Sunday, July 29, 2012

Fed up with non-sense.

The only adjective that comes to my mind after this post and the comments that followed is: sad! It seems history hasn't taught us our lessons well. Beginning from the 16th century when the spring blossoms of our virtuous valley fell for the first time to Mughal lustre; to the ensuing shia-sunni feuds that lasted for centuries, inviting one tyrannical regime to the other through the now much hyped Mughal road via Shupiyan, our history has failed to teach us. A certain Kanth and Dedamari invited the Afghans in 18th century to fight the mughals, only to see years later Birbal Dhar fleeing to Punjab and inviting the furious wrath of Ranbir Singh upon us. We still had not learned our lessons. With a century to boot, the eldest and the ab-orginal Abdulla in one master stroke of treachery shook hands with Bharat Mata- the Mata is teaching us lessons as we deliberate here, yet the lessons have fallen deaf.

Though it is innocuous to draw magnanimous inferences from what the narrow alleys of Srinagar think about Azadi or what the incense smoke of autumn'y hinterland infers along its drift, through KSN, yet we cannot ignore such developments. In fact it represents the chaos which beseeches us in our own liberation. Sadly!

The above para I wrote as a reply to constant Koshur bickering on one of the facebook pages.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Shyam Benegal's Trilogy- Ankur, Nishant and Manthan.

When you talk about trilogy the great Satyajit Ray's AppuTrilogy immediately comes to one's mind, and honestly till recently it was the only one I knew ever existed. Till of course I chanced upon Shyam Benegal's Ankur (1973). 

Essentially these three movies depicted the feudal system in post and pre Independent India. In Ankur the oppressed peasants wife who is left to fend for by her tormenter, in Nishant the prying feudal sons of  the Zamindar run their own justice system and in Manthan the village empowerment against the wishes of their feudal lord. Shyam Benegal's stress on detailing and strong social outburst is evident in all of them. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Mahmud Gami-


Goor Goor Karyo
Kan kay dooro

Lael chay khael mael
hatte hen zooro

Ratik abrik subehik nooro
grazlan keh chuye noore zahooro

Chinma chin'ik shahe phagphooro
saraan vayee kinni santooro

Mahmood Gami gokh mashhooro
Sham gache nav gaan cha kinni Dooru(O)

Mahmud Gami (1765-1855) born in Dooru Shahabad Anantnag was an ingenious poet who brought the Persian masnavi into Kashmiri literature, evident in his works- for they range from romance to devotion to mysticism. It is largely due to this  versatality that Mahmud Gami is held in high esteem in the annals of Kashmiri literature.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Mahjoor- Wordsworth Of Kashmir

                                       Gar wuznaawhakh basti gulan hunz traav zeerobam
                                       bunyul kar vaav kar gagraay kar toofan paida kar

Born in 1885 in Metragam- a quaint village in the boondocks of  the  historically famous Pulvum, Ghulam Ahmad "Mahjoors" poems instilled nationalistic fervor in the submissive and oppressed lot of Kashmiris. Called as the 'Wordsworth' of Kashmiri poetry by Tagore, Mahjoor renewed the folklare and lol premissive in the Kashmiri poetry, which through centuries had been overshadowed by the Persian influence. It remains to Mahjoor's credit for reviving and making accesible the poems, which largely spoke -misery  and tyranny of the peasant lot in the early 20th century Kashmir. After finishing with his elementary education in Kashmir, Mahjoor travelled to Punjab, where he came in touch with many poets. He returned to Kashmir in 1908 and began writing poems; for now mostly in persian and urdu. His first Kashmiri poem he wrote in 1918, and instantly gave him popularity.

Working as a Patwari, 'land record maintainer in erstwhile Kashmir', gave Mahjoor an oppurtunity to closely get across to the plight of poor peasants. Their abject helplessness against the despotic coersive rule of the Dogras gave rise to my tempous poems of the poet. It is said one crisp autumn day when chinars had began turning into crimson-red and lean Poplars blushed pirouetting in their leaves, Mahjoor travelled to far-off rural woods of Pir Panjal mountains. People of the times re-count that fearful winds lashed across the vale that day- the stoutest held their breath. Seeing the dismal state of his men, ignited the tune of fresh pipe in his pen. Thus he wrote,

Wala ho Bhagwano
Nav bahaaruk shaan paida kar
Pholun Gul gath karan Bulbul
tithee samaan paida kar

Chaman varaan, wadaan shabnum
Tchatith jamay, pareshaan gul
Gulan tay bul gulan andar, dubaray jaan paida kar.

