Takhalus-Pen Name in Chitral

takhalus- pen name in chitral
pc: the Newyorker

Takhalus is one of the most fascinating aspects of literary culture in Chitral. Takhalus is formally a pen name that is used by poets to refer to themselves, but the case is different in Chitral. Growing up, almost everyone chooses a takhalus at one part of their lives to relate to themselves, even if they have never written a single poem. Many of the singers are known for their takhalus, like Shabab, Shadab, etc.

I find it interesting because in most cultures names are such an important part of one’s identity but you usually do not choose your own name. This Chitrali literary tradition lets people choose their own name based on how they emotionally see themselves, which is why one would see takhalus like Zakhmi, Shaad, Udas, Afzal, Shahid, Aasra, sehrai, dawai, shahab, Urfi, etc. and all of these words have some emotional attachment that one perceives self identity through. Often times takhalus adds rhyme or a lyrical addition to your real name as well.

In a world of super rigid and set identity politics, takhalus culture provides a break by bringing in emotional naming for oneself. Nevertheless, as a crucial (unfortunately) aspect of the social set-up in Chitral, caste systems make up a huge part of takhalus as well and that denotes a family affiliation, like Riza, laal, atalegh, hussaini, sangal, baba, etc.

These are also not official names but are added as a pride in the caste and family system. I would still prefer that we move towards a more literary tradition of takhalus and break down even the caste system through it like Gul Azam Khan had pointed out long ago that adam (humans) have no caste system. Nevertheless, keeping takhalus is a very intriguing social literary phenomenon that is unacknowledged yet it has roots spread out deep into Chitrali literary culture, making Chitral a fertile place for emotional expression through poetry or even just through takhalus… Imagine considering yourself as “sad” or “happy” or “confused”, “deserted” or “hurt” and celebrating such events that gave you this state of being.

Penname is obviously found in many other languages but is mostly limited to the writers only, while what makes it different for Chitral is its use without even writing anything- which in a way shows that writing is not the only way of expression. More power to the expression of emotions and feelings through different mediums, and these were my two cents on this international language day.

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