Bintul Islam is doing her research on a comparative study of the poetry of Habba Khatoon and Sarojini Naidu. “I have chosen this topic as both the poets have observed the sublime and sung lofty songs to it,” she says.
The power of classic Kashmiri literature has only grown with time. The perceptions of “reality” that the old Kashmiri poets turned into verses are now read as an insight into not just the past but also the present. Their works are being translated into many languages, so a diversity of readers can understand what the Kashmiri culture speaks about and what it has to say on love and life.
For centuries, women have made significant contributions to every field of knowledge and culture. They’ve discovered life-saving remedies, devised world-altering inventions, and produced far-reaching research, but in many cases their valuable efforts are underplayed or neglected. For quite some time, much research has been devoted to improving the understanding of the culture and heritage of Kashmir. In recent years the diversity of those participating in such research, particularly women, has improved and there are significantly more women entering careers and doing research about their own culture than ever before.
The transition of Habba Khatoon’s Kashmiri poetry was a major step in the revival of Kashmiri poetry after translations appeared of the poetry of Lal Ded and Sheikh Noor-ud-din, who were the foremost spiritual poets in the 14th and 15th centuries. Habba Khatoon introduced “lol” to Kashmiri poetry which is more or less equivalent to the English lyric, says Bintul Islam, a young researcher from Budgam, Kashmir.
Bintul Islam is doing her research on a comparative study of the poetry of Habba Khatoon and Sarojini Naidu. “I have chosen this topic as both the poets have observed the sublime and sung lofty songs to it,” she says. “Though Habba Khatoon is a 16th century poet, she has parallels with modern poets, such as Sarojini Naidu, a 20th century poet. They share the same frame of mind and resemble in the poetic form they employ.”
But why Habba Khatoon and Sarojini Naidu, when there are so many other famous poets? Bintul says, “I decided to select Habba Khatoon and Sarojini Naidu because both are known by the sobriquet of “Nightingale”. Habba is the nightingale of Kashmir and Naidu the nightingale of India. But while Naidu is famous globally for her works, Habba has not attained that kind of fame and recognition she deserves.”
What does Bintul think she can contribute with such a comparative study? “Kashmiri writers like Lal Ded, Sheikh Noor-ud-din, Mehjoor, Arnimal, Rasul Mir have been the repository of rich, fine, rapturous, resonating, melodious and perpetual poetry. I personally was interested in the work of the 16th century poet who mostly deals with themes of love, separation, and nature. As a Kashmiri, it is my duty to make efforts to disseminate such ideas and appreciate such work,” she answered.
“I was highly influenced by English poetry during my Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in English Literature. I also went through the English translation of Kashmiri poets like Lal Ded, Nund Rishi, Mehjoor and Habba Khatoon. Habba Khatoon’s melody and fine delicacy of feeling is blended with an exuberance of spirit. She skilfully wove various strands of emotion like love and sorrow,” she adds.
About the feminist aspect of her research, Bintul says, “Yes, sure, my research is focused on how in the times of patriarchy, a woman accomplished such enormous things. Her freedom of speech is like a jewel in our culture. Moreover, I am inquisitive and curious to know about different cultures. In my research I am dealing with two different places, two different religions, two different societies. That helps me to grow, transcend boundaries, and widen my mental faculties. There is a linguistic flourish in the works of Habba Khatoon and Sarojini Naidu. Habba has written her verses in Kashmiri language with a mixture of Persian words, as that was the language of the court at the time. Sarojini has written in English but she was fluent in five languages.”
“Kashmiri literature of the past is generally withdrawn from the physical world and I am trying to bring a small section of it to the forefront,” Bintul said.
Saraf Ali is a freelancer, author, publisher, and a student at SSM College of Engineering and Technology, Kashmir.