Gar wuznaawhakh basti gulan hunz traav zeerobam
bunyul kar vaav kar gagraay kar toofan paida kar


Wale vasiye gachovay aabas
duniya chhu nendre khaabas 
pyaraan chasiyo jawabas
walo myane poshei madano
chulhama roshey walo myane poshei madno

Yikh na haale dil bapay
Dodmutt sinee hav havayy
Tele yekhaaa yele ha be ravayy
Walo myene poshay madno

Wale vasiye gachevey heyay'y
Yus maare sou kateo yee yaa
Gajisay channe ziyiiy
Walo myene poshay madno

Balle paithe laa yay nadoo
Path phearr haa shahzado
Mav chal, god paal waado
Walo myene poshay madno

Mahjoor veyn dewaan yaaras
Bewafa bazee garas
Dapitos koteh kaal praras
Walo myene poshei madno

Masa kar zulfan vashay
Walo achhe gashe

Chronology- Rulers Of Kashmir

Rajatarangni- written in 1148-1150 AD

Earliest record is from great buddhist ruler Ashoka- founder of srinagar city which contained 9,600,000 homes. Probably this place is same as Puranadhisthana or ancient capital, present day Pandrethan.

Between first century A.D and 500 AD were mainly 3 Kushan rulers- Hushka, Jushka, Kanishka. Kanishka is said to have summoned the third Budhhist council in Kashmir, according to Hieun Tsang.

Mihirakula- 551- 550- cruel and slaughterer. Hastivanj episode in his times at Pir Panjal pass. Gopaditya founded the Takht-i-suleiman.Till then known as Gopadiri.

Pravarasena II founded Pravarasenapura, present day Srinagar. Malkha is supposed to have remains of this city.

i) Lalitaditya ( A.D 700-736). Founder of Parihaspura.

ii) Jayapida ( 750- 800 A.D). Founder of Jayapura. Present day village Anderkot, near Sumbal.

iii) Avantivarman ( A.D 855-883), founder of Avantipura. Suyya was a great engineering in his times, after whom the Sopore town or Suyyapura is named.

iv) Shankavarman ( 883- 902). Founded Shankarapura, present day Pattan.

Lalitaditya, Jayapida, Avantivarman and Shankavarman belong to Karkota Dynasty (625-1003 AD)

Lohar Dynasty started from 949 A.D. King Harsha ( 1089- 1101 A.D)

At the beginning of 14th century- Reinchan Shah and Shah Mir changed the character of reigning dynasty to Muslims. Reinchan Shah was from Tibet and Shah Mir from Swat.Reinchan killed then king, Sinha Dev and his deputy Ram Chandran. He was a Buddhist. Reverted to Islam, later, and named himself Sadr-ud-din. Shah Mir became king in 1346 A.D.

At end of 14 century a ruler comes Sikander, also called But-shikan (idol breaker). His son was Zain-ul-abidin 'Budshah'.

Excerpts: Kashmir An Historical Perspective by James P Ferguson

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Nishat Bagh- James P. Ferguson

Nishat Bagh, or the garden of Gladness, is the most easily reached from Srinagar, and a shikararide through the lotus blossoms of the Dal Lake and underneath the high-arched bridge of the Satu causeway, brings one to the landing-place just outside the small entrances set in the gardens imposing wall. Nishat has ten terraces some of which are of considerable elevation. It was constructed by Asaf Jah, the brother of Jehangir's queen, and a person who because of this connection, suppported by his intrinsic ability, rose to a position of great influence in the royal court. Nishat is the best preserved of the gardens, and its immense chenars and-in proportion- its immense tulips, are its noteworthy features.From its commanding position it has a splendid view across the lake, and in summer one can see throughout the day a continous stream of shikaras converging on it.

Nishat originally stretched down to the lake, and to appreciate its origibal splendor, it has to be remembered that its lawns terminated in the clear waters of the Dal. But modern times have demanded, reasonably enough, the construction of a good road to link up the northern side of the Dal Lake with the capital. Across the proposed route of the road stretched the great length of the Nishat Bagh. To circumvent the garden would have meant an awkward and arduous detour round the hillside. So Nishat lost its lower terraces, sacrificed to the demands of modern convenience. Now its wall stands near the water, yet cutting the garden off and giving it an isolation and land-locked character that for centuries it did not possess. The lost ground constituted a link that increased the attractiveness of the garden many fold, and the combination of the series of terraces with the lake and its lotus blossom must have made up a diversity and perfection that the present garden, beautiful though it is, cannot attain.

Source: Kashmir- An Historical Introduction by James P. Ferguson

Click, click, click: Pretty but a camera can’t capture memories

The offending bunkers have been razed, the summer’s blossoms have erupted. The troops are in the barracks, tourists have become an insurrection on the street.

