From a distance, one might assume that the literary activities have come to a halt in Kashmir, but the reality is much more different. The writers continue to produce books documenting everything from folklore to political happenings, to the sufferings of people. This year too, a host of books have come to fore much to the delight of book lovers. Though there has been drastic reduction of reading habits, but a dedicated writer and a regular reader continue to fulfil their duties.
The situation in Kashmir provides a fertile soil for emergence of new literature. We saw a number of books on present and past situation of Kashmir being released.
Perhaps one of the best books in a genre which feels empty in Kashmir came up for release at the fag end of the year. 'Nigah-i-Anjum', an autobiography of Anjum Zamrud Habib had been in the waiting for a while and was finally published.
Zamrooda Habi said that the book is all about her concerns and happenings around her life. She said that she has narrated what happened around her—be it in the political sphere or the social —she has recorded that.
"It recounts the turbulence I went through and what happened around me, more on the political front, what I have written is the native and insiders account," Zamrooda Habib added.
Knowing that the book comes from a political leader, a separatist, a prisoner and a woman thrown into one of the world's deadliest conflicts makes it enticing to read. It opens up a whole new world of information and revelations.
Karwan-e-Umeed and Let's write, an organization based in Pune, released 'Prisoners of Paradise,' written by a 23-year old writer Asif Khan and co-authored by a Delhi based writer Mansi Narula Kayshap. The book is based in Kashmir and is an unusual story of two Kashmiri teenagers amidst the curfew-laden Kashmir valley. The book gives a new insight into how youngsters with literary bent of mind see the situation.
The critically acclaimed 'Resisting Occupation in Kashmir' also witnessed US release this year. The book analyses the social and legal aspect of 'India's rule in Kashmir' through some exhaustive essays.
The book has been published by University of Pennsylvania Press. "It also traces how Kashmiri youth are drawing on the region's long history of armed rebellion against Indian domination to reimagine the freedom struggle in the twenty-first century. Resisting Occupation in Kashmir presents new ways of thinking and writing about Kashmir that cross conventional boundaries and point toward alternative ways of conceptualizing the past, present, and future of the region," says the publishing house.
The book is edited by US-based scholars Haley Duschinski, Mona Bhan, Ather Zia, and Cynthia Mahmood.
The research and interpretation of legends like Lal Did continued this year too. Lal Ded- The Backbone of Kashmiri Culture, was released by a young author Vinod Kumar, who is a mechanical engineer by profession.
The book is based on the life and teachings of Lal Ded also known as Lalleshwari. It is a 251 page book in which first 60 pages cover the life history of Lal Ded and the remaining 190 pages cover her popular Vaakhs. Lal Ded, was a 14th century saint, poetess and philosopher of Kashmir.
He has written the Vaakhs as well as their interpretations in English in a lucid manner so that the younger generation and even those who do not know Kashmiri language, can read the book and benefit from it.
From Pir Panchal valley, Prof. Dr Mohammad Bashir Magray came out with 'Shahenshah-e-Jabbal' based on life, times and contribution of Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah (R.A). Though he also released another titled 'Systematic Geography of J&K State,' but it was the former that has caught interest of the reader. Through his book, people will come to know about life and contribution of Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah (RA). With the book, the deficit in literature on the great figure has been filled to an extent.
A unique book highlighting communal harmony in Kashmiri Literature released at Kashmir university was praised by all. The book itself named "Communal Harmony in Kashmiri Literature" is authored by Prof. R .K .Bhat. Giving the reason for writing the book, Bhat said that while entire world today knows Kashmir as a disturbed and problem area, his book presents a different picture of the same place. He said that legacy of Kashmir was known for thousands of years and it is same which he wanted to highlight in his book. He said that his target readership is non Kashmiris and Kashmiri youth.
Continuing with interesting themes, Pyasee Jheel (Thirsty Lake) authored by noted Urdu fiction writer Majeed Arjumand was released by prominent Urdu critic and author Prof. Mohammad Zaman Azurdah. The book consisting of 11 stories touch different aspects of life including one about Dal Lake. The author has highlighted the voicelessness of Dal Lake depicting its miseries and peoples attitude towards the famed water body.
Noted broadcaster and playwright Nissar Naseem's book 'Bazar Wuchmai Tamasha' and actor-writer Abdul Rashid Gamgeen's book 'Varasat' were released at a literary function organised at the banks of famed Manasbal Lake by Greater Kashmir Foundation.
