Arjan Dev Majboor

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Panun Kashmir

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Majboor as a Short Story Writer

By Dr. Romesh Kumar

Focus on Majboor as a poet has led the literary critics overlook his contributions as a serious short story writer. In his early literary career Mabjoor's twenty short stories were published in "Jyoti", an Urdu monthly edited by Late Ganga Dhar Dehati. These stories received good appreciation. His Koleh Guran (small fish of a stream) was widely acclaimed.

'Kolehwaan' (cleansing the stream for paddy sowing) and 'Sona Wuddar' (Golden Karewa) were published in Kwong-Posh, a literary journal brought out by Cultural Congress in early 1950s. 'Kolehwaan' focused on the hard life of a peasant in village. Rahim is the protagonist in the story. 'Sonawudar' is based on the description of beauty of nature. Due to displacement and subsequent burning of his house his books and papers too were destroyed. Majboor does not have today even a copy of his short stories written for 'Jyoti' and 'Kwong-Posh'.

Despite his success in the art of short story writing Majboor switched over to poetry and prose-writing. When asked about this shift Majboor frankly admits: "I myself don't know why I left writing short story".

Exile brings out the best in a writer. There is strong motivation, an urge to communicate exile and its different facets - to satisfy the inner pangs and also to create a movement for reversal of exile. This makes a writer try varied genres of literature to bring out his feelings. After having bid goodbye to short story writing four decades back, Majboor started experimenting with short story again to weave real life incidents during the past 17 years of displacement into literature. His stories which treat exile as its theme include-'Gashe Zech'; (a ray of light), 'Haras-ti-Korun Wandeh' (The Ashad (May/June) month too has turned into Winter), 'Tri-Buj' (Triangle), 'Gatakhar' (The Storm) etc. Some of these stories have been translated into Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Hindi. 'Gashe Zech' (A Ray of Light).

Originally, this story was written in Kashmiri. Its Hindi version, translated by the author himself, was published in 'Samkalin Bhartiya'. An incident which involved a cop and took place in Bijbehara has been fictionalised in this story. The cop Som Nath who had stayed back in 1990 alongwith his family is kidnapped by militants. He is kept hostage in a cowshed and is brought daily to the Kangaroo court of militants to confess a 'crime' he never committed. He is asked to accept the charge that he was a 'Mukhbir' (an informer for the government). Som Nath refuses to endorse the lie. He is abused, thrashed, his body is tortured with burning cigarette butts. The cop after undergoing this torture experiences hallucinations of more brutal torture being  in store for him before he would be finally eliminated.

An old Muslim lady in whose house Som Nath was kept captive and tortured, used to serve him food in morning and evening. As torture increases Som Nath narrates his tale of woe to the old lady. He tells her that in case he was unable to reach home, his family - wife and two sons would not able to withstand the bad news. The lady is moved by his condition, his feelings and innocence. She is convinced that the cop is being held captive for no reason. The lady has a way out for his freedom. She tells him that during the day, when the militants would be out she would prepare 'Tehar' (Turmeric laced rice) and call neighbourhood children to the compound to receive 'Tabruk'. This would give enough time to Som Nath to break the rear window of the house and flee. The cop accepts her suggestion and jumps to freedom. He reaches the police station, where he is posted. He takes a van, collects his family and reaches Jammu.

Hars Tih Korun Wandeh:

This story is based on an incident supposed to have taken place during rapacious Pathan rule. Jabbar Khan was Governor of Kashmir and quite intolerant to Kashmiri Pandits. One year he forebade Pandits to celebrate Shivratri on the due date in winter. Snowfall used to take place on the day of Shivratri, this phenomenon was considered auspicious. That year Pandits celebrated Shivratri in Har (Jun/July). It snowed on that day. Kashmiri people reacted by saying, "Wuchtone Yi Jabbar Jandeh, Haras Tih Korun Wandeh' (See the wretched Jabbar. Even the hot summer has turned into cold winter).

The author has used this metaphor to convey the plight of a displaced old Pandit lady in Jammu who gets psychologically fixated to Kashmir winter. The story was originally published in Kashmiri in Sheeraza. It runs like this -

A young lady visits her close relation, who has recently migrated from Kashmir. It is month of June. The displaced old lady is sick and confined to bed. Her daughter-in-law offers her a glass of cold water. The old lady reacts hysterically, "Oh! Have you gone mad? You are offering me cold water when it is snowing outside". Though she is in Jammu, yet she is fixated to winter season when she left Kashmir.