Milling belly loads of them are disgorging at the Humhama airport and the bus station midtown, as if someone had spread the rumour Kashmir was about to be expurgated from the map.

The Valley’s famed nooks of idyll are exploding with the click-and-pop of cameras, leisure has become a diesel-fumed scurry, bumper to bumper, from one destination to the other — Sonmarg today, Gulmarg tomorrow, Pahalgam the day after, shoot and scoot, fill it up for the family album and be gone before “something happens”; Kashmir safe in a pen-drive snuck in the hip-pocket.

The gardens of Nishat and Shalimar are under footfall that would have shuddered the Mughals, the high meadows are fodder for arriving droves, not all of them cattle, the Dal boulevard is a mad toss of shikaras where honeymooners film their role-play of the vintage Shammi-Sharmila frolic in “Kashmir Ki Kali”. Grab, then go.They reckon two million —or more if “nothing happens” — lenses will be uncapped on these vistas by the end of the season, a record haul of images between the melting of snow and the onset of rain, parcelled out and downloaded countrywide.

They’ll all be paradisiacal: nobody wants a dirty picture in their albums. Sun-swept lakes, meadows gone teal in curtains of distant rain, a riot of tulips, caravans of cuddly sheep, conifered slopes gazing down adolescent streams, a melting glacier, an iridescent sunset, a solitary wood bridge, a padded copse, a rippled houseboat. Kashmir is captivating at the moment, never mind the capturing siege descended on it. Those cameras wouldn’t be lying.But if cameras snap, they shut out equally well. Each frame means two images, what’s in and what’s not, what’s taken, what’s left out.

Within stone-shot of the hectic holiday revelry being unpacked in Srinagar sits a city of ashen aspect. Its habitations lie denuded by time and violent tide, crumbled masonry and boarded timberwork, witness to recurrent paroxysms between disputed ambitions of state and subject.

Rubble roads and manic dogs run through its warren habitations, more than a thousand of them prowling in killer packs that despatch dozens to the rabies wards each day. A river weaves through it, so slowed by its burden of sewage it does not seem to run at all. Its banks are piled with garbage on which kites swoop to snatch what they can in their skirmish with dogs.

Slowly but inexorably, commerce has begun to relieve this dreariness — a glass-front corner cafĂ©, a snooker dive, a brand boutique, not a bar yet but yes a sheesha joint, a would-be mall, a patch of Italian marble, a shimmering SUV squeezing through lanes that weren’t cut for vehicles of such girth. Some of the cash rolling off the tourism turnstiles has begun to wash up and put a shine on this dilapidated town; queues tail off ATM doors and the bazaars teem with wares and vendors.

But above the daily humdrum floats a pensive, unassuaged air so insistent it makes prayer sound like a dirge. By twilight, it has risen from the houses of God and become a shroud that defies cameras as well as it defies banishment. Nobody will forget their dead, nobody will cease waiting for the vanished. What’s the count? But don’t even get there, the numbers are too high and it’s not the numbers, its people. Parents, children, siblings, spouses buried, or worse, missing without trace.

Crying resumes each evening beneath the portals of mosques and shrines and rises aloft that shroud to the skies. No place has cried so uninterrupted as Kashmir; it has cried so long, crying has become its song. They don’t hear it in the houseboats, they don’t hear it in hotel rooms; they arrive with their ears plugged, or there’s television, the new season of Indian Idol. The Kashmiri song won’t pass muster, it’s too funereal.
Imran is a spruce young camera journalist who knows a thing or two about keeping appearances; his caller tune is Enrique Iglesias’s I can be your hero, Baby and he likes turning out in fitted jackets and gelled backswept hair. He talks death most.

“I must have covered 50 funerals in my first few weeks as a journalist. Many of them were my friends and I was always thinking: What is it I am doing? Filming my friends on their way to the grave? But that is what I came into, that is what Kashmiris come into, death and mourning, and a lot of anger.”
Perhaps Imran picked a bad time to turn professional. The summer of 2010 was coffin-count season, more than a hundred dead, mostly young and impassioned, in waves of street confrontation.

This summer the count is all about the cash tourist numbers are putting in the can. “You think?” Imran counters, sceptically, “You think? You think money will erase memory? You think they’ll stop crying and hoping? You think I will be less angry in 2012 for 2010?”

Not far from Imran’s downtown home is a graveyard that burst at the seams and will not admit any more dead — three of his mates went there, he remembers. Dogs rummage violently in a waste pile, an armoured paramilitary truck arrives and parks itself for the night, a muezzin calls out despairingly in praise of the Lord, and there is someone weeping close by.

