Table of Contents
   Index
   About the Author
   Preface
   Foreword
   Part I: Growing Up
   Part II: Householder
   Part III: More Travels
   Part IV: Reflections
   Family Pictures
   Comments from Critics
   Download Book

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Foreword

It gives me great pleasure to say a few words about this remarkable autobiography created by a very distinguished scientist and humanist, Shri Ram Nath Kak, who has lived through some of the most momentous events in the history of Kashmir, no less than in the history of India, in the twentieth century.

 As I read through this manuscript, a question gradually took shape in my mind: how do we locate memoirs and autobiographies within creative literature as a whole? I am not a literary critic and therefore, I can offer no formal answer to this question. Yet I have no doubt that memoirs, if sensitively created, rate very high in the scale of creative writing. For this mode of literary creation not only provides a glimpse of the inner psyche of the person, it also portrays the 'context', or the 'times', in which an individual pursues his life. Shri Kak's memoir meets all the requirements of a truly distinguished autobiographical piece. It has the additional advantage of having been penned with a poignant sensitivity that captures and constructs the past - no less than the viewpoint of the participant observer - with a faithfulness of extraordinary quality.

 Autumn Leaves, as Shri Kak calls his reminiscences, portray with rare elegance the culture of Kashmir and the manner in which sensitive minds located in this beautiful valley interacted over the centuries with creative men in India, on the one hand, and Central Asia, on the other. In the course of this portrayal the composite character of popular religion in Kashmir is sketched with rare grace and understanding. Against the backdrop of a remarkably integrated culture, Shri Kak delineates his life as a growing child in a Pandit household, characterized by intensely close bonding between generations, no less than within generations. Through such a portrayal, he captures the strength of the family as the basic unit of Kashmiri society, which gives great resilience to the individual, no less than to the wider community.

 The core of Autumn Leaves is concerned with the professional career of Shri Kak as a distinguished scientist, on the one hand; and the love and affection with which he nurtured his family, in close interaction with the larger kinship community, on the other. This part of the memoir spells out a remarkable success story so far as the Kak household is concerned; but even more telling than material success is the affection and concern which tie different members of the family to each other.

 In the concluding sections of the memoir, Shri Kak dwells upon the exterior world in which his life work was located as a Kashmiri and a citizen of India. We see through his eyes the growing politicization of Kashmir prior to 1947; as we also perceive the tragic handling of politics in the state by the Delhi authorities after it had been drawn into the Indian Union. There is much here that would be of interest to those who are reflecting on the Kashmir problem today as well as to those who are responsible for fashioning the destiny of Kashmir.

 I trust this autobiography will get the wide circulation it so richly deserves. For it conveys in a way no formal work of scholarship can convey, both the cultural quality of Kashmir and the tragedy which has overtaken it of late. Yet the spirit of the Kashmiri people and their extraordinary ability to refashion lives of dignity and creativity for themselves comes across even more powerfully than the tragedy which has overtaken this beautiful valley in Shri Kak's account of his life and times.

RAVINDER KUMAR
Teen Murti House
New Delhi

Autumn Leaves

 

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