But Hope Still flickers- and flickers bright
It is 2010. Oh! My good God- one decade of the twenty-first century has ticked away- I had never imagined that one full decade of the bright new century would run away so fast. I had sung many times, ‘time is fleeting- time is fleeting’ but never imagined it would brightld fleet so fast without changing my state of affairs.
Like millions others nestled in the bosom of mighty Himalayas at the turn of the century, I had many ‘mighty’ dreams not reveries – I had dreams that I very strongly believed would be translated into reality.
I had not dreamt of Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Nelson Mandela, Mao Zedong, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Mohan Das Karam Chand Gandhi or Ho Chi Minh rising from their graves and leading us to bring the century’s old uncertainty to an end. In the weird political situations of vested interests, perks and pays, I had not thought of having one leader of caliber who could rise to the occasion but I had dreamt of having an Edward Said, Franz Fanon, Diane Del, Robert Bel, Ghada Karim, Jean Paul Sartre or an Albert Camus on our side. In 2008, hopes brightened- like thousand others my hopes had brightened when I saw my many friends from the great Mogul city talking in the vein of Diana Del and Sartre but I had hardly realized that this hope was as ‘fugitive as dust’.
I am not a pessimist- our land is not totally intellectually barren but it equally has not been so far so fertile to have thrown up any Eqbal Ahmad or Noam Chomsky- to talk to the world. There is a plethora- calling themselves intellectuals, historiographers, scholars but in my skepticism I always prefer to put these high-flown words within inverted commas.
So far no directory of Kashmir writers has been published in our State but at an average four hundred poets and authors publish their works every year. I am not talking of the plagiarists- who are in habit of publishing voluminous books particularly on religious themes by ‘downloading’ from internet or Photostatting thesis of other scholars deep down in South of India but of genuine Kashmir writers and poets. As very rightly said by a Pakistani scholar Muhammad Reza Kazami in his introduction to book by Faiz Ahmed Faiz on Culture and Identity, ‘Poetry is most intimate cultural interest of masses, therefore, most fittingly, poets have come forward to define and interpret their cultures; Amir Khusrau for Medivel India; T.S. Eliot for the English speaking world and Faiz Ahmed Faiz for Pakistan”. I cannot dispute the assertions made but I am at cross roads- if there is a poet in the great galaxy of our poets who could be said is having lived up to that role.
In the year gone by many books were published in Kashmir. A local publisher brought out more than thirty five new titles in English in the market and equally reprinted plethora of old and extant books- a good work indeed. Scores of books in Urdu and Kashmiri were published by authors on their own. The books that caught my imagination in these two language were that of Zareef Ahmed Zareef, Ghulam Mohu-u-Din Reshi, Jan Muhammad Azad, Syed Yaqoob Dilkash and Shaban Qayoom and there have been lots of poetic collection that squeezed their way on the already bulging shelves of my collection of Kashmiri poetry. Of the six authors mentioned above three have brought short story collections, one collection of essays and another travelogue. Shabnam Qayoom has brought out his travelogue to Pakistan- that is brimful of despair and disappointments. Of the three short story writers Mohi-u-Din Reshi has made a mark with his debut collection and other two writers have published couple of their collections earlier also- in their own right all these writers are good but with limited reach. Some see streaks of Manto in Mohu-Din Reshi but the question that has been haunting my mind for all these years- if our writers could ever emerge as writers who would be heard – yes head at the global level. It is unfortunate that many of our gifted writers decay sitting in armchairs.
Mysticism is undoubtedly our creed- it is the creed of Kashmir that touched new heights after the advent of many a saints in this land- but should it be the sole engagement of our writers. To the long list of books on mysticism another book, “Kashmir Mystic Thoughts” by Ghulam Nabi Gowhar Published by Gulshan Publisher priced at 43.99 US Dollars was added just in December of the departed year. I am not here to comment on much drummed about argument of syncretism of religious philosophies as basis of Kashmir political and social identity that is the central theme of the book but I see it also as a good work- another work to be debated over.
I am not disappointed that we don’t have writers with commitment, dedication and an aptitude for research. I am convinced that you don’t need a “historiographer” an academician caught up in web of egocentricity for documenting history but commitment towards your people. My hopes brightened on Saturday when I saw the book written by a practicing medical professional, Dr. Nisar Ahmad Butt, a physician specialist from Tral. The book is titled as “Ayana-e-Tral” (Mirror of Tral ) – It has been published by a Non Governmental Organization (NGO), Akhlas Welfare Society, Tral, District Pulwama, Kashmir. The book has been brought out on glazed paper and priced at Rs.1500.00. It is spread over six hundred and forty three full-scale pages. The book by all standards is encyclopedic – a rare combination of written word and visuals, having hundreds of pictures perhaps first of its kind in Kashmir.
The author has dwelt in detail on the genesis of this saucer shaped valley girdled around by thick and dense forests. In writing history of the town he has made full use of both primary and secondary sources. In ancient times the area was known as Holdi. It was also known as Visyas. In detailing growth of this town to its present status the author has fully documented this chapter. The book contains all information about its geographical distribution such as latitude and longitude of the town. The author not only gives genesis of each and every age but has documented every detail from population to profession, livestock to lifestyle.
The author has very subtly documented the political history of the area by giving details about all the politicians that have played a role both local and state level. The book contains candid biographical sketches of all the political leaders who have represented the area in the state legislature and Parliament. It also carries biographical notes of all major voices of dissent from Hakim Ghulam Nabi to Asadullah Bhat of Dadasar.
At times it looks that the author in documenting history of his birth town is inspired by G.M.D. Sufi whose magnum opus “Kasheer” contains to reign supreme so far books on Kashmir history are concerned. The author very beautifully recorded cultural and literary history of the area. He has culled out names of some poets and writers from the debris of history who had failed to make to the history of Kashmiri literature. It is a people’s history- the author has profiled not only men of letters but also teachers who have earned a mark in the spread of education.
I see a blend of Hassan and Muhmmad Din Fauq in the author but at occasions I see him surpassing the both. He has not written about the saints, sufis and majzoobs of the area but he has fully documented all mosques, temple and religious places of Sikhs. Like Fauq he gives us details about every tribe, family and social castes in the locality.
It is a more than a tourist guide, the book not only explores scenic spots of the area that have the potential of emerging as great tourist spots but also talks about the natural resources more particularly the medicinal plants the area abounds in. The author has travelled more than one thousand kilometers and documented the area- where I feel the book is deficient is that the author has not seized the opportunity to document the truthful history of past twenty three year- perhaps the fear to continues to lurk in the minds of our writers that has prevented him to do it.
The book in a way has taken me out of desert of despondency and rekindled hope in me that one day our writers will emerge as voices that would have global audience like all great writers.
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