VALLEY OF WORDS by Shakeel-ur-Rehman is a should be read for its linguistic brevity rather than richness of content
PROFESSOR MUHAMMAD ASLAM
Every effort that Kashmiri writers make to write on and about their motherland should be applauded and appreciated because there is an immense dearth of writings that would present our culture and ethos to the outside world. Especially, writings in English are so scanty that one feels ashamed that this land that claims to have been a seat of learning from ancient times and that boasts of having produced great scholars does not have good writers who could make our literary and other heritage known to the outside world through the most useful language—English. In this scenario, VALLEY OF WORDS by a young writer from Kashmir needs to be admired and appreciated as an oasis in an enormous desert. Though the book is scanty in information, it is should be read for its linguistic brevity rather than richness of content as it squeezes so much in small chapters.
VALLEY OF WORDS is a self-published booklet of 120 pages, covering Kashmir’s mythic origin, some of her kings and poets, Kashmiri’s love of rumours etc. The first four chapters are devoted to the old mythic origin of Kashmir which our socalled historians have attributed to some flood. There is nothing new in these tales except that they are written in a very lucid and clear language. They don’t prove or disprove any point. They are presented as the author has read them, or he has been told. That Kashmir came into existence because of some flood (maybe Noah’s flood; Chapter 1), which eventually receded giving mountains a chance to appear colossally, is nothing but a figment of imagination. This is true of also finding some relationship between Mahabharta and Kashmir (Chapter 6) which Hindus have cooked up to show the Kashmir’s relationship with India. The writer has quoted the views of a historian who has been spreading different stories about Kashmir from time to time without any substantial or authentic proof about them. Unfortunately, his tales have got some acceptability in the political circles; he got ‘rewarded’ also for that. The writer has also quoted another pseudo-historian who claims to have a definite knowledge about some buried ‘treasure’ of Kashmir but he doesn’t divulge it because of the fear that that the ‘treasure’ might be taken away from Kashmir. This is sheer dishonesty! Why should a historian hide the facts? If he knows where the treasure is, let him say it. Why bother about the aftermath? At least he would do justice to his ‘profession’.
That Moses and Christ came to Kashmir and made it their abode (Chapters 2-4) seems to me a fairy tale which people have been talking about for ages. A booklet on Jesus in Kashmir gives his last resting place as Rozabal Khanyar. The booklet also had put a challenge that if they are given a chance to dig the grave, they would prove their point (they know that nobody on earth was going to allow them to do so). Hence the claim! After some time, a rebuttal came from some people that the Rozabal grave is not of Jesus but of some past governor of Kashmir, Yuza Asif. As Shakeel has himself devoted a full chapter on Kashmiris’ love of rumours (Chapter 16), tales about prophets appear to me nothing but a big gossip to show that we belong to some lost Israeli tribe. If the Quran does not identify the place, who are we to interpret ‘rising up’ to high altitude places like Kashmir. Why should have God sent Jesus to Kashmir? Why not Switzerland which is more beautiful than Kashmir and has very high mountains as well? There is a theory that Noah is buried in India and his vedic name is Manu. A book by Manzoor Nomani states that a grave in Tanur is of the same size that books tell us about the size of Noah. Should we trust this theory?
Nothing could be more laughable than claiming that Kashmir “might be the land where the Garden of Eden lies” (p. 62). The writer has quoted some biblical references—Genesis 2:8 and 10-14. This is an admitted fact that today’s Bible cannot be taken as authentic and therefore any description of the Garden of Eden is not true either. That Kashmir has four rivers—Indus, Jehlum, Chenab and Ravi (p. 60)—and that they pass through the valley making it a true picture of the description Garden of Eden is far-fetched. Nobody on earth knows where the Garden of Eden is. I have been to Switzerland where there are numerous rivers and very beautiful ones; I would call Switzerland the biblical garden. Kashmiris know well how ‘heavenly’ Kashmir is!
The last chapter in the book is about the origin of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s wife Begum Abdullah (Chapter 20) entitled “Harry’s Mirjaan”. Shakeel tells us that “[a]fter going through the Qur’an Harry responded to the call of Islam and embraced it. He changed his name to Sheikh Ahmad Hussain” (p. 109) and later on got married to Mirjaan from whom, among others, Akbar Jehan was born. There is a rarer photograph of the family also given.
A few words on the title of the booklet—VALLEY OF WORDS! In the beginning, I was really baffled by the title. For some time, I wouldn’t understand the meaning. I asked an academic friend of mine from Delhi what he understood from the title. He told me to take “words” as the word of the mouth. If that is what Shakeel had in mind while giving his book this title, most of his historical account of Kashmir should be taken as an example of oral history.
The reviewer teaches English at Central University, Kashmir. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lastupdate on : Wed, 26 Dec 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 26 Dec 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 27 Dec 2012 00:00:00 IST
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