Zael’ Dub (Latticed Balcony, 2019) is a self-published book by Farooq Fayaz, a former Professor of History at the University of Kashmir, that critically studies two different genres of Kashmiri literature—prose and poetry—through different prisms. Farooq Fayaz is himself a poet and scholar of repute in Kashmiri. In this book, he has presented different hues of our literature, and has discussed them through varied perspectives. The book is divided into two parts (Chapters). Chapter 1 entitled ‘nathri gond’ (a prose bouquet) that contains eight essays, six on famous prose writers like Mohiuddin Hajni, Akhter Mohiuddin and Aziz Hajni, one essay on two translators—Iqbal Nazki and Shamshad Kralwari, and an intro to the book. Chapter 2 ‘the poetry bouquet’ (she’ri gond) presents fifteen essays, thirteen essays on Kashmiri poets from Master Zinda Koul to Shehnaz Rashid and one essay each on the ‘new ghazal in Kashmiri’ and the ‘Kashmiri Ghazal since 1980s’.
The author realises and admits that the Kashmiri literature lacks in good critical studies (8; numerals refer to page Nos of the book). Among other reasons, Farooq Fayaz believes that this lacking is because we don’t have sufficient literature available in the language (op.cit.). Fayaz points that most of the critics have been teachers in universities and they have evaluated literature here by applying the principles of European literary criticism which their teachers have taught them in the class (intriguingly, he is himself doing that).
He says that these critics praise the writers so much and make things difficult for the reader to comprehend (10). Fayaz opines: “Unless quality literature is produced, it isn’t possible to have a good and meaningful criticism” (11-12).
At the global level, different critical theories have come into being and scholars here find it hard to apply their principles to the classical literature and if they apply, they get confused and fail to make any real assessment of the writer in question (12). For instance, can we study any poem without taking the background of the poet into consideration? Fayaz feels that it is not possible to study a writer without placing them in their social and intellectual backgrounds, though we know Structuralism did assess literature without any reference to the writers’ background.
In the book, Fayaz has placed the select writers within the social milieu and discussed each writer with reference to the internal and external factors that had impacted them (14). Being aware that not much prose is available in Kashmiri, Fayaz has chosen to discuss whatever little is available here in the form of fiction.
He starts with a renowned fiction writer Mohiuddin Hajni who, despite hailing from a backward area, was able to carve a niche for himself on the literary horizon of Kashmir. However, this essay talks more about Hajni’s life than his literary acumen, though towards the end of the essay there is a mention of how he brought in intellectualism in Kashmiri fiction (45-46). Another fiction writer, Amin Kamil, is discussed in great detail.
Kamil’s “kokar jung” (Rooster Fight) finds a special mention in the essay as this short story had made Kamil famous. The next writer in this section is Akhter Mohiuddin, one of the most versatile fiction writers that Kashmir has produced so far.
Akhter was a keen observer of the events taking place around him and used the short story genre as a vehicle for bringing the crises that Kashmir faced to the fore (76). “Innocent Sinner” is about a Kashmiri who got killed while protesting against the atrocities of the Dogra Government, and ‘vanun ma banem’ (I Can’t Say It!) is about the atrocities that Kashmiris had to face in the reign of the second Prime Minister of Kashmir, Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad.
Akhter was very critical of the gun culture also and spoke against it in his short story ‘jali hind’ dundahpel’’ (Jalla’s sparkling teeth). Akhter spoke against atrocities without any fear. His language is simple, but very intelligent. Fayaz has dealt with Mohammad Yousuf Teng, Aziz Hajni and Atish and brought out their hues and colours in their writings. Interestingly, translation as prose has been dealt with while discussing Iqbal Nazki and Shamshad Kralwari. Is translation also a creative process? This is a debatable issue and would need a lot of space to discuss.
In the second part of the book, Fayaz has discussed Master Zinda Koul, Mahjoor, Samad Mir, Mahjoor, Abdul Ahad Azad, Rasa Javidani, Dina Nath Nadim, Fazil Kashmiri, Firaq, Rehman Rahi, Marghoob Banihali, GN Khayal, Naseem Shafaee and Shehnaz Rashid, placing them in their historical perspective and bringing out their respective characteristics. Each of the poet is discussed with reference to their times and influences that shaped their poetry. For instance, Samad Mir was a Sufi poet, but Mahjoor had taken the Kashmiri poetry out of the Sufi cult into the world of Nature and politics. Fayaz has put Mahjoor along with Josh Maleeh Abadi as both were revolutionary and aesthetics (178). Abdul Ahad Azad was a revolutionary by nature (203).
Besides patriotism and revolution, Azad was a poet of Nature which Fayaz has mostly ignored in the essay. Instead, he has presented Azad a poet with a revolutionary zeal who through his poems like ‘naaly badshah’ and ‘shikvah iblees’ tried to awaken the people from slumber of slavery and helplessness.
It is strange that Fayaz has chosen only one female poet, Naseem Shafaee only and admired her for upholding the female dignity. I find it hard to believe that discussion feminist poetry in Kashmiri can be complete without mentioning Habba Khatoon without whom Kashmiri literature is incomplete. Shafaee is beyond any doubt a talented poet of our times, so is Shehnaz Rashid but I find any discussion of Kashmiri poetry without Habba Khatoon bizarre.
ZAEL’ DUB is a welcome addition to the scanty criticism in Kashmiri literature and must be read with interest.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.