And My El Cid Stumbled
I was a dreamer like many romantic poets
NOSTALGIA BY Z.G.M
It was full of thrill. Following a troubadour through maze of small lanes as a child—-six or seven years old was as exciting as listening a piece of music by some maestro for the first time or reading a poem of some great poet for the first time. He played on a bunch of iron rings in his half a yard long metal rod and produced ‘soul music’- music with deep feelings mixed with résistance. Some brilliant bits have got inscribed on my skull; time could not erase them. Today, I realize each word, crafted, threaded and woven like Kani Shawl by these folk singer or street songsters in a politically stifle atmosphere echoed the voices of the subjugated.
It was really living an experience that took us through the darker periods of our history. Their songs were lyrical ballads not about the adventures and valor of the heroes of the yester years but about the valiance of living leaders - exiled and incarcerated. Their songs were satires in the best tradition of great satirist like Alexander Pope- their political satires were sharper than razor blade that would cut through the hubris of the collaborators and the demagogues, tearing them apart and making them dwarf of the dwarfs.
I and my friends remembered the pithy verses sung by these songsters draped in tradition dress; white turban, a woolen phern and a white cotton shawl slinging from their shoulders. The white cotton shawl that slung from their shoulder was multipurpose: it served as a towel, a prayer mat and on sunny day as a bed sheet for sleeping under the shade of a gigantic walnut tree or all soothing majestic Chinar tree. No sooner they left our locality, I and my friends often aped them and parroted their songs. In my enthusiasm, I once bought a bunch of iron rings perhaps for two paisa or one anna from Daza Khar as a blacksmith was popularly known as in our Mohalla and put them in an iron rod. For many days I jingled them but could not produce rhythmic and lilting tones- but playing on bunch of rings on the iron rod remained my past time for some months. Surprisingly the troubadour with his songs and satire had remained my role model for me for months together. Their songs in praise of exiled and jailed leaders had painted larger than life of pictures on my mind.
The tales woven by troubadour and minstrels around the jailed leaders had made them as mythical figures for me as Super Man and Spider Man to my children. These leaders were not like biggest frog in puddle, phenomena galore these days but they reigned supreme as Caesars in their own right. It equally an irony of history in Kashmir most of the leaders during their days in jail look what they call in cinematic idiom bigger than life but once they are out of the high walls many of them stumble deep into well of oblivion-- many never to resurface.
In our childhood there were undoubtedly some leaders who even after their freedom from jails not only dominated the political scene but ruled the hearts and minds of the people like legendry eleventh century Spanish hero Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar known to world as El Cid. I still remember looking in Charlton Heston my childhood political heroes. In El Cid, a film on the Spanish hero he had been cast against Sophia Loren. In this film made in early sixties that was screened in Palladium cinema he had in real sense lived the famous historical character. The film had left so indelible an imprint on my tender mind that in my imagination I had started casting my every popular leader including then towering resistance leader Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, his lieutenant Mirza Muhammad Afzal Beg and many a Plebiscite Front leaders in the roles of Charlton Heston in the El Cid and Kirk Douglas in the Spartacus. I looked towards them emerging as powerful as historical Spartacus and leading people to the goal that troubadour often versified beautifully in chaste Koshur- the language that is as rich and ancient as Persian and Arabic.
The struggle that these leaders led and I was witness to had lot of romance for me. As a child I had become as good a dreamer as many romantic poets. Like all young dreamers I could not understand the subtleties and nuances of the politics and I would not understand the machinations that could politically defeat my El Cid and Spartacus.
Like, in case of many others in my age group, the 1964 was an important milestone in our political odyssey. It was the year when my Spartacus’ were set free after long incarcerations. On his release my El Cid roared like a lion, promised the teeming crowds to deliver them from the bonds that many an elders in my birth burg saw him instrumental and responsible for. Notwithstanding adversaries, calling his roar as political hee-hawing teeming millions faithfully followed him and stood by him like a rock. My impressions about those days are as fresh as gushing waters of a Verinag spring- the Front was advantageously placed and despite it being on strong pedestal in September 1964, Sadiq brazenly eroded 370 but Front failed to coerce to undo the decisions.
Looking back, I see the post 1967 period of the Plebiscite Front being replicated in the contemporary situation. The Plebiscite was at zenith of popularity during second half of the sixties and it looked like an impregnable fortress as the Vietcong. Little did I understand at that time that it will sink along with the bait of liberalization?. It was during peak days of its popularity that a few supporters of then Chief Minister, Ghulam Muhammad Sadiq would often assert: “Sadiq Sahib’s liberalization policy would soon take wind out of the sails of the Front leaders’ and its leadership will forget slogans of right to self-determination and plebiscite. Instead they will talk of spinach and ‘potatoes’ and instead of holding public rallies they will look for alternative pastimes of attending funeral meets religiously and engaging in social works.”Their assertion was seen as diatribe and denounced as grunts not by the Front workers alone but all and sundry. It may be a matter of study for political historians of the state why Plebiscite Front’s enthusiasm started waning after 1967 but I vividly remember spotting third wrung Plebiscite Front leaders of Srinagar District Abdul Samad Teli, Habibullah and Ghulam Nabi Chantsaz at every funeral meeting in the city.
True, the post 1967 events are a part of history but for a section people in my age group these events are part of nostalgia… these meetings on a mega-scale graduated into the State People’s Convention, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah getting full time engaged in the construction of Hazratbal Shrine - finally in Indira-Sheikh Accord of 1975……………
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Lastupdate on : Sat, 2 Jul 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 2 Jul 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 3 Jul 2011 00:00:00 IST
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