The Village of Literary Souls

The Village of Literary Souls

In Kashmir you will find many great writers and poets who have served the Kashmiri language and literature all their life. Some of them have died and some are still performing literary services. I’ll tell you about a place that has been doing this work. Not one or two but many people are working in tandem at the same time in this place.
It is a small village located in Shopian district of south Kashmir. The village is about 12 kilometres away from the district headquarters in a southeast direction. Before mentioning the name of this village, I would like to tell you why and how this village gained such recognition in Jammu and Kashmir. You may not know about the great writers of Kashmiri literature, but you must have heard about Amil Kamil and Naji Munawar.
If you still do not remember, I would like to remind you that you must have read in the English textbook of Class 12 the story named COCK FIGHT, in which two neighbours fight over some minor issues. Shahmal and Janiare are the two famous characters of this story. That story was written by Amin Kamil. And recently you must have heard about the death of famed children’s poet Naji Munawar. These two personalities need no introduction. Let me tell you the name of their village so that you know where these people came from. The duo was born in the second quarter of the 20th century at village Kaprin.
Though it is difficult to trace the origin of the village, the history of this village is certainly very old. The artefacts that were collected from different places in the village take us deep into history. The antiquities consist of carved temple stones, coins of different ruling dynasties of Kashmir, and some terracotta things including pots that were deeply buried into the soil. All these things are well preserved in the self-designed museum of Naji Munawar. Let us cut it short and come to the point. We don’t need to dig up the past. That’s why I want to present a fact-based history of the recent past.
For more than two centuries Kaprin has produced people of high calibre. Being a hub of learning, this village acquired a special position. As of now, we don’t find a kid anywhere who is not going to school. But there was a time when education was confined to rich and influential families. During that period it had become a village tradition to pass on this education from one generation to another. Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, there were a good number of people who were well versed in Arabic, Persian and Kashmiri. Some families in the village have still preserved the sacred manuscripts of their forefathers. Naji Munawar’s library contains rare manuscripts that are not found anywhere in the world. Some of them have been inherited by the people of the village and the rest have been collected by Naji Munawar through extensive travels. All this shows the tradition of reading and writing in the village is age-old.
The first school in the village was established in 1905 during the Dogra period. After that, it was upgraded from time to time. The school has successfully produced a good number of scholars and intellectuals. Many of its students occupied key positions in government services. In terms of education, this village has never made a distinction between man and woman. There was a time when questions were raised about school-going girls. The far-sighted people of this village admired the girls who wanted to get an education. The village became an eye-opener for the surrounding villages that were reluctant towards modern education. About six decades ago, there used to be only one or two government employees in a village, but even then, half of the population in Kaprin was working in different government departments. The village was full of writers, poets, doctors, engineers, teachers, etc. This was the golden period of the village. In the same period, this village introduced two great writers/poets to the world. Who doesn’t know Amin Kamil and Naji Munawar today? These personalities had dedicated their entire lives to the service of Kashmiri literature. In return, they have been awarded many times and their service was much appreciated. What more can be a matter of pride for this village that so far three people have received the Sahitya Akademi Award in Kashmiri literature. Amin Kamil for Laveh Te Praveh in 1967, Naji Munawar for Pursaan in 2002, and Shafi Shouq for Yaad Asmanan Hinz in 2006.
Amin Kamil (1924-2014) was one of the greatest writers of India. He received two degrees, one from Punjab University (Lahore) in Arts (BA) and the second from Aligarh Muslim University in Law (LLB). After completing his studies he obtained a licence from the Bar Council and practised law for a short period. Next he was appointed as a lecturer at S.P. College. Finally, he had to quit his job when he got a call from the State Cultural Academy in 1959. There he had the opportunity to start his writing career. His notable works are as follows: Gati Manz Gaash (1958), Kathi Manz Kath (1966), Laveh Te Praveh (1965), Beyi Suy Paan (1967), Padis Pod Tshay (1972), Yim Myani Sokhan (2001). Kamil won numerous awards for his works but two significant awards he received include Sahitya Akademi Award (1967), and Padma Shri (2005).
Naji Munawar (1934-2021) was a poet who devoted his entire life to producing literature for children. All his life he tried to establish a garden for the children in which he could see them growing up. Eventually, he succeeded in decorating the garden, which no longer needs a caretaker. He just wanted the new generation to grow up in the Kashmiri language. It’s because of him that even today the Kashmiri language is being preferred over other languages in this village. Naji used to say that “I feel very happy when a child sings my poem”. Not only this, his dream was to connect Kashmiri children with Kashmiri culture. Naji proved his mettle in the field of writing and wrote many incredible books. A book named Shuren Hund Naji, published in 2017, changed his destiny forever among the literary circle as well as among the general public. It was because of this book that he got the title ‘The poet of Children’. Naji received many prizes including two prestigious awards Sahitya Akademi Award (2002) and Bal Sahitya Purskar (2019). Naji continued to write till the end of his life. Before he died, he was working on a novel which is yet to be published. He authored near about two dozen books. Here are some of his valuable books: Naagraad, Pursaan, Kulyat e Sheikh ul Aalam, Kulyat e Mehmud Gami, Shuren Hind Baeth, Dunyah Chi Dalela, Kulyati Mir Abdullah Bahaqi, Kulyati Maqbool Amratsari, etc.
Shafi Shouq (b.1950), former HOD of Kashmiri Department and Dean Faculty of Arts (University of Kashmir), is an author, editor and translator of about sixty books in Kashmiri, English, Urdu and Hindi. Shouq took full advantage of his official position and represented Kashmiri at the international level. He attended a large number of seminars within and outside the country, presented and defended his work at many international conferences in different universities across the globe. Some of his remarkable publications are Zabaan Ti Adab, Yaad Aasmaanan Hinz, Kanyadaan, Kaeshur Lugaat, etc. He has also worked extensively with his elder brother Naji Munawar and co-authored many books, like Kaeshir Zabaan Ti Adbuk Tawariekh, Kashur Grammar, etc.
Kaprin is a village that has served the Kashmiri language and literature for decades. Even today, some erudite persons are still writing in this village. Along with Kashmiri, a new generation of this village has accepted English and Urdu literature. There are many unpublished poets and writers in the village who are looking for a way to succeed. The greatest thing about this village is that everyone here knows how to write.

The writer is a resident of Kaprin. He has a post-graduate degree in History from the University of Kashmir and an M.Phil from Punjabi University Patiala. He also qualified JKSET in 2016. He works as a freelance writer and is a regular blogger. [email protected]

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