Kashmiri Pandits' Association, Mumbai, India

Milchar

Lalla-Ded Educational and Welfare Trust

  Kashmiri Pandits' Association, Mumbai, India

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Milchar
May-June 2004 issue

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Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri

 

Book Review

BooK : tsók módúr
Author : M.K.Raina
Review By : Dr. B.K.Moza, Kolkata

It was a great pleasure and privilege to receive a copy of the book, ‘tsók módúr’, written by Shri M. K. Raina. The book is published by Expressions, Vasai Road, Thane and is priced Rs.50/-

Mr. M. K. Raina is an extra-ordinary activist in the movement for preserving Kashmiri Pandit cultural identity and is doing a yeoman’s service to community in many ways. He is the Coordinating Editor of the Milchar, the official organ of Kashmiri Pandit Association, Mumbai and is the pivot of the literary activities of the associated organization, Lal Ded Educational and Welfare Trust, having authored various publications brought out by this prestigious organization. Professionally he is a civil engineer, having also gained proficiency in Information technology. ‘tsók módúr’ is Mr. Raina’s maiden contribution in writing a short story book in Kashmiri language. He has worked hard in the propagation of Kashmiri language and has contributed towards the development of streamlined Devnagri script for the same and its computerization. This book in Kashmiri language, for obvious reasons, is presented in both streamlined Devanagari and also Indo-Roman scripts to enable wider readership.

For me, this book has a special connotation for various reasons; the main being that this is the first book I have read in Kashmiri, streamlined Devanagari script, this being the first book of Kashmiri short stories which has absorbed my interest very intensely. As a learner of its script, my involvement in reading this book could have been one of tiredness for obvious reasons of my being a novice to this script. But, contrarily my experience was different, discovering the beauty of our Kashmiri language and the nostalgia that is associated with it. Mr. Raina has masterly opened the vistas and focused on the inherent beauty of this language. He has picked, themes of every day social life of a Kashmiri and plotted the events so naturally as to touch the deep strings of every Kashmiri mind irrespective of religion, creed or caste. He has described the events with great detail and alacrity as a keen observer of Kashmiri thought, psyche and practice. By picking suitable words and expressions that are, on one hand, peculiarly akin to our mother tongue and on the other very special in pulling the inner chords of a Kashmiri mind, Mr. Raina has revealed himself as an artist of rare sensitivities and faculties. These expressions have a special meaning for a Kashmiri who has been brought up in a true Kashmiri culture, called Kashmiriyat, as was once upon a time the identity of Kashmiris.

This book comprises of six short stories each having a special theme, revealing, very natural plot and a specific message presented in a satirical manner. All the six stories are very relevant to social aspect of Kashmiri life, behavior and attitude, as applicable to the two communities that were, till decade and half ago, living side by side as Kashmiris over there. ‘havälihéth’, meaning satirically, responsibility, peculiar kinship or a sort of relationship, reveals a family drama of mother-in-law and two daughter-in-laws. It highlights the changing attitudes and expectations associated with dowry a daughter-in-law brings. But, in the long run, it is dedication and affection that proves triumphant, as a value, of a daughter-in-law rather than the dowry she brings or the halo she carries with her. The changing life styles after exodus, the torture of the old generation and their old values in a totally changed situation, caused by the internal displacement from Kashmir and the ingress of consequent new practices and attitudes, have been graphically described in this story. But, conclusive relief lies in the realization that simplicity, love and affection are the ever lasting tenets of a relationship. ‘bätúl’ is the title of the second story. It means a surprise trump, an unexpected resource or a peculiar turn in a game. This family drama brings out the curves and contours that develop with the ups and downs of a family and its part migration abroad in search of greener pastures and the aura they have on the social structure of a family existence. This story is the graphic revelation of two contemporary engineers, one living on moral values of service and the other comfortable with the changing corrupt practices. The family of the sincere engineer reaches the bottom of the miserable existence when he, on duty in Ladakh, suffers a fatal accident and his only son after some schooling turns into a self-willed vagabond. The other family, in contrast, rolls in wealth and the son and daughter do very well as students; the son is sent abroad to pursue medical studies in London and the daughter does her masters and gets happily married to a medical doctor. The daredevil nature of the vagabond son turns the scale of fortune as a trump card. He saves, at his own risk, the son of a rich Muslim contractor from drowning when the local urchins were having a swim in the nearby river. The contractor knew the background of this wreck less Hindu boy and his family and felt very indebted to them. He advises this boy to join his business, which the latter takes up with great initiative and sincerity. He turns, to his good luck, the business of the contractor to zenith and for this he is rewarded with becoming a partner of the business. The business flourishes and he becomes a very rich young man of the town. Once again his widow mother gains status in the society and lives a reasonably decent life with all comforts, cars etc. His mother finalizes an accomplished match for him and after long many years, calls on the other contemporary family, inviting them for participating in the marriage of her son. Surprisingly, the condition of the other family had apparently, in the meantime, turned miserable as their son had married, to their shock and ignorance, a medico at London and he had settled there in the house of in-laws, since they had no son. He had completely ignored his parents. The cycle of changing fortunes, loneliness and status in the society continues to move as a roller coaster, with steep ups and downs, which comprise the present day reality in a Kashmiri society.

