Whenever Kashmiri writer Mohudin Reshi takes to podium at the fiction writers guild in Srinagar, the audience sitting on the floor often outnumbers the limited number of chairs available in the hall. The guild holds a function every Saturday sometimes at Abi Guzar and at other times at Hotel Shahenshah. But one thing that has remained consistent is the dedicated audience that makes it a point to reach the venue and cherish the stories narrated by Reshi and others.
Though the short stories genre in Kashmir is a recent one but the writers who have donned this mantle have produced some of the best stories which highlight everything from the decay in society to politics to the ever-changing landscape of Kashmir. Reshi has carried forward the legacy of story telling in his unique style. His use of suspense and drama in the short stories compels the reader to complete the story in a one go.
Born in 1951 in Aali Kadal Srinagar, Reshi was fortunate enough to be raised in a house where writers, intellectuals and poets would assemble regularly. "It all started with my uncle Mohammed Siddiq's application to Information Department seeking job as a Qatib. It was the time the legendary editor of Aftab newspaper, Sonaullah had returned to Kashmir and approached Information Department for registering his newspaper. At the office he saw the beautifully written application of Siddiq and requested the then DG Information Janki Nath Zutshi to give Siddiq's address to him so that he can employ him in his newspaper. Sonaullah later came to our house to meet my uncle and offer him the job," recalls Reshi. "Since then Sonaullah became a regular visitor to our house and so came other stalwarts like Mohammed Yousuf Teng, Meem Meem Siddiq, Shamsudin Shameem and others."
The association of Reshi'sfamily and Aftab was strengthened as most of the uncles of Reshi got associatedwith Aftab newspaper. "Aftab at that time used to publish fiction stories whichwas a hit among public. Writers all over the Kashmir would submit stories forpublication. My uncle used to get all letters to his home to edit and publishand I would often sneak in to read," said Reshi.
It was all but natural to beinfluenced by such an environment and Reshi too succumbed to the desire towrite short stories. He was in class 8 when he secretly wrote a short story andmailed it to Aftab under the name Mohiudin Mahmood. "I didn't dare to tell myuncle about my passion. After 15 day when the mail reached our home I twicekept it on the top so that my uncle would notice it. Unfortunately my story wastermed as below par and it was rejected. I was heartbroken and it killed mypassion," said Reshi.
But one thing that kept him intouch with literature were weekly meetings at his house in which Shameem AhmadShameem, Sonaullah Aftab, MY Teng and other would attend and discuss variedtopics. Sonaullah had a huge circle of friends and he had an aura to turn everymeeting into a vibrant intellectually stimulating discourse.
Meanwhile Reshi completed hisgraduation and he applied for a post in Information Department where he wasselected. He worked on Khushnavis,translator and editor posts and at various places until he was given responsibilityto edit Aalav magazine.
"It was in 1997 when thesituation was very bad in Kashmir and all literary activities had stopped. EvenJammu Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages had ceased to function byway of organising cultural events and publishing literary journals. The thenChief Minister had asked the Information department to start a literaryjournal. Unfortunately nobody agreed to accept the responsibility untilsomebody recommended my name and I ready to do the job," said Reshi. "I amhighly indebted to noted writer Rahman Rahi, who encouraged me and gave hissubmissions to be published in the magazine."
Reshi even came up with the nameAalav (The calling) for the magazine.
The magazine achieved newheights and authors would make a beeline with their manuscripts. The work alsoreignited the passion of writing in Reshi. Once when he showed his short storyto writer Amar Malmohi, he got a tremendous feedback, which encouraged him topublish it in Aalav.
His first short story Bocche waspublished in 1997, which was duly appreciated. Since then he continued toregularly publish short stories in Aalav and other magazines.
From 1997 to 2009, Reshi workedrelentlessly as editor Aalav. Reshi took it to new heights and even one specialNazm number of the magazine was so popular that it was included in the syllabusof MA Kashmiri, thus adding another feather to Reshi's cap.
One of his short stories 'Nakh'(pall-bearing) has been included in the text book of 10th standard by J&KBoard of Secondary Education.
Ironically Aalav died a silentdeath when reship retired in 2009 and nobody could shoulder the responsibilityof its editing.
With demands of more, Reshistarted compiling the short stories in a book and in 2009 he released his firstbook of Kashmiri short stories titled Aena Aatash. The book was received wellin academic circles and he became one of the few persons to have bagged theprestigious Sahitya Academy award for his first book. The award was announcedin December 2013. It was a bitter sweet end to one of the most tragic years ofReshi. In the July of same year he lost his young son to a tragic accident inUdaipur. It changed Reshi's life forever, which is evident in some of hisstories written after that.
Reshi took the genre of short storieswriting to a new level in accordance with the changing tastes of youngergeneration. He has even shortened the short stories without losing any of theelements of the plot.
The biggest USP of Reshi'sstories in his start of the short story. He starts right with a bang with anelement of surprise. Like in one story he starts with a man shouting"where are the children?" Followed byquick response of characters wife that they are at tuition class. Just reading thefirst line makes reader to think something must have happened. He doesn't losetime and words in trying to build a plot. "In today's world nobody has time toread so much of stuff. Younger generation has less attention span and that iswhy some of the stories are just one paragraph long and people love it," saidReshi while agreeing that the biggest challenge facing Kashmiri literature islack of reading by youngsters. "Even at our Fiction Writers Guild, I try toencourage the young writers and readers. With my stories targeting at them i feelimmensely happy if I influence even single person,"
Reshi's favourite writers havebeen Saadat Hassan Mantoo and Munshi Premchand. Most of his short stories arehighly influenced by Mantoo, which a reader can easily get right from its titleto twisting plot.
The writer has also not shiedaway from writing on the political and other topics that have engulfed Kashmirfor the last twenty years. He has also targeted society and its evil practices.Be it challenges of an unmarried girl who just wishes she will marry even ahandicap person or a relationship between a childless woman and puppy or eventhe tension between sister-in-laws and mother-in-laws. The politics and itsdifferent shades of grey have been duly highlighted in various stories.
The book of short storieswritten by Reshi has been highly acclaimed by various circles in and outsidethe state. Besides, several of its other short stories have receivedcommendation from critiques like Prof Rehman Rahi, MY Taing, Prof MohammadAslam and others.
Many of Reshi's short storieshave also been translated and published in different classical andinternational languages., including Arabic. One of his story Bramm (Illusion)has the privilege of being translated and published in prestigious Transfirejournal published from Tamil Nadu. Transfire usually publishes some acclaimedwork from all around the world.
Recently Reshi also wrote hissecond book Nethnaeni (The stripped). The collection of short stories has hitthe society left right and centre much like his earlier work, to which Taingsays that the stories create a certain kind of pain in the heart. It forces thereaders to think and see their society in a new way. "Reshi's stories are likea beads in a rosary. Together they give a compact picture and even if one beadis removed entire picture is distorted," writes Taing. "His themes are Kashmiribut easily connected to a global level."
His stories have been broadcastfrom TV and Radio. Till date he has written around 70 stories with more in theoffing.