Here, By this Ramshackle Road, Lies the Village of Poets

  • Malik Nisar
  • Publish Date: Apr 16 2018 2:07AM
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  • Updated Date: Apr 16 2018 2:07AM
Here, By this Ramshackle Road, Lies the Village of Poets

Tilgam, Baramulla, is a literary treasure trove, but the state government couldn’t care less


To call Tilgam a treasure is no exaggeration. It is, after all, a small repository of Kashmiri art and culture. It’s the village of poets.  

A small village in Pattan tehsil of Baramulla district, Tilgam is home to literary giants. It has nurtured, for starters, Fayaz Tilgami and Ranjoor Tilgami. “Poetry runs in the genes of our people,” said Fayaz Tilgami, the renowned poet and writer in Kashmiri. “We have been bestowed with this blessing by our forefathers. Poetry runs in our blood. It distinguishes us from other villages; we are identified by our art.” 

Tilgam traces its poetic tradition as far back as the 19th century, when Shah Ibrahim emerged as the village’s first widely known poet. The line of poets has continued almost uninterrupted since and has been punctuated by renowned names such as Fateh Kral, a sufi master who died in 1939 but whose verses continue to inspire poets to this day. “I once walked more than 10 kilometres to get some of Fateh Kral’s works from an old companion,” said Fayaz Tilgami

In spite of coming from the same social and literary milieu, all Tilgam’s renowned poets and writers have developed their own distinct styles. Muhammad Amin Wani, famous as Ranjoor Tilgami, for one stands in a class of his own not just among his village’s wordsmiths but in the contemporary Kashmiri literary scene as well. 

Ranjoor, author of 10 books and writer of many of the famous contemporary Kashmiri songs, claims to be an accidental poet. 

“I was not interested in poetry in my younger days,” he says, puffing at his hookah. “In 1965, I became a teacher and was posted in Mansbal. I succumbed to the beauty of Mansbal and that is what turned me into a poet.” 

Fayaz Tilgami is a teacher as well but unlike Ranjoor, he was attracted to literature from an early stage. In 1972, still only a teenager, Fayaz did his first mushaira, or poetry recital, on radio. “I got interested in literature at a very young age and my passion drove me to poetry. I enjoyed it throughout my career and I am still enjoying it,” he says.

Fayaz is the patron of Barhi Adab Tilgam, an association of poets from his village. (Yes, there are so many of them!) In this role, he guides young poets and writers from Tilgam and surrounding villages. Among this younger lot is Shabnam Tilgami, a well known voice on Radio Kashmir, where he’s a news reader, but who is also making a mark as a literary and cultural activist. Then there is Showkat Tilgami, the poet and literary activist who serves as joint secretary of the Kashmir Young Writers Association. 

Khalid Bashir is a short story writer from Tilgam. His works in Urdu have been widely in Pakistan. “The list of our young writers and thinkers is long,” says Ranjoor. “Each of them has a unique style.”

Tilgam’s reputation as a centre of creativity is such that aspiring writers and students from across North Kashmir and beyond come visiting regularly, hoping to benefit from the likes of Ranjoor and Fayaz. 

If anyone is oblivious of the village’s significance, it is the state government which hasn’t seen it fit to even lay a decent road to Tilgam. According to the residents, the administration has been promising to set up a library in the village for decades but it has not materialised. In there is a story of the state’s apathy towards art and culture – or maybe a poem.