A prominent poet’s pining heart resonates with masses in the valley these days. Behind the renewed echo is a young narrator’s beseeching summon rekindling hope and reigniting an old romance: “Tca’ay rou’dekh, za’ayi kor’thas” (Your indifference rendered me redundant).
These celebrated words now drive social media reels challenging the overriding practice of Bollywood expression of local emotions.
The boy capturing Kashmiri sentiment is seen as Nund Resh’s mystic relator, Rasul Mir’s elegiac raconteur and Ghulam Rasool Nazki’s anguish reporter.
Photo By Safoora Hilal
Touqeer Ashraf is a feisty youngster creating sway with his growing social media presence. His videos revitalizing the endangered Kashmiri language are earning him fans and followers across the spectrum.
His campaign was catalyzed by the rapid rise of foreign languages creating a barrier between Kashmiris and their mother tongue. The thought of how Kashmiri youngsters are neglecting their linguistic roots unsettled him.
Out of this restless phase exacerbated by the pandemic lockdown, Touqeer embarked on his digital mission to make a difference.
In November 2021, he launched his YouTube and Instagram page, named “Keashur Praw”.
With each post, Touqeer illuminates the digital realm with the essence of Kashmiri language and culture, captivating the hearts of his followers.
“Everyone in Kashmir is using social media, and it has a diverse reach,” he says.
“That’s why I chose this medium to communicate and promote my mother language.”
Weaving a tapestry of cultural resurgence, Touqeer is proactively preserving the native language, which, he reckons, is the essence of one’s identity, intricately linked to history and culture.
“But it’s sad,” he rues, “to see young people drifting from their native language.”
As Kashmiri language’s foot-soldier, Touqeer has almost emerged in the chaos. His rise coincides with the downfall of the valley’s literary movement losing its ground as well as guardians.
The fresh-faced graduate from Goosu Pulwama was drawn to Sufi writings and his mother tongue from an early age. His passion, influenced by his family, eventually motivated him to pen poetry in Kashmiri.
With newfound inspiration, he delved into the works of Sheikh-ul-Alam (RA)—the beloved mystic lovingly called Nund Resh in the valley—fuelling his desire to uplift the Kashmiri language in a unique way.
As his idea of reviving the mother tongue sprouted into action, it led him to embark on a mission of poetry recitals to reverse the Kashmiri language’s decline.
Kashmiri, commonly known as Koshur by its native speakers, is numerically a minority language.
Spoken roughly in a 10,000 square-mile area within the valley and in parts of Doda, Reasi and Muzaffarabad, the Kashmiri language carries a rich cultural and historical legacy.
As its avid campaigner, Touqeer is being hailed by all and sundry.
“With collective efforts,” says Dr. Hilal Kumar, who teaches Sociology at Kashmir University, “we can ensure that the mother tongue continues to thrive, bridging the gap between generations and safeguarding our cultural heritage for years to come.”
The same belief sparks Touqeer’s mission whose vision transcends borders, reaching those who yearn to reconnect with their linguistic heritage.
The boy smartly uses Kashmiri idioms and phrases in his videos to reignite people’s interest in the language.
“By mastering the native language, one learns the stories of their forefathers and conserves them for future generations,” Touqeer says. “At the end of the day, a nation’s primary identity is its language.”
Clearly, as the digital era is redefining Kashmir’s cultural practices, Touqeer stands as a guardian of the Kashmiri language, ensuring that its beauty and significance shine brightly in the modern world.
“My journey as a social media influencer is not just a personal striving,” he says, “but a collective endeavor to preserve and promote the vibrancy of the Kashmiri language.”