The old lady travels back in time and narrates events about her marriage and other incidents when she was young. She asks her daughter-in-law to go up the 2nd storey to fetch her white woollen pheron so that she could beat the cold. Then she experiences an auditory hallucination in which a fisherman appears. The old lady asks her daughter-in-law to call him for purchasing fish against a big bag of paddy. The lady also experiences desire to prepare fish herself. The daughter-in-law is asked to fetch wood from the third storey of the house. The old lady's reaction to the noise of matadors moving outside is: 'Why these buses are coming close to our house though it is one km. away from the main road'.

Meanwhile, her son enters the room. She tells him," Oh! You must be tired walking 10 kms distance from your school in the snowfall. You dust off snow from your blanket". The lady orders the daughter-in-law to prepare for him maize bread and salt tea.

The son feels sad not on account of her psychological condition but on his inability to find out an alternate rented accommodation. The landlord had already sounded him that since his mother was on death bed he could not allow the relations of the rented family to mourn in case of old lady's death.

'Gatakar' (The Storm).

This story is based on an event which is supposed to have taken place in Litter Village, 5 kms from Zainapora (author's village). The story, originally written in Kashmiri, has been translated into Hindi and Telugu. The writer has tried to correlate a routine event in the daily life of Kashmiri Pandits with actual displacement. The forced displacement is described as Gatrakar, the storm.

A fisherman Aziz used to visit on eve of Shivratri a village inhabited by Pandits. Since cooking of fish is part of Reet (Customary ritual) on Shivratri, due to heavy demand the Pandits would remain unsure whether they would be able to get fish. Aziz tells a customer that since he was his permanent customer he would ensure at any cost to make fish available to him on the occasion. However, he fails to turn up. The customer subsequently comes to know from a Pandit shopkeeper in the nearby village that Aziz was dead. The fisherman had failed to get a good catch due to snowfall. With his catch of one kg he purchased salt, tea and tobacco from the Pandit shopkeeper and left for his village in the evening. His village was perched on a hill. The fisherman had to cover a distance of 5 kms over snow to reach his village. When he reaches the Karewa the snowfall turns heavy darkness also sets in. Aziz loses his way. He gets worried how his four unmarried daughters would take the news if something bad happened to him. The fisherman lands in a pyritherium Farm covered with a blanket of snow. He is numb with cold and leans against a mulberry tree. The following morning snowfall stops and gradually the sun comes out. The villagers find Aziz dead. The sad news is conveyed to his daughters.

Some days later the situation in Kashmir starts deteriorating for the worse. The author seems to convey that the storm which consumed Aziz had symbolism attached to it. It was first time the Pandits could not get fish on the day of Shivratri. It was an indication that stormy days were ahead for Pandits. The news about selective killings of Pandits in city reaches villages also. The exodus begins.

'Tri-Buj' (Triangle)

This  story originally written in Hindi is based on authorís personal experience. During the early years of displacement Majboor lived in Udhampur. He used to go for strolls on the main Jammu-Srinagar National Highway. He would feel happy and nostalgic on seeing buses coming from Srinagar. The story revolves round a Pandit refugee, living in Battal Ballian refugee camp at Udhampur. The refugee belongs to Zainapora (Majboor's village) in Kashmir. He has come to the town, Udhampur and is standing at a point where three roads lead to Srinagar, Jammu and Udhampur (Tribuj). When his eyes turn towards the road leading to Kashmir he in his fancy reaches his village Zainapur. The day is Navreh amavasya. A fair was on in the village. The sweetsellers, the toy sellers and others had thronged to the village to sell their goods. The village ladies - Hindus and Muslims had been buying bangles, Kajal, cosmetics etc. The Battal Ballian refugee is pained to see his burnt house. He narrates to the guests, relations and the family the history of Varanag spring, connected with fair. Suddenly, the noise of a truck distracts his attention. He feels remorse and recalls how displacement has disintegrated his whole clan. The Pandit refugee is lost in his thoughts. He thinks about Zainapur, his relations, the ravages of displacement etc. As evening approaches, he feels it was time to reach the camp. He had come to the town to fetch medicines for his wife. When he puts his hand in the pocket there is just one rupee, the ten rupees had got misplaced somewhere. Feeling quite hungry one rupee would not help him to buy even a cup of tea, what to talk of medicines. It is 8 PM. He catches the last matador for Battal Ballian.

'So Booney' (The Chinar):

Originally written in Kashmiri and published in Sheeraza the story is set in Bijbehara. It has recently been translated into english by Sh. Upinder Ambardar.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

           

 

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