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Disclaimer: This article includes the snippets from Hameela Qadri’s poetry book, Ishq-e-Nabi.

Haleema Qadri has made her name in Budgam district of central Kashmir. In the lap of beautiful mountains, somewhere in village Churmujur, living in a newly constructed one storey mud-home, she longs for knowledge and regrets for being unable to make her way with education.

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At the corner of her house, small shed habitats two cattle and a cow, while plastic sheets on windows are barring light and dust.

From a broken childhood to walking on rough turf of adulthood—she never had a chance to educate herself. She dealt with her husband’s fatal sickness, and lost every penny in 2014 floods in Kashmir; but her love for knowledge and Sufism outlived everything else—in 2015, at the age of 43, she authored an original compilation of Kashmiri-poetry named—Ishq-e-Nabi. This is her story.

“I have never been to school due to the poverty back at home, but I was always praying to Allah to help me and make me capable of understanding the Sufism and poetry,” said Ms. Qadri. “That would make me even closer to God.”

At a very early age, her parents got separated, and she had to take care of her younger siblings; two sisters and a brother. She would be caught up with daily chores at home and her siblings would go to the nearby Dargah to learn Quran in the Sugan village in Shopian district, while she longs for the in-depth knowledge of religion, and Kashmiri culture.

But, when she would be done with life, seeking peace, she would go at the river-bank, thinking, as she said, ‘‘Will I ever be able to achieve respect in the field of knowledge; would people ever know my name?’’

‘Czhali dil neyonam aemi maar matiye, wantai l’ateiye su konna’e aao

Teer mey’e lai’nam khumar’e ha’teiye, wantai l’ateiye su kona’e aao.’

– Haleema Qadri, Ishq-e-Nabi (2015)

(My beloved cunningly stole my heart away,

O comrade, why does not he return?

Intoxicated arrows from her eyes have pierced me,

O comrade, why does not he return?)

She was 17, and in a beautiful dream, she was aiming to fly high; and marriage knocked at her door. “When I would see a book or a notebook somewhere, I would stare at it in the blank, and a tear would fall from my eye,” said Ms. Qadri. “I wish, I would have been able to learn.”

“When I was told to marry, I was too immature to understand what it was,” said Ms. Qadri, but agreed to spend her life with an artisan based in Churmujur area of Beerwah, Ghulam Ahmad Teli.

Brought up by hardship, a very few things could have broken Ms. Qadri’s will; and the harassment by in-laws in the new house wasn’t one of them. Discovering radio in the house, she would spend her free time listening to the naats and the poetry.

‘Maal’ni gare bi musoom draeyes, Worev  waetith gayas badnaam.

Sann’e goam andri, wann’e kas khudayas, meha gov zaaye mosoom paan.’

– Haleema Qadri, Ishq-e-Nabi (2015)

(Laden with innocence

I left my maternal home,

Reaching the threshold of my in-laws

And infamy enveloped me,

The turmoil is bottled within,

O will God heed my pliant?

Oh, my innocent self is in ruins now)

‘Ishq-e-Nabi: A voice of soul’

Five years back, as Ms. Qadri remembers, it was a gloomy yet a bright day of 2014. The devastating floods forced her mud-house, cohabitating parents a 15-year-old daughter, to ruins. “I was very sad that day. I went to a yaarbal (lake-side) in the afternoon to spend some time alone,” she recalls, and amid the pain and sorrow, when she had lost all that she had, she murmured:

myeani nabiyo saal yitmo laal yitmo saal soan.

khooni jigrik pyaali chetmo, laal yitmo saal soan.’

– Haleema Qadri, Ishq-e-Nabi (2015)

(My prophet,

With all glee, here do I invite you to my feast,

Come, my beloved, come,

With all joy, here I serve a cup of my  blood,

Come my beloved, come!)

“It was truly a voice of the soul.”

The journey had started. “There were times when something would come up to me in middle of the night,” and in an ideal scenario, people write it down somewhere, “I would remember everything.” Carrying a smile of hope, she says, “People type from hands, my heart is my typewriter.”

Later, when Ms. Qadri became the talk of the town, a few boys from her locality helped her to compile everything she had in her ‘soul’ and published the book, Ishq-e-Nabi.

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It has been more than four years since she published her first poetry book. Due to the lack of support and financial problems at home, she couldn’t arrange a sponsor for her book; hence, couldn’t even make it to market.

“I usually make 10 to 12 copies on my own, and sell them at events where I am being called as a guest,” said Ms. Qadri. “But, it is not available in the market right now.”

Many people assured her the help, but no one turned up.

Giving the example of the spiritual poet, Sheikh-ul-Alam (R.A), with moist eyes, she sighed, “Our Kashmiri language is so beautiful. It has power and depth. But unfortunately, we have forgotten our culture and our language.”

One day, as she said in an interview, she wants to do a Kashmiri radio program for the regional channel, DD Kashir. “Learning another language is good, but one should not forget the roots—Kashmiri.

Quratulain Rehbar is a feature writer at The Kashmir Walla