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Unschooled yet unstoppable: Meet Bandipora’s coded poet whose work ‘demonstrates the power of creativity’

Unschooled yet unstoppable: Meet Bandipora’s coded poet whose work ‘demonstrates the power of creativity’

Bandipora, May 19: A 60-year-old Sufi poet from north Kashmir's Bandipora district has gained recognition for her contribution to literature.

Referred to as the ‘Coded Poet of Kashmir’, Zarifa Jan has developed her own language to safeguard her poetry which remains incomprehensible to anyone other than her.

She has never received a formal education, but her poetry with the distinctive script has captivated the readers.

Talking to the news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO), Zarifa said her self-created coded language is a means of preserving her poetic expressions, a skill she believes was bestowed upon her by “a higher power”.

To ensure the longevity of her work, she relies on her daughter's assistance in preserving and presenting her poetry during mushairas and literary gatherings.

Due to physical frailties and short memory, writing in this unique language is essential for Zarifa. “Whenever a verse comes to my mind, I meticulously record the words by making specific marks and shapes on paper,” she said.

The complexity and intricacy of her language reflect her intelligence and creativity that effectively convey the intended emotions and meanings in her poetry.

Throughout decades of writing, Zarifa’s distinctive style and expression set her poetry apart from others. Her daughter aspires to compile her mother's words in a book form, both in the original script and a decoded version.

“My ultimate dream is to see my poetry published,” she said adding that the project is in progress with the assistance of her daughter.

Nadeem Ahmad, a litterateur, while acknowledging Zarifa Jan as one of the few female Sufi poets in Kashmir, told KNO that individuals like her possess “a divine knowledge of Sufism which is beyond ordinary comprehension”. He believes her extraordinary writing style is “indeed a gift from a higher power” that cannot be grasped or studied without her guidance.

"Her poetry not only showcases her unique writing style but also reflects the rich Sufi culture of Kashmir. Her words resonate deeply, forging a spiritual connection with readers. She has become a renowned figure in literature, serving as an inspiration for many,” Nadeem said, adding that despite the challenges Zarifa faced, she remains dedicated to her passion for poetry, creating “something truly extraordinary”.

Despite her age and physical limitations, Zarifa’s commitment to her craft persists, and she continues to produce new poetry regularly.

Adil Hussain, a Kashmir University student, said Zarifa Jan’s impact on Kashmiri literature is “immeasurable”. “Her distinctive style and innovative approach to poetry have motivated numerous aspiring writers in the region to explore new avenues in literature,” he said.

“Her work sheds light on Kashmir's diverse cultural heritage, which faces threats due to political turmoil and unrest. Her unwavering dedication and passion serve as an inspiration to those who know her. Her poetry demonstrates the power of creativity and the resilience of the human spirit,” Adil said—(KNO)

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