Poet of Suffering

  • Aamir Ali Bhat
  • Publish Date: Apr 30 2018 1:55AM
  • |
  • Updated Date: May 3 2018 9:31PM
Poet of Suffering

Nighat Sahiba speaks for every Kashmiri woman brutalised by the everyday injustice of patriarchy and the conflict.


From Trahpoo village in Anantnag has emerged a young poet who is making waves in the literary world. Nighat Sahiba’s first collection of poems Zarid Pannike Dair earned her widespread appreciation from both readers and critics as well as several prestigious honours, including the Sahitya Yuva Puraskar and the Mallika Sengupta award. Her poetry engages mostly with the systamatic patriarchy of the Kashmiri society and the suffering of her people caught in a seemingly intractable conflict. She speaks about her life and work.  


What attracted you to poetry and when did you start writing it?

It is very difficult for any writer to pinpoint when she started writing with considerable seriousness. In my childhood, I developed an affinity for books and reading became my passion. Over time, I felt an urge to express whatever I experienced in different aspects of my life in verse. 

As is not uncommon in Kashmir, my family strongly suggested that I pursue medical education after school but I managed to find my own way. I dreamed of writing professionally. Thank God, I am following my dream now.

I started writing poetry in school, but it took time to take it to the level where I could think of publishing it. Initially, I used social media to take my poetry to people and after receiving a good response from both ordinary readers and literary circles, I started publishing in Kashmir Uzma. That’s how it began.


What are the major themes you engage with in your poetry? 

Living in a society where domestic violence, dowry deaths, gender discrimination, male chauvinism and the worst kind of conflict is the order of the day, what else one can expect from a writer but to react to the chaos. People often label writers and I am no exception, but I don’t have any problem being labelled feminist or such. One must be rational in one’s thoughts. I believe in the might of the pen and it is the weapon I choose to fight with. 


What do you think is the role of a women poet in our society?

Our society suffers from the serious disease of gender inequality. It is our responsibility to make people aware about women’s rights. Writing is the best way to let our society know how women are suffering and what is the way out. I write about the suffering of my countrywomen and every woman everywhere who is made to suffer for being a woman. 

Of course, not every woman faces discrimination but, generally, that is the case. I have personally experienced discrimination almost at every stage of my life. Gender discrimination is the norm in our society. Girls are treated as lesser mortals. Men don’t even know how to sit beside a girl. I never board a bus if it overcrowded. Are we really cultured? We don’t know how to treat a girl. 

Rather than accept a problem, we always find something to blame. For example, rape is often connected to the clothes women wear! 

It is easy saying we treat sons no differently from daughters, but is that our lived reality? Just see how women on social media are treated and dictated to. How vulgar comments are passed on them. Pathetic! 


What other motifs animate your poetry?

Initially, I was more concerned about “me”, but I gradually realised it was not just “me” but “me with a responsibility towards my society”, and it is this that decides the theme of my poems.

Khwab’e’zuyis manz rozaan aes

Loal ki achhdar paalaan aes

Sarfan saeti oasus wes’e’ton

Gaas’e tullen taan khotsaan aes 

In an isle of dreams she lived 

Nursing the dragons of love

Friends with serpents she was

And she was scared of straw. 



You received wide appreciation for your debut poetry collection Zard Pannike Dair. Was it the kind of response you had expected? 

I hadn’t. I am thankful to my well wishers for such an overwhelming response. 


Are you planning to publish again anytime soon?

Yes, I am working on my second book. Hopefully, it will be ready very soon. 


Did you face any obstacles in the beginning? How much support did you get from your family?

When you are eager to pursue something new against the wishes of family and friends, obviously you cannot expect to have it easy. But if you are passionate about it, you keep going despite the hardships.


In recent times, many writers and poets have returned their awards as a mark of protest. Did you face any such demand from your readers?

It depends on how you see a particular issue. What serves the cause you stand for, receiving an award or returning it? I, as a disciple of literature, aim to let the people know what we have lost. And what responsibility we human beings, as the “crown of creation”, have to the world we are a part of. 


Because English is more widely read, a lot of Kashmir’s young writers choose it as their medium of expression, be it for prose or verse. What prompted you to write in Kashmiri? 

Why should I limit my inner self from expressing naturally by opting for a language I don’t feel can do justice to the thoughts I lull in the valleys of my world. For a poet what matters most is the merit of the poetry, not the language she writes in. 

The appreciation I received for my debut poetry collection reveals that there are people who read Kashmiri, although there is a need to take some concrete steps to rejuvenate the enthusiasm of the writers and readers of Kashmiri language. 

Moreover, I believe the more people are educated the more they care for their mother language. 


You would have received criticism too, I am sure. How do you deal with it and what role does criticism have in a writer’s life?

Of course. Sincere and constructive criticism helps shape the writer’s journey. In Kashmiri language, there is almost none we can call a critic. In any case, rather than worry about what critics would say, a writer should just write her heart out for her readers.


Do you have a message for aspiring writers?

My suggestion is to read literature in every language you know. And for writing, choose a language that best expresses what you want to say.