In late summer or early autumn of 1989, on a Sunday, along with my friend late Qaiser Mirza, I traveled to Ganderbal to meet Molvi Mohammad Syed Masoodi. One, of the reason for our visit, was to know how he, then one of the senior most politicians around looked at the emerging political scenario in the state- a paradigm shift from electoral politics-cum- peaceful resistance to the armed struggle. Qaiser, then, had shifted from advertising to journalism and wanted to do a story on the subject.
Children in our generation, for the first time, were baptized in the resistance movement during 1964, Holy Relic Movement. And after having heard his eloquent speeches, we believed that he was the most erudite leader around. Some of his 1964 speeches still live in our memory. But, it was after 1965- that was the year of more significant developments and far-reaching consequences there were lots of stories on the grapevine about him. These stories had made many to look at him as Iago- the main antagonist in the post-1965 tale. One of the major stories on the grapevine revolved around 'a letter brought by a shepherd Sattar Wagey meant for Munshi Mohammad Ishaq wrongly delivered to Masoodi and him along with another 'resistance' leader visiting late night then Chief Minister, Sadiq at his residence with the shepherd's letter' – rest is history. The purpose behind my visit along with Qaiser was to know and record his story about the 1965 happenings and allegations against him about being a co-conspirator in 1953. Given to his temperament, he refused to come on record making it difficult to make out if at all he was 'more sinned against than sinning' – as some friends believed.
That is where life writings become vital for telling a story. Had he left behind any genera of life writing- autobiography, memoir, diaries, letters, or personal essays, it would open a slit for a scholar or a researcher to know the whole truth about behind the curtain developments in 1964. Such writings by the protagonists of the movement or even close witnesses would answer questions like why instead of taking the 1964 movement to the next stage of resistance was bargained away for the release of Sheikh Abdullah and installation of Sadiq as Chief Minister 1964. Many a witness to behind the scene drama of the Action Committee leaders advocating for installation of Sadiq before New Delhi, at the peak of the movement are alive – in private conversations, they share details but have been reluctant to put them in black and white.
It is not to suggest that the life writings are just biographies of great individuals, diaries of famous and letters of notables, in fact, the life writings by 'ordinary' people are great significance to the narratives of nations caught up in a situation like that of ours. I for one see, Bebujnama written by Hamidullah as one major life writing in our contemporary history. To quote Dr. Abdul Ahad, 'It exposes the obnoxious face of the administration from 1819-1846.' Many a life writings of the past, that authors could not publish but found a way to the state, and other archives have also provided warp and woof to enterprising researchers to tell the horrid story of our land from 1846- 1947. Truth, is after 1947, for fear of intimidation many a life writers chose not to publish their memoirs, biographies, diaries, and letters. However, during past couple of years, many a journals and diaries that included Nidaa-e-Haque of Munshi Mohammad Ishaq, Prison Diary by Mohammad Youssef Bhat and Prisoner No 1oo by Anjum Zamarud Habib found their place in the bookstores- these books tell stories that perhaps would not have been said.
Some weeks back 'Kashmir to Karachi' written by Nighat Hafiz published by Gulshan Books, Srinagar was added to the life writings of Kashmir. The 22o pages book comprising 4o chapters is not distinct only for being first work that takes us on a socio-cultural voyage from Kashmir to Karachi but for documenting some stories important to Kashmir narrative that perhaps would be buried in the debris of unwritten stories. In the vein of great essayist William Hazlitt and Samuel Johnson, the author in mesmerizing prose tells us: "The imprints of my life were shaped in the deep-woods of Chitternar. Living on the scenic beauties of nature was as good as living on the moon-drop straight from the heavens. The forests would pamper me, soothe me, nourish me, and work silently for the growth of my persona."
Like, an artist she paints a colorful picture of life in the alpine forests. Saifu, the forest guard, like in Charles Dickens novels emerges as a compelling character in the stories about life in Chitternar. These stories are as good as a socio-cultural and anthropologic study of the area. Like people in other parts of our land people in the thick forests also had songs for every occasion. 'Men and women are together creating work spirit songs.' Night Hafiz remembers, "Somehow, the songs sung by Noor-ud-Din and the people working in the fields were identical, both were filled with cravings for freedom and decent living promised by charismatic, Indian leader Nehru. They believed firmly in his promise for holding the free and impartial plebiscite to decide their future following the partition of India."
True to the maxim that every lane in Srinagar has a story to tell, the author narrates the whole story of Ashaie Kocha, a pathway that has been initially hub of the Freedom Struggle. Besides, Qaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah having walked through this narrow alley two top leaders Ghulam Ahmad Ashaie and S.D. Mujahid lived in this lane.
In a couple of chapters the pain of separation of families after the Partition of Indian jets out like waters from natural spring. Twenty-two years after the Partition, author and her mother get an opportunity to meet other members of the family living in Lahore and Karachi. In stating, that on arriving in Ganda Singhwala in Pakistan mother asked her to 'prostrate and kiss the land' the author tells a thousand word story. The book takes us on an excursion to Pakistan in the sixties. In more than half of the chapters of the book, the country open up in all is colors and shades. The chapter mystic magic introduces us to the spiritual experiences of the land. In saying, "joining University made me feel connected with the world mind and allowed to calm adjustment blues" the author gives insight into intellectual and cultural scenes on the campus.
It is a 'life writing' that will enrich Kashmir narrative.