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The Borderless Poet
In 1953 when a 16-year-old boy from Banihal wrote a poem expressing heart of an orphan, the renowned writer of that time Mirza Arif crossed the Pirpanchal and kissed his forehead. Legendary Rassa Javedani in Bhaderwa was amazed at the brilliance of words coming from a teenager who later came to be known as Marghoob Banihali.
Nath vathaan arshi azeemas osh chu yelli haaraan yateem
Zaaliman hinzi chanje khay khay kas sana chaaraan yateem
(Heavens tremble when tears trickle down an orphan
Suffering from oppression, whom is the orphan searching for)
“These were the first ever lines I wrote. It was something which my inner-self wanted to express,” said Marghoob with a smiling demeanor. Born in 1937 at Bankoot, Banihal, Marghoob lost his mother when he was 8, and father when he was 14. Though he belonged to a well off family always surrounded by workers, but something remained amiss and those emotions got expressed by way of his words.
Banihal proved to be an excellent place for nurturing his literary taste. It was the place where Rasool Mir was sent by Mahmood Gami as a punishment after the former started writing what was termed as literature not adhering to accepted norms. The rebel Mir continued his colourful stint at Banihal too and came with some of his brilliant poems. There was Maulana Ahmad Banihali and Abdul Rahim Aama, the later wrote Gulbadan that is termed as only reply to Maqbool Kralwari’s epic Gulrez. Gulbadan became a rage in Pir Panchal and Chenab valley regions. It was in this environment that Marghoob started his literary journey too.
Born as Ghulam Mohammed Giri, Marghoob never forgot his place of birth as he published the re-edited form of almost rare Gulbadan. He also wrote Kasheer Baale Apaer (Kashmir beyond the mountains) that chronicled the history of Kashmiris who were exiled by autocratic rulers from the valley. Marghoob’s ancestors were also exiled to Banihal during Sikh era. The spread of such Kashmiris who were often very learned proved a blessing in disguise for these regions. The family of Dholwals, Rassa Javedani and high caste Giris were all Kashmiris and all of them made their mark in history. They served Kashmir efficiently from outside than what they could have done from inside the valley. With the publication of the book, it was for the first time an author had taken discourse outside the otherwise perceived boundaries of Kashmiri language and allied culture. Marghoob mapped the development of Kashmiri language and culture across the Pir Panchal, a contribution which remains unparalleled in the annals of research of Kashmir.
“Originally we were from Safakadal and after four generations we came back,” smiles Marghoob through his lush white beard with matching hair at his Umar Colony residence.
Marghoob proved his mettle in academics right from the school days at Banihal. By the time he reached university he was way ahead of his contemporaries. Marghoob has the distinction of being first PhD degree holder in Persian from Kashmir University. The subject of his thesis was “A literary history of Persian in Kashmir 1339 to 1555 AD.”
Marghoob served KU for over 30 years in various capacities in Kashmiri department, Central Asian Studies and Iqbal Institute. He retired in 1997 as HoD Kashmiri Department.
In 1976 Marghoob wrote Partavistaan which garnered him state award for best book. The ideas reflected in the book were inspired from 1975 emergency and before. The book was highly appreciated and some enthusiasts have even remembered the book in its entirety. “What I feel I express and people often say this is the exact thing what they wanted to express,” says Marghoob who received Sahitya Academy award for the book. Till date Marghoob has written 45 books comprising poems, prose, translation and critical analysis in Kashmiri, Urdu and English. And for the work he has won 12 major and dozens of small awards.
To his credit Marghoob has the distinctions of bringing back to circulation almost rare books. He translated in urdu Noor Nama the translation of 16th century book on Sheikhul Alam (RA) by Baba Naseebudin Gazi. The book was an instant hit as it gives insight to the life and work of Sheikh ul Alam (RA) from the perspective of an era that was close to his living.
One of the magnum opus works of Marghoob has been his publication Kaleela Daman. The book has an interesting history that shows the importance of Kashmiri literature. “During the times of Caliph Haroon Rasheed of Baghdad, a deputy was sent to Hindustan to look for a book that is said to contain a remedy that could infuse life in a dead body. The deputy by the name of Barzooya searched all over India and ultimately one Kashmiri pandit told him that the book he was seeking doesn’t have magic potion but wise words for better life and it is in Kashmir,” said Marghoob. Barzooya came to Kashmir to get the book that was kept in king’s treasure. After many futile attempts Barzooya bribed his way to treasure with 40 camels of valuables. “Still only a copy of the original was given to him as Kashmiris immensely valued the book,” said Marghoob. At Baghdad, Barzooya the speaker of many languages, translated the book first into pehlavi and then into Arabic. This book later spread all over the world. In 1975 Marghoob translated the book in Kashmiri.
