When 22-year-old Touqeer Ashraf arrived in Srinagar for his education, he was struck by the way people spoke.
“Not only young people, I saw even the elderly talking to the young in Urdu,” said Ashraf, a postgraduate student of geology at the University of Kashmir.
In his native village of Goosu Pulwama, in Pulwama district, the medium of conversation was Kashmiri. “But in the city, I saw people who speak in the language being derisively called ‘gaamik’ [rustic],” said Ashraf, who has been living in Srinagar since last year.
This lack of respect for his native language bothered Ashraf.
To draw more people to the language, Ashraf turned to the pioneers of Kashmiri literature. In early 2021, he started a YouTube channel Keashur Praw, the shimmering light of Kashmiri, which posts short videos of Kashmiri poetry. They are slickly shot, usually not longer than 30 seconds, overlaid with Ashraf’s voice and some background music.
Ashraf started with the poetry of Kashmir’s 14th century Sufi mystic, Sheikh Noor-ud-Din Noorani. Then, the works of other stalwarts of Kashmiri literature and mysticism like Mahmood Gami, Rasul Mir, Lal Ded and Mehjoor followed.
He was taken aback by the response. His YouTube channel has more than 16,000 subscribers with a collective viewership of all…