Quarantined thoughts: Poetry for the hearts in pain

Shakir Shafiq Qadri’s debut poetry collection “Quarantined Thoughts” is out. Saddam Hussain captures a few aspects of the poet for Kashmir Lit
The writer
So, I am from Srinagar, Kashmir. I spent my childhood years in Downtown Nowhatta, in Srinagar. It was the most dangerous place to be in the most dangerous of times. I’m talking about the 90s here which was the darkest decade in the contemporary history of Kashmir. My schooling was done in a missionary school here in Srinagar. Even though I was of tender age at that time, I have blurry memories of my dad bringing home the admission form after spending half a day in the queue outside the school.
I did my master’s in tourism and travel management from the central university of Kashmir. After finishing my masters, I began looking for work and landed in quite a lean patch. A job was hard to come by in Kashmir and I really didn’t want to leave the state for multiple reasons. So, I kept my hunt going. At the same time, my keen interest in politics saw me pursuing my second master’s in political science and international relations. After completing my second masters I joined a friend who was running a tour operations company. Things were going quite smooth for a while but then august 5th 2019 happened and it all came to a standstill. Since then I’ve been exploring my passion for writing which I’ve always carried in my heart. I always wanted to write but my academic and career ambitions proved to be hindrances all throughout my life. I guess it had to happen like this.
My book titled “Quarantined thoughts” contains poems, most of which I’ve written during the period of this pandemic itself. The book is subtly divided into two parts. One is called “poetry of conflict” and the other is called “poetry of the spirit”. The poetry of conflict in my book is representative of a traumatized mind. It’s what I’ve seen and heard in my interactions with people in Kashmir. The collective mind of Kashmiris treads a cyclical path of hope and despair. Conflict does that to you. You feel despair at times while sometimes you find things which give you hope. Hope keeps you alive, but the despair doesn’t let you live in peace.
The second section called “poetry of the spirit” is inspired by the spirituality that is in many ways embedded in the life of Kashmiri people. Faith in God, in His eventual justice, is what saves people from an abject surrender of their rights. At a personal level, people recognize the battle they have to wage against the temptations within them and how it could change their outer reality. It is in light of ideas like these that I tried to pen down some snippets of poetry in the second half of the book.
The inspiration for all the poems in my book came from my surroundings; the conflict, the suffering, the hope that people derive from spirituality. A lot of times you need an outlet after absorbing the events taking place around you. Poetry is that outlet for me. I am more focused on storytelling and post august 5th events last year; I wrote a book in the most excruciating of circumstances. I’ve been looking for a publisher’s ever since. On the other hand, poetry has always been something that I did for myself. It was my escape and I barely ever shared it with anyone. During this pandemic, I began sharing it on Twitter for the first time and a few friends suggested me to compile the poems and get them published on Amazon. I took their advice thinking that it would be good exposure and would be helpful in finding a good publisher for my other books.
Why write?
That’s an interesting question and I am sure that different people will answer it differently. I think a lot of us write in order to put the mess in our minds out in an organized manner. Sometimes it’s just an attempt to make sense of things that one has experienced. By sharing it with others, the writer sometimes asks them if they can make sense of it. From a personal point of view, and I’m sorry if I’m being repetitive about the conflict in Kashmir, I cannot make sense of a lot of things, especially the things or actions that are a direct and immediate cause of the suffering of the people. So, when I write about the human cost or the mental cost of the conflict in my own way I am asking the people of the world whether we’ve all gone crazy that we’re feeling the way we are. Sure, writing it down brings back all the agonizing memories, but it is absolutely necessary to share these experiences and ask these questions.

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