Kashmir Ek Bazyaft: Refreshing the Past

In the recent India-China stand-off in Ladakh, two names became the talk of the town: Ghulam Rassul Galwan and Sir Francis Edward Younghusband (1863-1942). The former’s name came to the fore because China had infiltrated into the Galwan Valley in Ladakh that is believed to have been discovered by Ghulam Rassul Galwan and in whose name it continues to be till date. The latter’s name became known for having written ‘Foreword’ to Galwan’s book Servant of Sahibs which is one of the best 19th century accounts of Galwan’s expeditions in Ladakh with Europeans including Younghusband who was an English soldier, explorer, leader of an expedition to Lhasa, and the founder of the World Fellowship of Faiths. He was posted to India in 1882. He was so obsessed with expeditions and exploration that he took leave from service in 1886 and went across Central Asia, Mongolia and Sinkiang. He later on entered Kashmir through the Mustagh Pass. Younghusband published Kashmir in 1909 and dedicated it TO HIS HIGHNESS MAJOR-GENERAL MAHARAJA SIRI PRATAP SINGH G.C.S.I. MAHARAJA OF JAMMU AND KASHMIR. I don’t know why the translator names the book as Kashmir as it was since in records its title is simply Kashmir which the author says he wrote in collaboration with Major E Molyneux who painted the book.

There are fourteen chapters in the original book which have been translated into Urdu by the translator. Why did the translator choose this book for translation? In his preface ‘apni baat’, he says that different Europeans like Sir Walter Lawrence, Tyndale Bisco and Sir Francis Younghusband have in their own ways talked about the valley of Kashmir in their books Vale of Kashmir, Kashmir Under Sunlight and Shade and Kashmir as it was [sic], respectively,  but he chose the last one as other two books had already been translated and that he wanted to take a lead in translating the Younghusband book in Urdu:  “raaqim ne iss khayal se ki koyi aur iss kitab ko bhi Urdu ka jama na pehnaye fauran iss par kaam shuru’ kia” (12; note: numerals refer to the page numbers of the Urdu version). He praises the author for presenting Kashmir and his views in a unique way (13).

There are fourteen chapters both in the original and the translated version of the book which are as follows (Note: I have used Roman script for Urdu):

Ch I:  Scenery and Seasons (Qudrati manazir aur mausum)

Ch II: Travel in Kashmir (Kashmir ka safar)

Ch III: Srinagar and Neighbourhood (Srinagar aur iske mazafaat)

Ch IV: The Residency Garden (Sarkari iqamat gah aur subzazar)

Ch V: Gulmarg (Gulmarg)

Ch VI: The Valleys and Places of Interest (Wadiyan aur dilchasp maqamat)

Ch VII: Sport (khel)

Ch VIII: The People (Loag)

Ch IX: The History of Kashmir (Tarikh-i-Kashmir)

Ch X:  Administration  (Intizamiyah)

Ch XI: Products And Manufactures (Masnu’at aur paidawar)

Ch XII: The Electrical Scheme (Bijli ka mansoobah)

Ch XIII: The Peaks and Mountain Ranges (Pahadoon ka silsila)

Ch XIV: The Story of the Mountains (Pahadoon ki kahani)

As is evident from the titles of the chapters, Nisar Gilani has been successful in translating the original into Urdu as faithfully as he could.  Kashmir Ek Bazyaft takes you back to the times in Kashmir when travelling to it was rather a difficult business. Although it had attracted Europeans since times immemorial, not many would visit the valley because of its bad communication links. However, those who did got mesmerised by its beauty and charm and wrote about it in their books. Their travelogues have therefore assumed a significance in our annals as they give us a detailed account of both the place and the people not only of the valley of Kashmir but also beyond it—Ladakh for instance. On that account, the Urdu version of an old book like Kashmir must be taken as refreshing our past and a treat to read in a language which we are more familiar—Urdu. This way the translator has taken the book out of the elite fold into the commoners’ arena so that those who find it difficult to understand Younghusband in English are able to read him in their most favoured language.  The translator has taken pains to retain the essence of the original knowing very well that any translation from one to another leaves many gaps (13). He has done a commendable job in choosing a classic travelogue that sheds a lot of light on Kashmir’s topography, its flora and fauna, its mountains and rivers, its scenic beauty and links with the outside world. The bewitching beauty of Kashmir had enticed Bernier also whom Younghusband has mentioned in his book: “Bernier, the first European to enter Kashmir, writing in 1665, says: “In truth, the kingdom surpasses in beauty all that my warmest imagination had anticipated.””  The translator tells you the same thing in Urdu: “Bernier, pehle urupi hain jo kashmir main warid huye. saal 1665 main unki tehreer kardah kitabcha main yeh darj hai ki mumlikat-i-kashmir unki nazar main khayali tasavuraat se baalatar aur nihayat jameel hai.”

I am not a Persian knowing person like the translator, Nisar Gilani, but after looking at the title I got a little confused. Whether it is simply Kashmir or Kashmir as it was [sic], I can’t understand how ‘Bazyaft’ justifies its Urdu rendering? ‘Bazyaft’ is a Persian word which means the resumption of anything; a deduction, a stoppage” according to the Steingass Persian-English Dictionary.  Rekhta.org also gives similar meanings: “Noun, Feminine: regaining, recovery, retrieval, resumption, getting back.” In fact, the translator also hasn’t mentioned why he called the book Kashmir Ek Bazyaft, but I am confident that as a Persian scholar, he will have his reasons for using the expression ‘Bazyaft’.

The book has a colourful hard cover that projects Kashmir in its scenic beauty. Both its printing and paper are of high quality. I am sure Urdu lovers would find the book very interesting and appreciate the translator for undertaking such an enterprise.