Poetry comes from the biggest joys and deepest sorrows. Poetry is a painting that speaks. Poetry is an emotion that finds expression. Kashmiri poet Huzaifa Pandit, a 28-year-old research scholar on resistance poetry, has found his voice through his verses which throw light on the situation in the Valley.
He was interested in writing from an early age but he never pursued it with any seriousness. “In Std IV or V, I wrote a couple of juvenile poems one of which had a line — ‘Life in the hills is a treat/ the weather is very sweet’. I wrote a few other pieces. But as I shifted to high school, I forgot all about it. Only after I had finished my 10+2, and joined Amar Singh College, Srinagar, I began to write short essays for class assignments. But it was only a year later, in 2010 that I started writing seriously.”
He wrote a series of three essays documenting his curfew experience titled Huzaif in Curfewland. “The essays got a good response on Facebook, and I felt encouraged. I then started with translations of Faiz. Gradually, I started to read other Urdu poets like Nasir Kazmi, Amjad Islam Amjad, Noon Meem Rashid, and Parveen Shakir. I found in each of them some part of me. I realised that I could channel my frustration and anger at the situation through these translations. When I posted them on fb, people across the country and even outside read them. So, they would inquire about the situation and get educated about Kashmir. Naturally, this prompted me to take writing seriously,” says Pandit who wrote his initial poems in Urdu.
Then in 2012, he was diagnosed with chronic PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) due to over-exposure to death and violence. It made him suicidal and depressed as he remained confined to bed for four months. “Soon I left my job, and shifted to Pune to pursue my masters at Savitribai Phule Pune University, then known as University of Pune. There, I studied creative writing for two semesters under such able poets as R Raj Rao and Randhir Khare. The strangeness of a foreign land, and my struggle with depression prompted me to write poems, as I wanted to articulate all those hidden memories and repressed experiences. The next crisis came in 2016 summer when the whole Valley elapsed into a cycle of violence. Many poems in the book were written during and after as old wounds were opened again, and so the cycle continues,” says the youngster who shares a few lines from one of his poems:
The sky is a cremated mirror
and i wish for avant-garde metaphors
stolen from the surreal world.
i want just the right mix —
three spoonfuls of false similes
sprinkled with an autistic metaphor
plagiarised from cosmopolitan internet.
When readers read his poetry he expects them to feel a thousand things, but if he were to single out an important emotion, they should see Kashmir in a different light apart from, of course, reading good poetry.
After having spent a good many years here, Pune is closest to his heart after Kashmir. He came here in 2012 to pursue his MA in English. It was the lowest point in his life, and the city gave him everything — friends, love and great mentors. From the very first day, he felt welcomed. The classes were excellent, and the curriculum most progressive and modern with subjects like Bollywood Calling, Feminism, Translation Studies, Modern European Literature in Translation, Culture Studies and Creative Writing which usually are not part of MA courses in Literature across the country. Most importantly, he felt for the first time that he could express himself and move around without the fear of being arrested or being shot at.