Talib Kashmiri

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Book Reviews

‘Shanakht-e-Gul’ (Urdu short story collection) by Talib Kashmiri (original name Inder Krishen Koul), published by Urdu Book Society, Darya Ganj New Delhi. Pages 176)

(Koshur Samachar, New Delhi , Nov. 2009)

Talib Kashmiri has been writing short stories in Urdu and English for quite some time which appear in various national and state level magazines, newspapers etc. However, his short story collection in Urdu in the form of a book titled “ Shanakht-e-Gul ” (Literal meaning….Identity of a Flower) has come in market for the first time.

The Book comprises 21 stories(Including 4 of humor and satire) and 1 composition (known as Inshaiya in Urdu). The stories mostly relate to the travails and turbulences encountered by a common man in day to day life, be these emerging from his poverty, deprivation, exploitation by the strong for their vested interests or such evils in social and public life as communal hatred, religious bigotry, terrorism, corruption and misuse of power, blind belief in superstitions etc. The stories like Deewar, Qasoorwar, Khota Sikka, Aag, Kismat and Wheel Chair indicate writer’s tremendous potential to delve deep into the human psyche and other factors determining his relationships of love, affection, acceptance, sacrifice, abhorrence, animosity and the like, and a forceful pen to weave various kinds of happenings into an impressive plot of the story. When it comes to espousing the cause of the downtrodden, Talib emerges as a relentless crusader against those who take the poor for granted and uses his pen stronger than ever before to expose the nefarious designs of the powerful exploiters as amply demonstrated in his stories like Mukti, Chori, Taaqatwar, Aasoodgi and Aag. He is also deadly against using man-made social inequalities and economic disparities as an excuse to suppress the genuine aspirations generating from the divine sentiments of love, humanity, compassion and sympathy. Even the stories of humor and satire contain a strong but subtle message to its readers that good conduct is the basic essence of happy living. The book is written in a simple language and the author has avoided using bombastic expressions for the benefit of those who possess even the fundamental knowledge of Urdu and considered together with the preface and the introduction written by the two highly acclaimed authorities in Urdu viz. Sham Sunder Anand Lehar, Novelist cum short story writer and Prof. Zahoor-ul-Din, former Head of the Deptt Urdu, Jammu University, it can make a nice reading.
(Khalid Hussain)


‘SHANAKHT-E-GUL’
Mirroring harsh realities, dilemmas in life
(Kashmir Times, Jammu dt. Sep.12 and Sgr. dt.Oct 7, 2009)

Enrichment of Urdu language through different kinds of creative works like novel, short story, poetry etc. etc. has been a process going on for centuries and the Language particularly the field of novel and short story writing the later one popularly known as Afsaana Naweesi / Kahani Kari can boast of having been nourished by such literary stalwarts as Munshi Prem Chand, Krishen Chander, Saadat Hussain Mantoo, Rattan Lal Sarshaar, Asmat Chagtai, Rajinder Singh Bedi, Musharaf Alam Zauqi, Jeelani Bano, Iqbal Majid, Joginder Pal, Anwar Azeem, Balwant Singh, Qurrut-ul-Ain Haider, Showkat Siddiqui and many others. Strictly speaking, short story writing in Urdu in the sub-continent is the gift of Western literature during the later half of 19th century AD and it was Munshi Prem Chand who in the beginning of 20th century started adopting seriously the medium of short story writing as a dependable vehicle to communicate his feelings, experiments and observations concerning the problems and dilemmas in the life of common man particularly those in the countryside in a feudalistic society during the colonial rule. Since then short story writing in Urdu has passed through many eras and undergone constant change both in style and content. But one thing which is certain is that each such change has tried to reflect and represent the way of living, the pulse of the people, the manner of governance, the behavior of different sections of society within or outside etc. etc. as it existed in each such era.

However, since the eighth decade of 20th century a different kind of trend in short story writing is being witnessed which more or less points to the growing commercialism in literature and closing eyes to the stark realities of life, increasing needs and insurmountable problems of the man on the street, new kinds of challenges facing the society emerging from growing criminality, greed for wealth, lust of power and the like. Even whom we once called the brand of progressive writers which had started emerging in the second decade of the last millennium and dominated the literary field till seventies also felt neglected and thought it prudent to change with time and switch over their creative potentialities to more lucrative and greener pastures. It is perhaps for the first time in modern times that we are seeing a fiction writer in Urdu who makes a departure from such recent trends in literature and brings a man, the fundamental element of the society, before a mirror to look and to judge where the humanity stands now. The reference, no doubt, is to Talib Kashmiri and his recently released collection of Urdu short stories titled “SHANAKHT-E-GUL”.