“I felt so attached while working on the book. Just imagine that it is the Kashmiri book that reached Arab just few hundred years of Prophet (PBUH),” said Marghoob.
When asked about his dream book, Marghoob pauses a bit and says, “I want to write a book for uniting the people who have been divided into so many sects and groups. Unity of Kashmiri remains my dream and I want to do something about it.”
The situation however is far from easy as Marghoob once experienced how difficult is to change the status quo. During 1980s Marghoob’s song Van Poshe Nool Van, sung by Kailash Mehra and Vijay Malla was number one song on Radio Kashmir. As the song calling for change was getting huge response from across the border the nervous administration is said to have directed the Radio Kashmir to take it off the air.
Marghoob’s work has not been limited to his own work only, but he has tried with success to bring forth great work of other people. He has produced a chain of successful translations and monographs on Khwaja Ghulam Rasool Kamghar Kishtwari, Rasa Javidani, Abdul Rahim Aama, Wakliullah Mattu and translations of Padmini Sen Gupta’s monograph on Sarojini Naidu and Gopal Haldar’s Kazi Nazrul Islam and Prof. Mujeeb’s Ghalib.
The admirer of Maulana Rumi and Allama Iqbal, Marghoob terms their work along with work of Hafiz, Ghalib and Sheikh ul Alam as “Quran pasand shayari.” His book on Allama Iqbal titled Kalam-e-Iqbal Kay Sarchashmay and Adamgari-e-Iqbal reflect his distinctive critical and analytical faculty besides deep understanding of philosophy.
Marghoob has always been concerned for the welfare of Kashmiri language. “Seeing the situation with Kashmiri today, sometimes I am forced to feel that our efforts have been futile,” laments Marghoob. “People are not learning, reading and teaching Kashmiri in a way that it could become a movement.”
Marghoob has done extensive research on origin, growth and development of Kashmiri language. He propounded his distinctive theory known as “Marghoob Theory” in which he sought to devise the script for his mother tongue and natural medium of creative expression. The 20 guidelines provided in his theory for the standardization of spellings in Kashmiri language and for the improvement of its acceptable script used at length presently, are sure to enable this language to keep pace with other regional languages of the country in general and with 52 languages of the world, using a script of Arabic origin, in particular. The concept of key-board given in this theory is expected to equip Kashmiri with typing and shorthand facilities.
It is not only Kashmiri language but the social and political problems faced by Kashmir also worries him. Last year when Marghoob returned his Sahitya Academy award to protest brutal murder of Zahid Rasool Bhat of Islamabad (Anantnag) by goons in Shiv Nagar area of Udhampur, he was trolled by some of his colleagues and unknown officials. Some people even visited his house asking why he didn’t do it before. “They never stop killing and then they question us why we have changed our routine of keeping mum,” said Marghoob. “I am a sensitive Kashmiri who feels the pain. They were worried why I said that I throw it at your face. I told them are you going to stop our ration, are you?”
Though Marghoob has not exclusively written on the post 90s situation, but number of his poems are sprinkled with sufferings. “The situation should have brought up wave of literature but yes there is a vacuum,” laments Marghoob.
Marghoob sees intertwined history and politics of Kashmir through the words of wise old men. “Zi Aab Aatash Ast Aabad Kashmir, Wazihaa ni shawad barbaad Kashmir,” said Marghoob who often sprinkles his words with adages. “This old saying in Persian roughly means fire and water sustain Kashmir and it is the fire and water that destroy Kashmir. Though it was said after frequent floods and fire incidents destroyed Kashmir, but we see the proverb perfectly applying even today. Water is our sustenance and we see how NHPC benefits from our water. The same water almost destroyed us in 2014.“
For Marghoob Islam is extremely important for character building. His books Islamiyat kun 7 kadam (seven steps towards studying Islam) has already been adopted by schools like Green Valley Educational Institute and R P School and taught from 3rd grade onwards. “This way students get to learn both Kashmiri and Islam,” says Marghoob, father of nine children.
Father of the eminent Psychiatrist Dr Mushtaq Marghoob in Kashmir, Marghoob’s own wards have limited interest in art and literature but they have proved their mettle elsewhere. “People often wonder how could I achieve so much and at the same time tend to my family. There was a time when I would think that I have nine children will I ever be able to write nine books. Thanks to Almighty I have written five time more books,” said Marghoob who is currently working on his new book Umeed ti Imkaan.