Infinite Riches in a Little Room
author of the volume under review, Prof. Arvind Gigoo, has made a gentle impact as a talented
writer during the past decade or so--through his competent English translations
of some select Kashmiri verse (drawn from the works of a few noted poets) and
also through his own poetic compositions published in several leading journals
of the country. At present he is working on a project related to the critical
evaluation of Kashmiri short fiction.
the publication of the book titled The Ugly Kashmiri (Cameos in
exile), which I view as a tour de force, the author has emerged as a
forceful and persuasive writer, in fact a fine literary artist in the making. He
deserves a word of praise for his technical accomplishment: the literary feat
that he has performed in conveying what he wants to say about the Kashmir
imbroglio and the resultant turmoil in the Valley through the short pieces of
writing he calls 'cameos'. The technique he has adopted speaks of his
originality, that has suddenly made him into an innovative writer. That he is
deeply and widely read, aware of the great masters of irony, satire and wit from
among the British and continental writers (both classical and modern), becomes
immediately evident to the perceptive reader. The thoughtfully chosen title of
the book (which, I am afraid, could mislead or alienate some readers) and the
sprinkling of apt quotations on the two fly leaves of the book bear testimony to
the author's scholarship and sensitiveness as a writer. The 180 'cameos' if
clustered together, would have just made up a small booklet, but in terms of
their desntiy of content - each cameo packed with different shades of meaning -
they speak volumes. As a chronicler of events and a critic of the
socio-political scene he is concerned with, the author is outstanding in his
craft. His acute observations on the various dimensions of the Kashmir problem
are very revealing, making the reader reflect and introspect if he is a Kashmiri
in "exile"; those not displaced from the Valley I believe, will also look
'within' if they go through the 'cameos'. These terse pieces remind me of the
Jew of Malta's "infinite riches in a title" - the phrase Marlowe employs in his
play to describe the protagonist's fabulous wealth stored in his room.
Gigoo has a mind of his own - a fact that is pervasively reflected in the
'cameos'. He has naturally acquired an English prose style of his own too,
evident from his excellent preface to the work in question. It is a fine piece
of prose, crisp and immaculate. The author lays bare his heart, conveying his
anger, anguish and disillusionment over the events that took place in Jammu and
with the outbreak of militancy in the Valley, and over the inevitable exodus of
the Pandits. A discerning reader can see that he is unbiased in that he doesn't
blame any section of the inhabitants of the Valley outright, Hindus or Muslims.
At this point I should like to quote these lines from the author's preface:
never had any political commitment and religious conviction. I go on changing my
opinions. I dangle between an idea and its opposite. I am sure about my doubts,
vacillations and uncertainties. I have no answers and solutions to offer".
last two lines of the excerpt from the 'preface' quoted above remind me of what
the English poet John Keats has said about the 'negative capability' of
Shakespeare as a dramatist, through which he had achieved self-effacement in his
works. Keats defines the quality of self-effacement as "--the ability to remain
in uncertainties and doubts without any irritable reaching after facts". To my
mind - I have no hesitation in saying so - the author has largely succeeded in
achieving self-effacement through the 'cameos' he has hit upon. He is
'invisible' throughout - an 'outsider'.
the 'cameos' the author points his finger at what ails the collective psyche of
the Kashmiris as a whole. He has no malice or ill-will against anyone and has no
axe to grind in painting the Kashmiris 'ugly'. He feels rooted in the Valley;
hence his anguish and disgust. He targets everything unpleasant and doesn't
spare himself in the last 'cameos'. As a neutral omniscient observer, he uses
the 'cameos' as a medium for unburdening his heavy heart - the mental agony and
suffering he has experienced in the Valley and later as a 'migrant' in Jammu. He
is brutally frank too in conveying bitter and unpalatable things. While he
points his finger at what pains and annoys him, he provides the healing touch of
the physician too - in making the Kashmiri reader, Muslim or Pandit, to think
hard and to introspect why things have gone wrong and how they could be
of the 'cameos' the author targets the Central Government for having bungled the
issue right from the start. The reader doesn't find it difficult to identify the
eminent personalities-political leaders and rulers-on whom aspersions are cast
in this regard. As an imaginative writer, he makes statements (in the 'cameos')
involving the interplay of wit and humour, irony and sarcasm, or paradoxes,
ambiguities, innuendos, playing on words and the oblique manner of the English
Metaphysicals to achieve his effects. Though the common reader can catch the
general drift of the 'cameos', at many places he or she may get bogged down too
- some 'cameos' seem nerve-racking as puzzles. The author will do well to
provide helpful notes and clues in the form of an 'appendix' to the book.
specimens of the 'cameos' are given below to give the reader (of the present
review) and idea of how the author employs them as his instruments:
am; I am not still.
author probably has a displaced Pandit in his mind)
we stand; united we fall.
(Applies again to the Pandits)
are your demands?"
money and independence from you".
seems an aspersion on those Kashmiris who talk of freedom)
man saw "a ray of hope;"
lieutenant said "those unfortunate people"; the bald bachelor felt the 'ground
old man can easily be identified as Mahatma Gandhi and his lieutenant as
Nehru. Sardar Patel
be the third man who "felt the ground slippery")
wasn't a bachelor.
dreamer closed his eyes when
lion was caged; his daughter
hers when the cub roared;
young grandson played
The dreamer is Nehru and
grandson Rajiv Gandhi.
'lion' and the 'cub' can easily be figured out).
the whole populace is on the road"
sir, it is the beginning of a farewell"
This obviously concerns
Jagmohan's second term as J&K Governor)
my own ancestor".
(Probably reference to earlier migrations in history)
you in Panun Kashmir".
(Kashmiri Pandits' disillusionment with the movement)
congratulate the author heartily on his brilliant success in producing something
that is original and novel. However, in view of its novelty and the inherent
difficulties of a number of 'cameos', the book may not find favour with all
book is welcome in view of its rich content. I must compliment the Allied
on having brought out a shapely volume with an attractive get-up.
cover-design by the author himself is another feather in his cap.