Rafia Mukhtar’s poems narrate how a society misplaces the worth of a girl’s character; and how she emerges as a writer

Mehvish Mumtaz

Anantnag, Jan 10: Instead of playing with toys during her childhood, Rafia Mukhtar would spend most of her times in household chores as she liked it. Due to some family issues, she spent six important years of her life away from her parents. Some months back, she wrote the book – a poetry collection ‘Her Castle of Dreams’.

Rafia’s poems narrate: “a tumultuous journey of a girl until she becomes a woman; how a society misplaces the worth of a girl’s character and judges her on the basis of dogmatic and awry views. Through her book, she intends to help young girls understand how they can shape their lives and realize their dreams”.

Born in a middle-class family in Vessu Qazigund, in Anantnag district, Rafia was admitted in a government girls’ school – a few steps away from her ancestral house.

By the time Rafia was studying in Grade V, Rafia’s father Mukhtar Ahmad Ganaie was not able to work due to health issues and her family decided to move to Anantnag town to start a business.

“I used to be surprised when my classmates would talk about their aims and dreams. I had no idea what these two words meant,” recalls Rafia.

Rafia said that with the passage of time, she developed interest in writing and started her literary journey.

She further said that besides these hardships, she evolved more and more with each passing day.

Every day, her father would give her Rs 20 which she would save.

Rafia said that she was inspired by her struggle with depression and wrote ‘Her Castle of Dreams’.

She had done her Bachelors in Arts from Government Women’s College, Anantnag. Every time she struggled a lot to keep going with pace.

Rafia realized that she had become perceptive and observant. After spending time in college and with her family, she would rush to her room and pen down her thoughts and observations. Her quotes were more related to the state of women in her surroundings, nature, and of course about her struggle.

Rafia further revealed that when she finished her bachelor’s degree, the first question that crossed her mind was ‘what next’. “I was confused about what to do. I had no aim, no dreams.”

She then secured admission in Rehmat Aalam College and completed her B.Ed. Along with her regular studies; she kept jotting down her thoughts.

She would keenly observe the treatment of women in society and how women suffer and struggle to keep their identity alive.

“Writing gave me some solace and eased my depression. I no more used to take medicines,” she said.

She said after finishing her college, she decided to earn for her family and herself and she got herself a teaching job. In the meantime, she joined the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and started studying economics.

She chose Himalayan Bells Preparatory School because she was aware of the state of the education system in a village, and quality teaching would help the students in the villages to build their perspective.

Rafia said her family had started receiving a marriage proposal for her and they asked her to give it serious thought.

“It was tiring for me to think about marriage. First, they kept me away from themselves during the most important stage of my life, and now this. I didn’t accept it,” said Rafia. “I started having nightmares about marriage which would disturb my sleep. With these thoughts, I have spent many sleepless nights for months but I utilized them in writing fervently.”

Finally, in May, one of Rafia’s friends asked her to meet Professor Syeda Afshana at Kashmir University, and show her poems and quotes to her.

Syeda asked Rafia to give it a theme as she had written about nature and women. She started working on her poems after school, almost through the night. She wrote everything in her diary, and in October, she was ready to show it to Syeda.

Syeda was impressed with her work and asked her to format it for printing. However, she was confused about how to go about it. She remembered she was connected on Facebook with another female writer Insha Khawaja, the author of ‘Finding the Lost You’.

Rafia texted Insha who suggested that she write a preface and dedication of her book, type it and design it.

After Rafia wrote the preface, she typed and designed her complete book. She decided to title the book ‘Her Castle of Dreams’ and got it published on December 11, 2018.

Her book reflects the pain she witnessed, recalling how at the young age she learnt cooking. 

“How early my little hands can cook,” she says in one of the poems.

And adds: “I was born to giggle and fun”, “Don’t force me to wear the meaningless crown”.

She refers to how a girl is treated, and how she is only taught and prepared to settle in her in-laws’ house. In her poem ‘I’m not a burden’, she says, “I’m not a burden but a gift of nature”, and “Nurture me well I’m not a stranger”.

Her book ends with a poem “Fairy Ma’am” which was a gift to Rafia from grade II students on Teachers Day. The poem says, “Early morning birds call us sweetly, Rafia ma’am teaches us nicely.”