By | Syed Safa Chishti
Srinagar: The evolution of social media trends has brought forth influencers from all over the world who promote various aspects of tradition, creativity, fashion, entertainment, food, society, and culture. These influencers use social media platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok to educate their audiences on the changing world. One such influencer, Touqeer Ashraf, hails from Pulwama, Kashmir and started his page, “Keashur Praw” in October 2021. The page has 99.2k followers and was created with the goal of bringing Kashmiris closer to their roots through the Kashmiri language.
Touqeer says that he became interested in reading and writing poetry in Kashmiri after reading the works of Qalam e Sheikh Ul Alam. He explains, “The fascinating thing about the poems by Sheikh Ul Aalam is that they comprise of many ancient Kashmiri words that are so mellifluous to read. It’s captivating to engross yourself in such words.” Touqeer then took to his page to translate these words so that more people who use social media could learn and understand them.
Touqeer studied in a village called Goosu and completed his BSc from Government Degree College in Pulwama. Currently, he is pursuing a Masters in Geology at Kashmir University. He believes that the schools in Kashmir that rely on English as the primary medium of communication do not promote a person’s identity as a Kashmiri, but rather just provide an easier means of communication. He asserts, “Our education system itself has scraped out the importance of Kashmiri language by focusing too much on English language. Our own children are taught to speak, learn, and write in different language. Important measures taken right away may aid filling this gap so that every upcoming generation knows about their identity and about their roots.”
Touqeer credits his mother tongue for giving him a passion for reading and writing. He encourages all Kashmiris to rediscover their language and fall in love with it all over again. He says, “This language has given me so much. The best realization I gained from this journey is that it is never too late to start learning again, even if you are an amateur in speaking Kashmiri or way too old. It’s never too late to begin.” He recommends beginners to start by reading Kashmiri poems that interest them to explore the language.
Touqeer was pleasantly surprised by the responses from his followers and says that it has helped him regain his belief that Kashmiris have a thirst to know and take pride in their own identity. He says, “Initially I felt, compared to what people watch in other forms of uploaded content, Keashur Praw wouldn’t aspir that many people to follow my page. But with the due course of time I realized that if we (influencers) attempt to take up the themes that need attention, even people retaliate with the same attention.”
What started as a hobby has now become a responsibility for Touqeer to continue promoting the Kashmiri language. He says, “People usually find it embarrassing to talk in Kashmiri language believing it a part of rural lifestyle when actually what’s more shameful should be to perceive such notions. It is our identity and who we belong. We must take full pride in it.” He recognizes the role of media in promoting the language and highlights the importance of the cultural academy in preserving it.
Touqeer hopes for people to take the initiative to value their language and says, “My only message to the people is to try to keep our language alive. Influencers tend to use other languages to gain fame when they can do the same in their mother tongue as well. “It is our identity and who we belong. We must take full pride in it”, he said.