The book Bazar Wuchmai Tamasha is Naseem's second drama collection. The 157-page book is comprised of three dramas highlighting various aspects of Kashmiri society and politics. Varasat is sixth book of Gamgeen containing various dramas depicting Kashmiri society.
Among other books that hit the stands include Rashid Siddiqui's first Kashmiri Ghazals collection 'Tiyeuth Chu Mujadal', (Such is the disputation), Water Polity and Kashmir by scholar Rao Farman Ali, 'Satisar', the valley of Demons by Ayaz Rasool Nazki, poetic collection 'Parda Sukhan Ka' by Dr. Nazir Azad, poetry collection 'Asi Chi Purran Hamsayan Tal' and 'Me and My Animal' by Aziz Hajini.
In the Sufi circles, number of books were also released often with lesser pomp and show.
Jammu & Kashmir Saqafatee Markaz Budgam in Collabration with JKAACL and Anjumane Sufiyana Kalam released two Books of the the eminent Poet Ahad Lala titled 'Chashme Aabe Hayat' and 'Tawareekh' Ahmad Bhat.
A Kashmiri poetry collection Wuyn Piyoum Yaad by Sheikh Bashir Ahmad Saloora was another addition to Sufi poetry. The book garnered praise from noted writer Ghulam Nabi Khayal and Prof Bashar Bashir for enriching the Sufi genre.
'Armaghan-e-Madina', a collection of Naats written by famed Sufi Poet Ashiq Adeeb hit the stands this year. The book, which is sixth by the author, comprises of more than one hundred Naats. Four poetic collections 'Mouj', 'Sanam' and 'Sang e Aastan' by former MLA and writer Abdul Gani Naseem and 'Fulie Wann' a poetry collection by eminent poetess Rehana Kounsar was released in Budgam.
Renowned poet, critic and translator Manshoor Banihali's latest poetic collection 'Yath Waave Haalay Tchong Kus Zaalay' was also released this year. Prof Shad Ramzan and Ghulam Nabi Aatash described the book as "an addition to modern Kashmiri poetry," and the poetic collection which has explored new dimensions.
Zahid Farooqi, a teacher by profession who doubles as a poet and writer came up with his beautiful book 'Kayinat Kulhum Halmas Manz.' The book could be termed as an attempt by the author to translate his thoughts and imagination into a book.
Writers Najee Munawar, Gulzar Ahamd Wani and Roohi Jan also came up with one book each
After teacher and an engineer, lawyer turned poet, Shabir Aariz came up with his first book Aatish Bajaa. The book is a poetic collections which also include rubbayiats and other genres of poetry. Shabir said the book has been for a long time in the making. He said that during these decades of work, he could never get over the feeling of poet and this Aatish (fire) has been inside me forever.
One good thing which helped this year was that search giant Google added Kashmiri language to its keyboard app. The step will help language lovers to type in Kashmiri.
The cyber world also saw the release of "Bayan Ul Furqan", Kashmiri translation of Quran by Hazrat Allama Mirwaiz Kashmir Moulana Muhammad Yousuf Shah (RA) on social media.
The detailed interpretation of Quran has been written in a lucid language and will be loved by Kashmiri readers who till date couldn't get their hand on the hard copy of the Quran.
Outside Kashmir too, many book related to Kashmir were released.
The year started with release of collection of poetry "Call of Silence" by a Kashmiri poetess Sunita Raina. The writer described the book as a mirror of experiences of Kashmiri Pandit community with an essence of realistic touch. Reciting her poems at the function in Jammu, she said that she has attempted to put up several social issues through her poems in ghazal form. The Call of Silence added to the collection of what Duke University calls as literature in exile. Sunita is one of the rare young Pandit writers who have held on to the mother tongue.
Sunita also came up with an urdu poetry collection Aansuoon Ke Chinaab this year. This book contains a collection of ghazals on varied subjects like women empowerment, contemporary issues, yearning of Kashmiri Pandits for their homeland, and growing intolerance in the society.
Adding to the already rich treasure of folk tales of Kashmir, a banker turned author Avanty Sopory has come up with a collection of fascinating Kashmiri tales in a book titled 'Catching the Fading Ray'. Sopory who also teaches at a management school in New Delhi got the idea of writing the book about this subject when she was unable to find a book on folk tales at an upscale book store in Delhi. She took it upon herself to collect and translate Kashmiri folk tales and present them to world in a book form. From kings and queens to to magical settings, Sopory has written 24 folk tales in the book. The author has made her mark in the first attempt as a reader enjoys the journey set through pages after pages in the magical world of Kashmir.