In the third story, ‘dàrûhòr’, meaning divine give and take, another very common aspect is described. Adoption of a child has been a common practice in Kashmir. The situation at times used to take an unexpected murky shape when the parents used, as the chance would have it, their own child or children after having adopted some one else’s. In this story the same situation is beautifully plotted. The adopted and real sons come to know about the realties and behave differently. The real son goes abroad and in course of time marries there and practically settles there. The remaining son and daughter get educated locally and settle down happily but the sister suspects the adopted brother and this becomes a reason for their strained relations. After sometime the adopted son gets kidney failure for which he requires enormous funds which his wife cannot arrange and the sister is at dagger’s drawn on account of a property issue. The situation being very critical the uncle of his wife decides, as a last resort, approaching the strained brother abroad for funds.

He is provided with all the reports and final diagnosis and line of treatment arrived at by the local doctors. The adopted brother immediately seeks the opinion of the doctors abroad who fully endorse the suggested line of treatment proposed by the Indian doctors. He finds that his blood grouping also conforms to his suffering brother in Kashmir. He immediately leaves for Kashmir and reaches, to the surprise and astonishment of all, the hospital where his brother was critically sick. He is told that the donor would charge an enormous amount of money. But to their surprise he himself volunteers to donate his kidney and immediately offers his blood for transfusion to his brother, as his grouping was a matching one. He is reminded that this was not desirable since the advice of his wife abroad would be necessary. He puts off this argument and explains that he had strained relations with his foreign wife and did not require any consent from her. Cutting the story short, he donates the kidney which is appropriately transplanted on his brother and the latter recovers immediately for which the whole family feel indebted to this divine help from their brother, who for all intents and purposes was lost to the family. The surprise knows no bounds when one day they find some lady inquiring on telephone from the airport. The brother from abroad recognizes the voice and realizes, to his surprise, that his strained wife had also arrived Srinagar airport and was anxious to meet him and his relatives, it being that day his birthday also. The fourth story, ‘vatûkhùr’, describes very intricately, phenomena of urban and rural psyches and the curiosity of the rural folk as to how the things were beyond their rural boundaries. The innocence of the rural children is very nicely plotted against the cunning bragging of the urban folk. The train journey of an urban child posted in a village is described wonderfully; how he suspects everybody as a thief in the train and despite being very cautious he loses his trunk containing his belongings including the money he was carrying with him. He gets stranded at Delhi station for want of any money to commute to his destination in Chandni Chowk. To his astonishment he finds someone putting fifty rupees in his hand and quickly vanishing from the scene. This rural youth from Kashmir tries to follow him and finds to his surprise that it was the same person whom he had all along suspected as a thief throughout the journey and had kept him at a distance accordingly. Thereafter he manages to reach his destination and locate his contact in Chandni chowk. He starts working on the shop with great initiative and admirable contribution. Very shortly he becomes a partner in the whole enterprise and earns a lot of money. But, it was not destined to be. He feels sick of the total environment and does not want to continue his stay in Delhi. Despite all the care extended by his contacts in Chandni Chowk and promises of a wonderful career, he gets worse and actually gets very high fever. His father is contacted who urgently reaches Chandni Chowk and immediately inquires of his condition. After considerable fondling by the father he finally expresses his grief and feelings that he wants to go back to his village in Kashmir and this causes the turning point..

