My Tryst with ‘Marxists’
It was absolutely alien to the society we lived in
NOSTALGIA BY Z.G.M
I am a man of humble origin but born and brought up in a great city- the city of saints. That is how best, I can call my part of city that has been abode of great saints- aborigines and from far of lands in Arabia, Persia and Central Asia. For its skyline dominated by scores of towering minarets, glowing golden spires, it could also be named as the city of minarets.
I, my siblings and peers born in this part of city, woke up in the morning not just to the chirping of birds and songs of cuckoos but to Persian Munajats and Mankabats written by masters like Hafiz, Rumi, Jami and Sadi. When, I got up in the morning, borrowing from Lewis Carroll’s, Alice in Wonderland, “I almost think, I can remember feeling a little different.” But, I never questioned myself like Alice, “Who in the World am I?” I had an identity- the identity that my city had given to me and made me distinct from the larger sub-continental identity. It had taken over six hundred years to shape this identity- no marauder with all his repression despite attempts succeeded in denuding me of my identity.
The lawns of the majestic khankahs that were our playground had given me and my playmates a sense of belonging to the fabulous traditions and culture of unique blending of Arabia, Persia and Aryan. Every one young and old had become highly possessive about this predominant culture- talking about any other culture outside this raised doubts and made many a well meaning persons with different political outlooks suspects in the eyes of their own people.
My father often narrated me the story of a neighbor who had become an outcast in our locality and had been ostracized by his family. He was working in Christen missionary hospital at Rainawari. It was believed that he had embraced Christianity- I remember his name, let me not write it, his name like many others of his ilk was suffixed with Keerai, perhaps Kashmiri word for christen. My father had great admiration this ‘outcast’ for his loving humanity but saw his new found faith in conflict with centuries old ethos of our burg.......So happened in my childhood when a few youth, some barely literate and some totally illiterate had taken fancy to communism. In this column some time back I had written how a house in our neighborhood had become an epicenter of the activities of this new breed of political activists who looked at Lenin and Stalin as their seers- and counted Karl Marx’s Das Kapital as their new bible…and how it degenerated into hoodlum politics. Retaining the names given to them by their parents most of them suffixed their names with names of Russian leaders: Lenin, Stalin etc. I remember a friend of my uncle was nicknamed as Bulganin and another as Khrushchev- after the visit these of two communist leaders to Kashmir in 1955- the year when my alma mater was destroyed in a fire.
I never understood what had attracted a pug-nosed woodcarver, a tin-smith, a shroud-stitching-tailor, and some small time scrape vendors of our locality towards communism- all that I could make out was all that they had been told was: It is a simple battle between poor and rich, where rich exploit and poor suffer. These people, who could neither read nor write distributed glossy Russian literature free- I loved this literature for its glossy paper and pictures. I think so did many other children. Hardly anyone read this free literature. At the onset of winters some made best use of this free literature by pasting glossy paper on latticed windows. I and my friends used them as dust covers for books and notebooks.
These ‘Bolsheviks’, who were considered as alien to our social ethos that had seeped into our psyche, for their illiteracy were also unimpressive. It was much later during my days in college that I came across a group of student Marxists and their semiliterate comrades that many of them understand the thought they subscribe to. Most of the names still lurk in my mind; Chaman Lal Kantroo, Bansi Handoo, Manzoor, Maharaj Das, Janki Nath, Shafi Shouq, and Gulshan Majid. They were students of S.P. College and Degree College Islamabad (Anantnag). Besides, these students some of whom were my classmates and contemporaries in the campus there were many others like Muhammad Yusuf Dantaroo, Ghulam Muhammad Lone and Hassan Koka, who despite not having joined any college were fully conversant with the political philosophy they believed in…I remember Abdul Kabir Wani and Muhammad Yusuf Dantroo articulating their political belief in chaste Kashmiri.
It was during my days in the campus that I became curious to know about this political tribe that was most abhorred in my part of city. I remember visiting the office of this group- in Basant Bagh. It was a small austere room- no sofa, no chairs- the floor was covered with traditional Kashmiri mat (wagu). There were no bolsters in the room- the artifacts that caught my attention were a copper Hubble-Bubble, a tin tobacco box and an earthen firepot. I still remember the face of frail G.M. Malik, an advocate by profession who was an ideologue of these young leftist. Some of them were also a part of the morning Coffee House crowd- Bansi ( I am told he is no more in this world), was distinct for his bushy beard. Of all of them he flaunted his ‘about-book-dustcover knowledge’ but others in this youth group were knowledgeable and scholarly. I admired Chaman Lal Kantroo for his human qualities and scholarship. I remember during student days he translated India’s China War a breathtaking work by Neville Maxwell and Dialectical Materialism (the book I never understood) into Kashmiri. During college days the young Marxists writer-duo Shafi Shauq and Gulshan Majid were always seen together- as if made for each other. I remember, in those days when I loved reading thrillers and spy stories and my favorite author was Agatha Christie, the duo would take me on a far higher plane and they talked about Sigmund Freud and Jean Paul Sartre. They talked of Sahir, Faiz and many others- they were madly in love with Kashmiri poetry- and looked at this language as symbol of Kashmir identity… but today Shafi Shauq looks beyond linguistic chauvinism.
I lost track of most of these Marxists friends after mid-eighties and the romance of my friend Shauq and Majid with Marxism has also ended now for long.
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Lastupdate on : Sat, 6 Nov 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 6 Nov 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 7 Nov 2010 00:00:00 IST
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