A good beginning

This is the first attempt at writing a history of the children’s literature.
A good beginning
Cover picture of the book, 'Kaeshri Shuir Adbuik Tawareekh'

Kaeshri  Shuir Adbuik Tawareekh (History of Kashmiri Children's Literature) is written by Ghulam Nabi Aatash. The book came out in 2020 and is published by Ali Mohammad and Sons, Srinagar. The book is a welcome addition to Kashmiri literature in general and children's literature in particular. It traces the history of literature related to children in Kashmir from 1947 to 2020. There are five chapters in it excluding a foreword. It covers the different genres in which literature for children has been written. For example, drama, novel, short story, essay, informative literature, religious texts etc. The whole range has been incorporated for a thorough experience of the reader. Each of these is substantiated with the help of samples from respective writers.

The author states that before 1947 there was no noteworthy children's literature. When Kashmiri language was introduced in schools in 1949, attention was turned towards aspects of Kashmiri literature, including literature for children. However, due to political disturbances in 1953 Kashmiri was taken out of curriculum. Around this time some essays were written about this literature. Dina Nath Nadim wrote an essay 'soan ginduin ta droakuin' in 1955, in which he referred to the folk songs, and was published in magazine Konga Posh. Ali Mohammad Lone wrote a scholarly piece about the Kashmiri folk songs, in which mention was also made of the songs of children.

An eminent name in the history of children's literature is Ghulam Ahmad Fazil Kashmiri (1916-2004). Although he wrote for all age groups and they benefitted for his writings, but he was the first writer who paid a special attention towards children's literature. He wrote several collections of poetry for children, like, 'Shamma Wattan' 'Nigaehban' 'Daleela' and 'Duayi Masuum.' For girls, he wrote songs emphasising the virtues of a good life. The overall thrust of his writings was on the love of mankind and moral development. Some other eminent names in this genre are Naji Munawar, Ayub Sabir, Sheikh Raazi and Rasool Poanpuir.

The process of writing in prose made a late entrance in Kashmiri language. There is hardly any prose text available before 1947. Whatever little was present was written by some foreigners. One of the texts is Tales of Kashmir written by Hinton Knowles in 1887. These tales were then translated in Kashmiri by Bashar Basheer, and Cultural Academy published this collection of tales in 2020.

The process of writing short stories began during the fifth decade of the 20th century. A good number of standard short stories were also written. However, no real effort was made to write short stories for children. No doubt some short story writers came out occasionally with some stories which were enjoyed both by the adults and children. However, originally, they were not meant to be for children. It is only during the last eight to ten years that some people began to write exclusively for children and broke the proverbial ice in this field. Some of the short stories of Amin Kamil, Akhtar Mohiuddin and Rattan Lal Shant are read by children of the age group of 14-18. Some of these stories have also found space in the school curriculum. After them a number of writers have written short stories with children as target readers in their mind. Farooq Masud is also one of them. Ghulam Nabi Aatash has also written short stories about children. They were published in the collection 'Noav Kehntcha Meintcha.' A special care has been observed in order to meet the needs of specific age groups for which the stories were meant.

The author believes that a book for children should quickly catch the attention of children. It must have a tempting format. The cover of the book must be attractive and use of illustrations and pictures has to be a compulsory component. I may add here that there should be a note of optimism in the story along with a telling moral. An instance of a story for children, rich with all the things necessary for children, is Russian writer Maxim Gorky's short story. It was translated into Kashmiri by B A Shah under the title 'Tchaeri Baccha" in 1976. There are sixteen pages of the story. Out of these sixteen pages there are just 53 short lines of the content. Along with the picture on the cover page, there are 34 pictures which 'show' the meaning of the story. The number of characters is also small. There is the main character 'tchaeri baccha', the second is mother of 'tchaeri baccha' and the third, a human being.

About the genre of novel, the author claims that there are just around two dozen novels in Kashmiri. However, a good number of novels from other languages have been translated into Kashmiri. For about seven decades the novel in Kashmiri could not develop, it was then logically out of question that there could be novels about children. Even novels about children from other languages were not translated. Hamid Siraj wrote a sixty four page novelette, 'Haari Jang,' in 2011. The author feels it is a good beginning towards writing a novel for children. There is nothing in this novelette that would distract the attention of children.

The book under discussion is a brilliant addition to the evolving genre of children's literature. This is the first attempt at writing a history of the children's literature. It is a comprehensive account of this literature from different genres. The author has previously written books for children that have become popular, and also won appreciation from critics and lay readers. Author of around four dozen Books, Ghulam Nabi Aatash is the recipient of the Bal Sahitya Puraskar and the 'Main Award' of Sahitya Akademi. This book should instil interest in children's literature and open a new area for research.

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