Syed Areej Safvi is the first woman in Kashmir to write and perform Ladishah – a form of satire in verse, making commentaries on social and political conditions in the society. It is a type of folk ballad with humour forming an essential part of its presentation.
Syed Areej Safvi, 25, has apparently become the first woman in Kashmir to write and perform Ladishah – a form of satire in verse, making commentaries on social and political conditions in the society. It is a type of folk ballad with humour forming an essential part of its presentation.
Areej was introduced to this cultural form when she saw Ladishah being broadcast every Sunday on an Urdu TV news channel. It was penned by Kashmiri journalist Rajesh Raina and performed by Rajendra Tikoo. Apart from her love for Kashmir culture and language, the immediate trigger to write and perform Ladishah herself was brought after the constitutional changes which nullified the special status of Jammu and Kashmir in August last year.
“I always wanted to do something for Kashmir and its culture and language. I love listening to Ladishah personally. Mostly I would follow Rajendra Tikoo ji performing Ladishah every Sunday. And I wrote my first Ladishah in December 2019 on PSA (Public Safety Act) being used against Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti,” Areej said.
“Ladishah has social messaging. It is an alternative opinion about issues in the society and I am very passionate about this and want to do more on public speaking and social activism,” she said.
Ladishah is traditionally performed on stage, in street plays wearing traditional dress like a turban and playing an instrument with hands – a small thin iron rod with iron rings which would make a ringing sound. The person would sing critical commentaries using a comical tone and tenor to bring home the point while taking on the establishment or the people. Areej has adopted the content along with the tone and tenor but does not use the instrument so far.
While the traditional Ladishah used the platforms of open stage, theatre and then TV and radio, Areej uploaded her videos on her YouTube channel, occasionally wearing a traditional Karakuli cap over her headgear. The videos are becoming popular among the youth.After I uploaded the videos, I realised that I am the first female to do this. Iwas expecting a huge backlash but on the contrary I got huge support. There have been hate messages, people who try to pull me down but usually I ignore them,” she said.
Areej, a resident of Old City’s Alamgari Bazar, graduated in humanities and is pursuing post graduation in psychology. From the very beginning she says that she has been interested in writing, particularly Urdu language and poetry. She has been commenting on issues and writing Gazals before dwelling into the genre of Ladishah.
Her themes are not only social but even political, criticising not only society but even the establishment. She has performed Ladishah on arrest of journalists, 4G internet ban, VPN, women’s issues, extravagance in marriages, among others. The only child of her parents, she said that her father and mother have been supportive but there are people in the extended joint family who are not comfortable with her choice.“It needs huge courage and patience to do anything in our society. I love this so nothing can stop me. There are people who are not okay with what I am doing but I am trying to convince them about my choice,” she said.
She said that she was getting messages from youngsters particularly women. “There are people who now say that if she can do this we can also pursue our choices. There have been women who texted me and said: ‘Thank you very much, now our parents also think that we can do whatever we like’,” she said.
So far only men had been seen performing ladishah.
“Ladishah was a male dominated genre but now a girl from Kashmir is coming forward which is a big thing. People are also appreciating that girls are now coming forward to even adopt Ladishah. We should encourage her,” said senior journalist Rajesh Raina.