UNLIKE PAST, when Urdu literature was quite representative of all cross-sections of society, the Hindu/Sikh writer has been disappearing from the Urdu literary scene lately.
One of the foremost Urdu poets from Rajasthan, Shiv Kumar alias Sheen Kaf Nizam, however, defies this trend. He belongs to a generation of non-Muslims that took to writing in Urdu long after partition besides hailing from a region that is not prominent on the map of Urdu.
Nizam has earned fame across Urdu world though he has all along avoided mushairas and remained aloof from either progressive or modernist movements. He spoke to Hindustan Times during his brief visit to the City recently.
“Writing in Urdu came naturally to me as I got a literary environment in my young age and felt drawn towards Urdu poetry”, says Sheen Kaf Nizam.
Regarding Urdu litterateur Gian Chand Jain’s controversial book in which the veteran writer has termed Urdu literary world as suffocating for non-Muslim writers, Nizam says that he never felt any prejudice. “Differences can occur between any two persons and Gian Chand Jain could have had some personal experiences”.
“I consciously avoided attending mushairas because they are more about performance and style of delivery than standards of poetry.”
“Still, I believe that after partition the mushairas kept Urdu alive and helped in popularising the language,” says Nizam, who was born in 1946 in Jodhpur. He quotes Allama Iqbal’s last interview in which he had told Chiragh Hasan Hasrat that mushairas have done as much benefit to Urdu language as the harm they did to standards of Urdu poetry.
“I never associated myself to any literary stream or group because I consider poetry in itself a movement. It did not affect me because my works were published generously in both progressive and modernist literary magazines,” he adds. “This kind of rigidity is not in the nature of Urdu-walas.”
The poet who has seven collections to his name had to wait several years for the publication of his first volume (in 1971) because Jodhpur had no Urdu press. Regarding his command over Urdu diction, “I learnt the nuances of language from Maulana Mahirul Qadri and learnt Persian from Hakim Moinuddin,” says Nizam, whose speech is interspersed with Persian phrases. Nizam doesn’t approve of comparison between Urdu literary scene in India and Pakistan.
‘If they have Intizar Husain then we have Qurratul Ain Haider in fiction and for Wazir Agha and Ahmed Faraz we have Shamsur Rahman Faruqui and Nida Fazli.”
Nizam had been to Pakistan sometime back where he was widely acclaimed. Reminiscing about his adolescence years, Nizam says when he took to poetry, his family members were disappointed. “Even the families of Meer and Ghalib would not have approved the penchant for poetry of these masters,” laughs Nizam. “However, I was not troubled much,” says the poet who has retired from government service only last month.