Poetry in blood: Akmal Lewaney discusses how he started poetry despite being illiterate

By Muhammad Shahid

PESHAWAR: At the age of 16, Akmal used to approach educated men with a request to write what rhymes would come to his mind because he himself could not read and write. However, some of his helpers would laugh and be surprised by his poetry despite the fact that he had not even gone to a school.

“They would sometimes tell me that ‘you are mad, all the time your mind produces rhymes’. This later prompted me to choose ‘Lewaney’ (mad) as my alias (poetic name),” states AkmalLewaney, a known poet of Pashto hailing from Katlang area of Mardan district.

Akmal started poetry at the age of 16 and his first book titled “Yau Su Guloona” (a few flowers) was published when he was 18 years old. Later, his several other books also came out.

However, because he had not gone to school, he later decided to write how to write and read, for which he took admission and passed two classes, first and second. “After passing the second class, I became able to write and read Pashto and Urdu languages. After that I started writing my poetry myself,” the poet told Pukhtun Nama.

His poetry books include Yau SU Guloona (a few flowers), Tortam (darkness), Ajeeba Paigham (a strange message), Chapawuna, Lewantob (madness).

He claims that he is a poetry by birth and he came to know about his poetry at the age of 10.

Akmal however, suffered a mishap when in the year 1991, he fell down while working at a mountain in rural Mardan district. “I used to fetch twigs and fodder for cattle from a nearby mountain. One day, I fell down while carrying the load and this accident later confined me to this wheelchair,” he added.

He says that at first an acquaintance advised him to visit the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar for treatment. “A doctor prescribed me medicines and after using medicines for some time, I went to a hospital in Islamabad where a surgeon advised me surgery.” He added.

Narrating his ordeals that he suffered due to his illness, he said that before surgery, he used to walk with the support of a stick. “Later, when I found that stick is no more of any help, I started using a stand for walking. But a time came when even the stand was not helpful, compelling me to begin using a wheelchair for movement due to complete inability to stand myself,” he added.

Akmal has a son and grandchildren. His source of income is his son, a class-IV employee, who looks after his own family and parents. In addition, he receives a small stipend from Pakistan Academy of Letters, Islamabad but he says that amount is too little to manage his household expenses, although he appreciated the Academy for the stipends it gives to the deserving literati.

He said that for his medical treatment, he faced problems because of lack of resources. However, he said that recently he even sold all copies of his books, which earned him some money that he used on his treatment and other expenses.

It merits a mention here that the relevant government authorities and other organizations need to support figures like AkmalLewaney as such people have no other source of income but their whole investment is the books that they have authored and their time and energy is spent on works of literature. The relevant authorities must think of ways to financially assist the deserving literati with the aim of promoting and encouraging literature and scholarly works.

Muhammad Shahid is a journalist based in Peshawar, Pakistan. He tweets: @peoplefriendly