On the other side, Pakistani writer Anam Zakaria came up with a first of its kind book on Kashmir titled "Between The Great Divide: A journey into Pakistan-administered Kashmir". The book is being described by Indians and Pakistanis as not only a first but also a deeply empathic account of disrupted lives in the region. The author travelled through Pakistan-administered Kashmir to hear its people – their sufferings, hopes and aspirations, breaking the silence surrounding a people who according to her, are often ignored in discussions on the present and future of Jammu and Kashmir even though they are important stakeholders in what happens in the region.
A book charting the history of Kashmiri crafts and detailing its myriad aspects was launched by Union Cabinet Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi and politician Karan Singh. Titled "The Living Art and Craft Tradition of Jammu and Kashmir" it has been authored by Textile Conservationist Madhu Jain.
Infusing the element of Kashmir, author Siddhartha Gigoo's latest novel 'Mehr: A love Story', weaves around a cross-border love story, elements of territorial obsession, patriotism and religion.
The book narrates a fascinating love story of a Pakistani woman and a Kashmiri man and how their blooming love gets caught in the paranoid security establishment.
Much like 2017, this year too number of young promising writers also hit the stands. 'Mahnoor', a novella by Sehar Lone, a student of English Literature, infused a fresh air in the literature.
"Mahnoor is a juvenile girl, who aspires to be loved, and wants to soar high but feels dysphoric and caged in an orthodox family. The only ray of hope is only her mother who assists her in almost every phase of life," reads the description of the book.
Being a student of psychology as well, Sehar, in the novella, tries to show the inner instincts of human psyche through the art of literature, correlating both psychology and literature.
Among the young writers, special mention is made of Rubayata Umeed, 14, from Kunzer, Tangmarg who has become one of the youngest novelists of the state with the publishing of her first book 'Wizards X Beasts'.
The novel set in Japan is published by notion press, a self-publishing company based in Channai. Rubayata's favourite country is Japan and she is fascinated by the lifestyle, culture, education system and technology of Japan.
The writer is working on her second novel expected to be published soon.
Rubayata was not alone record breaker, another 14 year old Gowhar Mubarak joined her ranks with the release of his debut book 'Till the Flow'. The book has been published by Lieper Publications Private Limited.
The compilation peeps into the metaphysical domains of life, love, relationships, friendship, truth, beauty and goodness with inspirational flow of thoughts that arrests the reader and puts him behind the bars of artistic excellence.
"This is just a beginning, I look forward to write more fiction and non-fiction, prose and poetry in the coming years", Gowhar said.
Writer and columnist Fazl illahi released a novel, "The Signs" which highlights the angst and pain of "Saleem"—the protagonist—grappling with ethical and teleological questions of life. Saleem keeps wading on the tracks of good and evil, vacillating until he stumbles on a mystic, who, during more than couple of meetings, transforms him, and makes him worthy to tap on the 'signs' in the universe. There are patches and traces of romance too in the plot where Saleem happens to meet Shahana, and their relationship is shown to deepen as the story advances.
An emerging writer Nowreen Qadri had the privilege of having her first poetic collection 'Silhouettes' getting released by noted writer and linguist Prof Shafi Shauq and renowned poetess Prof Naseem Shafaiee.
Shauq while praising the budding writer said that Kashmir is in dire need of writers and poets who can express the situation. "We need poets, who could pen in few lines, the oppression and suffering though which people are going. We need such writers who through any genre could document the situation for posterity and world to see," said Shauq, terming emergence of young women writers as a positive sign. "Our younger generation is coming forward and writing brilliantly in globally accepted language English. Nowreen is a good addition to the crop of such writers."
Nowreen said that writing the poetic collection was exhausting for her. "It took me four years to write the book and it demanded too much from me," said Nowreen who had first started a novel but later switched to the poetry.
Amidst the achievements and the emergence of young talent, the year also took away some of the best writers. During the year we lost eminent writer, columnist and former sessions Judge Ghulam Nabi Gowher, poet Abdul Salad Gaash and Ahmad Din, Anwar writer and a poet.
With more books and authors lined up for next year, the journey seems to continue with upbeat mood in the coming months too.