Power has just lapsed on the streetlights. Shadowy figures dart about the dimness, chased by ferocious barking, and a putrescent smell has risen from the river. The tourists never come here, this is off limits, the Kashmir where “something may happen”. Just as well. It’s not a pretty picture. But it’s there, darkened by the shroud above.

The article appeared in The Telegraph- written by Sankarshan Thakur

Friday, July 6, 2012

Kashmir- Etymology and rest.

According to this earliest traditional account the lake called Satisaran, ' the lake of Sati (Durga)', occupied the place of Kashmir from the beginning of kalpa. In the period of the seventh manu the demon Jalodbhava (' water borne') who resided in this lake, caused great distress to all neighboring countries by his devastations. The Muni Kasyapa, the father of all Nagas , while  engaged in a pilgrimage to the Tirthas in the north of India, heard of the cause of this distress from his son Nila, the king of the Kashmir Nagas.

The sage thereupon promised to punish, the evil-doer
and proceeded to the seat of Brahman to implore his and other gods' help for the purpose. His prayer was granted. The whole host of by Brahman's command started for satisaras and took up their position on the lofty peaks of Naubandhana Tirtha above the lake Kramasaras ( Kounsar Nag). The demon who was invisible in his own element, refused to come forth from the lake. Vishnu thereupon called upon his brother Balabhadra to drain the lake. This he effected by piercing the mountains with his weapon, the ploughshare. When the lake had become dry, Jalodbhava was attacked by Vishnu and after a fierce combat slain with the god's war-disc.

Source: Kashmir- An Historical Introduction by James P. Ferguson.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Pir Dastgir Sahib-

The shrine of Pir Dastgeer Sahib, stone's throw away from my ancestral house at Khanyar, broke in mysterious fire at the rose-pink dawn of one June morning last year. Much has already been written on the political side of this gory incident- my memoir, is, totally selfish- wrapped up in me.

I perch inside; sneer at the loss- memories stockpile. Scur-ring in timeless moulds, and motionless, I'm lost in the vastness of it, yet miraculously finding myself at every venerated abysses of its rising flames. Some things, some events define you. Though hard it is, and I wrench myself not to think on such lines, but I have lost the definition. Forever!

The chief cleric (with reverence called as Qadir lala ) would take a breather and sit cross-legged on the lunette window, facing the busy Khanyar road below- after a tiring gathering during the days of urs. Devotees did grope him- for a touch of his hand, his cloak or just about anything. The reverence is lavish in our world. Daddy would held my hand tight, and see me through the sea of yowling men, until we were somewhere close to him. He would gently slip his hand inside the scarlet cloak, that he wore over his shoulders; shekel like embellishment reflecting under the ambient lighting, and run it over my head and face. Filling my tiny palms with small white saccharin gobs.

The earliest memory that I can muster from the shrine is fresh. I must have been 6. I can recall the early mornings nipping mist- covering the old city; a pigeon voyage visible from far off shingle roofs; a straying hashish smoking Waje mout ( He reminds me now of Gibran's Mad Man- who threw away all his masks), incessantly talking to himself. Lanterns flickering at crossroads. An old woman with a white scarf. A familiar merry man with a koshur skull cap (beret) on his bald head. A priest wearing a dark grey phiran, an enormous Quran under his arm. Breathing heavily the rarefied air. A strong breeze, smelling of incense and roadside 'masale voul'. 

Being inside the grandiose shrine used to be nothing less than a heady trip.The cryptic gordian verses, decked up on corinthian pillars that mullioned through the hall, looked like appeasing antiques, to my young eyes; the finestella angular window panes, deriving effete warmth; a large brass container holding Zam Zam in it; and the palatial chandeliers in the hallway- rich in colors of reds and greens, giving a good idea of the imposing taste and opulence. For a part, the abstruse baroque carving on its walls generated history, that rose from Iran and Kurdistan, 600 years ago along with the 700 Sayedains. The vainglory, complimented now inside the walls, by the revere bating chants of - the khatma sharif.

Daddy would sit in absolute quietness, by the window, engulfed in the mystic ambience, even as my bewildering eyes would find solace in his bowing head. Often, the loose pheran clad, green eyed pir, would sprinkle attar of roses, over the devotees. The droplets carried spirituality. It is almost like a frozen moment of my memory. I close my eyes on it, it is insistent but, like a hangover that never leaves. Hands up in air: strangers I stared with amazement, at a place that was so quiet, under spiritual mists, with silent fever of their eyes. 

As life carried on, I started taking different dispositions on faith and belief. My growing up years were full of days, spent at the shrine, during the days of urs. There was some power their. The small steps, I took, while entering the shrine, brought a natural elation in spirit. For those few moments, in front of the saint- problems looked small; solutions not far.

Man has no nature, Ortega says in his parable. I talk to God, but the sky is empty.