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Zareefa Jan, illiterate poet who invented her own writing

Zareefa Jan, illiterate poet who invented her own writing
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Ground Report | New Delhi: Zareefa Jan Kashmiri poet; Despite never having attended school and being illiterate, Zareefa Jan, Kashmiri poet, developed a language through which she would capture her verses and not be forgotten; her story amazes not only because of that, but also because of the way in which she came to art, as it would seem that she was called by destiny.

Zareefa Jan Kashmiri poet

In an interview for Vice, the poet Zareefa Jan reported that she cannot read or write, since her life takes place in rural areas, so academic education was never a problem. But one day, when she was in her early 30s, she went out into the water to a stream and on the way she fainted and when she woke up she felt “different”, then she had a kind of revelation. “When I regained my senses, a gazal (a type of poem of Arabic origin) came out of my mouth,” she said.

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In addition, Zareefa she assures that until that day she had no idea what poetry was because she had never approached such art. “But since then, I have written hundreds of poems and ghazals,” the woman revealed to Vice. Since that day hundreds of poems came to her mind, and they were so many that she could not remember all of them and most were lost in oblivion, since she had no way to write them, she did not know how to do it. She then confessed to her family what was happening to her and her daughter proposed that she record them on audiotapes or dictate them.

However, the idea did not convince Zareefa, as she could not reread them or share them with other people; moreover, she thinks poems in Kashmir, a language whose use is declining, even in Kashmir. Therefore, the woman decided to invent a writing system based on circles. It was thus that she created a calligraphic system of small irregular circles that build a meaning according to their dimensions and approximation to each other, in addition, the reading is from right to left.

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Your own writing

For many years, the poet hid her gift from her relatives; however, as time passed, he was encouraged to recite some compositions to them. Her husband and children were amazed by the lyrical depth of the content.

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In this way, only Zareefa can read her compositions, although some of her children have taken on the task of rewriting her mother’s verses into a conventional language, so that they last over time. Zareefa practices Sufism, a mystical form of Islam, an unorthodox school of practice that focuses more on the esoteric aspects of religious life, and in which Sufis strive for direct personal experiences with God.

To cope with the inconvenience that presented itself, the woman began to make circular graphs on pieces of paper. Over time, he perfected and regularized his circumferences, which, in the end, became his writing system.

Some lines of his poetry

A “heron” is a poem or ode originally from Arabic poetry and its theme is usually about love, longing and loss. “Until then, I had no idea what poetry was because I had never read it. But since then, I have written hundreds of poems and ghazales, ”says Zareefa.

“Panie soaraan aam yawuniyey
Lalwuniyey thovtham naar.
Yawun myon chambi dulwuniyey
Yi chu samsara napaidaar.

(I didn’t destroy my youth as a fire kept nourishing me. My youth is insubstantial in the transient world.)”

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“This is my language, the language of circles. (…) I have developed it over the years ”, says Zareefa Jan proudly. She writes in Kashmir, a language that has fallen into disuse even in its place of origin. That was one of the reasons why she kept her gift from her family a secret for a long time. Her children, for example, if they went to school, they speak Urdu and English, but they don’t understand the dialect of her poetry.

When she finally dared to share her poems, she impressed her family and her husband with her quality. However, the language remained a barrier. Much of her work has been lost in oblivion, and that is why she ended up perfecting her own alphabet, which although she is the only one who can interpret it, it serves to record her work.

Zareefa’s family intends to collect these texts and publish them in a book where people can appreciate the language created by the poet, and clearly the translation of her.

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