Faith in the predictions of some saintly persons and soothsayers has been a very common practice in Kashmir for both Muslims and Hindus. Particularly in Kashmiri women folk it was a common practice to look for such persons and call on them at the hour of troubles and difficulties. This aspect of Kashmiri life is being elucidated in the story entitled, ‘patsh’ meaning faith. The story revolves round a Hindu lady who had tremendous faith in the sooth saying and curing miracles of a saintly commoner who was working as a coolie in the town. Once it so happened that her husband had severe official problems caused by his wreck less chief who was recently transferred to his office. And he was on the verge of being suspended. His wife looks for this saintly soothsayer and explains to him her problems with tears in her eyes. The soothsayer consoles her and advises “ All will be well, nothing to worry about” The same day her husband returns home a happy man saying that his chief has been again transferred and that he was then quite secure in his office. Many years later her husband falls very sick and he is being shifted to the main hospital in Srinagar where he is being treated without any improvement. The doctors declare him hopeless and advise taking him to Delhi for further investigations. Such measure was not possible for them essentially for financial reasons. The condition of the patient becomes worse and her brother advises her to go to village and bring the minor son along with her from there so that the son is around the critically sick father. Accordingly she decides visiting her village and before taking the bus at the bus stand she sights a person of the known features as those of the soothsayer. Immediately and with great difficulty she traces him and tells him her present woes. She is consoled again by the saintly person, with the words, “All would be all right. Nothing to worry about” With this consolation she reaches her village and next day returns along with the son. She rushes to the hospital and finds all the relations crowded around her sick husband. Her first hunch was that the inevitable had happened and nervously she crept forward and discovered, to her astonishment, that her husband was just sitting taking a glass of milk. She learnt that the senior most consultant of the hospital had visited the patient and changed the medicine; the diagnosis made by his subordinates being not all right. The patient turned the corner and he was released from the hospital when he returns to his village hale and hearty.

In the sixth story, ‘nåsìhath’ meaning advice or a lesson, another aspect of Kashmiri life is dealt with. It is about students, their leadership roles, exams and sale of books after the exams and this subject is so beautifully presented that one is taken back to his good old days in Haba Kadal where I used to live. A group of class fellows wish to have an outing to Mughal gardens for which they required some money. They decide to sell their old books and in the process get into a racket of a suited booted person, Sahab, who, cutting the drama short, takes them for a ride and cheats them to the extent that they lose their books but get no compensation in hand. The story concludes with the lesson, “ let bygones be bygones, in future we should not trust a Sahab”

Stories are after all stories. Whether it is Salmon Rushdie, Arundati Roy or Jhumpa Lahari, the present day global icons of Indian origin, in English fiction writing, to make a short story interesting there has to be a sensational, even if exaggerated, plot but the message should reveal an ocean of thought filled with revealing words and sweet, sonorous language. This book of short stories is based on realities of Kashmiri life described in sweet and heart-warming Kashmiri language. It is too difficult to review such a thoughtful and thought provoking book of short stories in Kashmiri as ‘tsók módúr’. It suffices to say that this book of short stories is a great attempt at casting the various aspects of life in Kashmir as it existed once upon a time. Only after reading this book one gets the idea of its value as a remarkable literary piece, a must for every Kashmiri family, whether Hindu or Muslim. That it is a publication brought out after fifteen years of Kashmiri Pandit exodus from Kashmir and still hinging on the panorama of good old days’ scenario is a nostalgic preservation of our past memories literally as also historically. I am hopeful our linguists of Kashmiri curricula for teaching Kashmiri in schools will find some of the short stories appropriate for teaching courses

Mr. M. K. Raina deserves to be congratulated for this excellent contribution. We look forward to many more contributions from him in preserving the essence and ingredients of Kashmiri culture, literature and language.

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