That was the beginning of his long love affair with the language, which he described in his 1966 poem “Hymn to a Language”:
O Kashmiri language!
I swear by you,
you are my awareness,
my vision too the radiant ray of my perception
the whirling violin of my conscience!
He also promoted Kashmiri in more concrete ways. He was one of the biggest supporters of a campaign to restore the language to schools, an effort that finally succeeded in 2000. He helped recruit teachers and scholars to teach Kashmiri and created a course to teach it to children.
More recently, his poems addressed the despair of the Kashmiri people living at the heart of a bitter and longstanding dispute between India and Pakistan.
One untitled poem reads:
It may not be possible to speak, what can we do?
It may not be possible to bear burdens of the heart, what can we do?
The flower may refuse to blossom but does it have the right?
There is a fire burning in its bosom, what can we do?
Rehman Rahi was born Abdul Rehman Mir on May 6, 1925, into a poor Muslim family in the Wazpora area of the city of Srinagar.
His father, Ghulam Muhammad Mir, a day laborer, died when Rehman was 14; his mother, Rahat Begum, was a homemaker. After the death of his father, he was raised by a maternal uncle.
Rehman studied Persian at Sri Pratap College and English at Kashmir University, both in Srinagar, earning a master’s degree in each language. He started writing while in college, adopting the pen name Rehman Rahi.
He worked briefly as a clerk in the department of Public Works, earning just a few cents a month and sometimes traveling dozens of miles to northern Kashmir for his job.
He then joined a regional Urdu-language newspaper, Khidmat, as an opinion writer. In 1947, the Indian subcontinent was partitioned into India and Pakistan, leading to widespread violence between Muslims and Hindus and cleaving what had been the princely state of Kashmir.