of far-off Tangmulla village in Rafiabad, walked towards the stage at Tagore Hall in Srinagar, everyone in the audience started looking at him with a surprise. It was a Naatiya Majlis, organized in honour of Prophet Mohammad (SAW).

But once Arshi took the microphone in his hand, cleared his throat, and began reciting hymns in Punjabi, praising the Prophet of Islam, it changed the mood of the audience. Although the medium he wrote and recited was almost incomprehensible to the audience but as he completed his naat everyone stood up from his seat and an unstoppable round of applause endorsed Arshi. Arshi has a melodious voice too. He writes in Punjabi.

Various Hindu poets have composing poetry in praise of the Prophet of Islam. Delhi poet Dillu Ram Kausari was famous Naat-gou, the poet who sings Naats, in his era. In 1924, his 40 eulogies on the prophet of Islam were published as Hindu Ki Naat with Hassan Nizami writing its forward. But in contemporary Kashmir where various powers are trying to create a narrative based on communal politics, the audience took it unusual.

The poetic interaction witnessed around 50 participants of eight different local languages.

Arshi broke all the stereotypes. He is a school teacher by profession and is posted in a government school in Rafiabad. What inspired Arshi to write hymns and poetry in praise of Prophet Mohammad (SAW) is very interesting.

Arshi grew up in a Muslim neighbourhood with Muslim peers in his friend circle. In school, there often used to be Seerat Conferences, debates and discussions on the life of the prophet. Poetry was recited in Prophet’s praise. Arshi used to listen to all this, so he grew up in such an environment.

Every time he listened to a naat, Arshi feels sort of a refreshing change. “Whenever my Muslim peers used to recite naats I was fascinated,” Arshi said. “It is a feeling that I cannot describe in words.”

This all encouraged Arshi to read about the life of Prophet. Once he read his life, Arshi got influenced. He now wanted to write about Prophet.

Finally, in 2017, Arshi took a pen in his hands and started writing. He actually wrote a poem in his praise. “My hands were trembling at first but as I started, the flow was spontaneous and I did not stop until I finished it.”

Once he finished writing the poem, he got overwhelmed and started reciting again and again. He did not actually believe that he wrote a poem in Prophet’s praise. It was like dream come true.

Arshi thinks that we need to transcend the boundaries of religious intolerances and should live in the symbiotic atmosphere. “Diversity and pluralism is our identity,” he said.

Basically Arshi had the passion for writing poetry since his childhood. He remembers that as a kid he used to write the poetry. “The students would tease me for that, thinking I had lost my senses,” Arshi said. “But I did not give up. I continued writing poetry.”

Then, his teacher cum mentor Sardar Sumair Ji Mastana, had heard somewhere about Arshi’s writing. He called him and asked about his writings. The shy Arshi first hesitated but later on when his mentor insisted, he showed his writings. “He encouraged and endorsed me. He asked me to write more. Today when I look on those writings I have a disdain smile,” Arshi said.

Arshi got an overwhelming support from the people around. Rafiabad is rich in cultural diversity, a multilingual belt. Around four languages are spoken there. The beautiful Hamal River flowing through and the forests around make Rafiabad belt a suitable place for Gurnam to write his poetry. “The surroundings are such that nature compels you to compose poetry.”

Arshi had also three publications to his credit. All the three are written in Punjabi. But he wants to write in Urdu also. “I find Urdu a sweet language and I want to write in that also,” he said.

Arshi was a social media sensation also for a couple of days. His video where he was reciting a naat had garnered many likes and shares on Facebook. People commented Gurman and encouraged him with their positive likes.

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