The Book comprises 21 stories including 4 of homour and satire and one composition captioned ‘Shanakht-e-Gul’ which incidentally has also been selected as the title of the Book , an experiment perhaps being witnessed as a rare instance of its kind because most of the writers prefer to select the title of a short story book from amongst one of the stories included in it. Without engaging into a discussion as to the suitability of the title one must appreciate the candid and forthright statement made by the author in his introductory remarks the ‘ Harf-e-Aghaz ’ that……… “I personally love all these stories not that these have been written by my humble being but because right since the initial stages of writing the first story to the very end of the last one I have passed through strange kind of turbulences during which many a time I shed endless tears or laughed uncontrollably or talked to my own self or to the characters of my stories …….. appreciated them or admonished them……..hailed them or howled at them….........., but at the end taking pity on their state of helplessness forgave them all leaving it to the readers alone to decide whether to punish or pardon me for my excesses towards them.” Sh. Anand Lehar and Prof. Zahoor-ul-Din the two contemporary Urdu literary luminaries whose yeomen services to creative literature have been recognized worldwide have while penning down the preface and the foreword of the Book respectively, befittingly acclaimed the versatility of Talib Kashmiri’s writings not only in the choice of wide range of subjects but the masterly manner of weaving the plot of each story and then presenting the same in a very unique but impressive style. The language used is very simple and there is hardly any instance of the author having taken recourse to bombastic expressions because in his own words the stories written by him relate to common man …….say a cart puller, an auto rickshaw driver, a school teacher, a domestic help, an ailing housewife, a petty official, an ordinary laborer and so on and so forth……..who all are unaware of the linguistic complexities and mannerisms, mostly remaining concerned with making a daily square meal possible for their families and to realizing their dream of spending a peaceful night in sleep after a days’ hard toil. It becomes therefore imperative to relate the tales of such people in as simple and unpretentious language and manner as the life they are living in today’s complicated world, to make it understandable to them too. This is where Talib Kashmiri has succeeded beyond any doubt and through his various stories he has been able to convey the message of universal love, humanity, brotherhood, peaceful coexistence, non-violence etc loud and clear, to one and all. What Munshi Prem Chand did in his era Talib Kashmiri is doing so now, but of course in a changed political and social scenario. Through various stories he tries to maintain that colonialism and feudalism are gone, but colonial and feudalistic mentality still persists manifesting itself in political goondaism, communal and racial anarchism, economic exploitation and blackmail, subversion of democracy and democratically established institutions; nepotism, corruption and gross misuse of power by public servants , menace of terrorism and growing violence in the society etc. etc.

The story ‘Mukti’ (Salvation) the first story in the book is the pathetic tale of a poor vegetable vendor Manglu and his wife Mansi who are driven by extreme penury to commit suicide leaving behind their cradle age children. Other stories which speak volumes about the dejections and despondencies of the poverty ridden people who despite their truth and honesty become victims of exploitation or social stigmas or the objects of denigration in the society include ‘ Chori ’, ‘ Hasrat ’, ‘ Uljhan ’ and ‘ Asoodagi ’. Talib is not oblivious to the demands and aspirations of the society and is very keen for emergence of a positive change in the psyche of the people for the overall good of the mankind. For example in the story ‘ Qatil ’ he emphasizes the paramount need of donating blood to save precious human lives and in the stories ‘ Bey Khabar ’ and ‘ Wheel Chair ’ a sincere endeavour has been made to inculcate amongst people the sense of being helpful to the fellow human beings in general and to the needy ones in their neighborhood in particular. That Talib Kashmiri is a keen observer of the tensions, tenderness and travails of complex human relationships and not only understands the sensitivities of such relationships but also has the art to project these in the limited canvas of a short story is amply made clear in his stories titled ‘ Deewar ,’ ‘ Khota Sikka ’ and ‘ Khoon Ki Chot ’. While on one hand he eulogizes all those who are honest and forthright in their dealings with others, who are committed to and working for the uplift of the poor and the downtrodden or betterment of the society, on the other he spares no opportunity to assail in strongest terms those engaged in nefarious activities, be he a selfish politician (story ‘Aag’), a dishonest police officer (stories ‘Taaqatwar’ and ‘Chori’), a corrupt Forest officer (story ‘Qasoorwar’), a haughty businessman (stories ‘Deewar’ and ‘Asoodagi’), a plagiarist of literary material or an ordinary thief on a railway station (story ‘Nakami’) and the like. He attributes degradation of high values and ideals in the society to the gradual destruction of the system.

Talib Kashmiri’s writings indicate that he is a relentless crusader against nepotism and corruption in public life and terms these as cancers of the society. He is also deadly against the ever widening gulf between the rich and the poor. He outrightly rejects the philosophies of a person being exceedingly rich or desperately poor due to what is written in his or her Fate or any kind of reward or punishment of his actions in the past birth and unequivocally blames the perpetrators of such system for this malaise. Even the stories of homor and satire carry a direct or subtle but constructive and purposeful message to the reader.

All the stories in ‘Shanakht-e-Gul’ have been written in simple but impressive and dignified language. There is perhaps not a single instance of obscene or vulgar expression in the entire book and it really goes to the credit of Talib’s pen that even a crude or uncouth scene or situation has been described in a very decent manner without transgressing the fine line between propriety and impropriety.

 
 

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