Sunday, January 8, 2012
Book Review: Fiction/Nativity Regained by Ashok Kaul, Palm Leaf Publications/2011, 356 pp; Rs295 (Paperback)
Autumns, normally leaves dual effects on mind. This season in Kashmir once used to be time of rejoice, that continuity broken in 1990, with the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits and subsequently the syncretism from valley. Never to forget, that was the culmination of incessant political follies directed towards the Kashmir which tolled the loss of very tolerant living native philosophy of Kashmiriyat from the region where once Lal Did and Nurrudin Rishi were reflexive of all humane convictions in collective lives. This work of fiction by Ashok Kaul, a genuine native of Kashmir narrates the lives of Kashmiris through the social angle that was mostly amiss in most of recent works written on similar themes. Woven through the authentic socio-cultural details, this book leads the debate on the retrieval of nativity, whose signs are already countering the adamant and irrelevant political gospels. At no point, assertion of Kashmiriyat, what this book generates as an enlighted crux will be going against the political accords happened since 1947, the only justifiable message is, how to retrieve the normalcy in Kashmir?
Beyond the repetitive theoretic exercises, every character of this novel speaks the language from ground. Consciously, it’s not a biographical sketch of author who resembles immensely with the central character, Bola. Like him, he was part of a broader India, started converging with the outside world, first as a student and later as an academic sociologist at another place of syncretism, Benaras. So, even before the houses of Kaul’s were forcibly locked and their dear Muslim brothers felt their world half lost under the dark canopy of long fetched conspiracies of rogue elements, Bola was a non resident of Bandipur but he was certainly not among the exiled/Sharnarthis till the outbreak of forced exodus in 1990, which in psyche had turned him too, to be like others fellow Pandits after that!
For a while, may be the sympathetic of surrealism will feel the void, but only unknowingly till they will start walking with the grim realities of this shadowy heaven. Introspection on the essence of Kashmiriyat is too deep here; it fleetingly went as early as to the time of Rajtarangani, Akbar’s colonisation of Kashmir but focus is unanimously to draw the points, how the harmony in collective lives was the essence of Kashmiriyat and how it started losing those specialties of universalism with the partition in 1947. Post partition, Kashmir was one among the many troubled royalties but not most shaky in any terms, few would have thought about the evolvement of this paradise as India’s weakness and centrepoint of notorious cold war politics!
Consolidation of a nation like India had to happen through the diverse maneuverings on endless impediments; then inclusion of independent royalties in India were the most crucial among many sighted challenges. Sardar Patel, as straight forward man had succeeded tirelessly in making India with an impressive geographical size, he made the idea of sovereignty completely a prerogative of this newly born nation. But alas, this man was neither a sage nor an immortal being; so he passed away when the complete inclusion of Kashmir was still in ideation state. That shrewd political executioner passed away, rest the lead on Kashmir was transferred to Nehru, who was by birth a Kashmiri but hardly a native in typical sense. He had pious ideas, which were broader in outlook but unfortunately, peoples with whom he had to deal with on Kashmir, were of virulent merits. Had he relied on the referendum or on hard action against the first attack of Pakistan in 1947, he could have easily escaped the unfortunate internationalization of Kashmir as dispute, impractical deals with Sheikh Abdullah’s in wrong times and most importantly the division of Kashmir that sabotaged the peace forever from these regions.
All political precedents and components behind it have captured well by the author with covert or overt representation through the forceful characters. The family of neighbour Hasan and Rashida, who remained indefiant from projected fundamentalism as consine keepers stands fine with the Kashmiriyat and draws the will of myriad fellow Muslims which scrimped the hope alive. Qadir, is another disillusioned Kashmiri who had allured and disenchanted with the conspiracies from outside of border; in later part of life his quest for reclaiming the peace and socio-cultural distinctness makes high senses for likely changes that is lying ahead. He is gunned downed by still faithful militants but there are chances of many such voices would be keep modulating in the valley, and on large scale.
Iqbal, subverted long back by the militants presents the cases of thousands similar youths, who had to be part of Jihad but without knowing its meaning or targets. They are in remorse for spoiling the traditional fabrics of Kashmir, now their search for native qualities in the rough patches of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir are the grim reminders of abject manipulation of their inner self. The affairs of reluctant fundamentalist turned a reformed man; Iqbal and Aisha, the daughter of a high official from POK exudes the superficiality of class differences. Aisha from the another side of Kashmir, Naseem and Rahul, the son of Mohan Ji and Babli, the childhood love of Bola gives the exact picture of new genre from Kashmir, who are relocated but still not lost completely from their cultural affiliation in valley. The overtures among these Kashmiris and Bola at far distant places of west strengthen the threads of cultural bond which for years were in doom. Such confluences of discreet parts from the single organism hold high promises. The two boxes with books, old articles, gathered with the native warmth depicts the entitlement very well, not surprisingly, if these priceless stuffs appears as most worthy preservance of nativity for exiled Pandits.
The remarkable is the finding of author that state is changing but not the social anatomy of Kashmir. His sentimental quest to supplement the vacuum created by the migration of Pandits is in no manner, a reproaching act. This work of fiction is closer to the real happenings in Kashmir, may be puritan will find it less imaginative but few could deny the streamlining of living expressions. Odds are still in action inside the Kashmir and its own peoples are the most vulnerable target. For Pakistan, Kashmir is an escaping route from its ruin state of affairs, for India, it’s the profound entity of its secular credential and for the local leadership, Kashmir is nothing more than a survival object. Puzzles are still there, so people must show the temptations of realignment with the Kashmiriyat and must continue their reliance on their nation, India. Still Shalimar is not “clown” for most of the Kashmiris and there is hope, curfewed nights will be over for a new dawn!
Atul Kumar Thakur
January 08, 2012, Sunday, New Delhi