By | Syed Safa Chishti
Srinagar, 22 October : William Shakespeare quoted literature as a “comprehensive essence of the intellectual life of a nation”. Evidences of these have been historic in Kashmir from the ascetic poems of Habbah Khatoon, with mystical Vakhs of Lal Ded’s poetry to Rahman Rahi’s epic translations and contributions of the Valley’s insight through Basharat Peer’s “Curfewed Nights”. Like many other realms of artistic works, literature too has evolved throughout the centuries bringing with it new variations and forms of themes, depictions, expressions and numerous patterns of portrayals of stories. While the creations of such works conceive from the passionate minds withholding these literary interests, the subtle unacceptance of literature as a creative mainstream profession more significantly amongst Kashmiris underweights the importance of this art.
Often the bigger question arising in the minds of literary passionates encounters hesitation with regards to how literature as a profession could treat careers in the long run amidst the race of becoming a doctor or an engineer being viewed mostly as major working fields in the Valley.
For Nida Noor, the author of the book Two And a Half, harboring a passion towards books and literature should have been a natural approach hadn’t the social outlook of literature as a misfit area compelled her to choose for rather a professional course.
“In Kashmir, choosing literature as a vocation is not regarded as highly as other fields such as engineering or medicine. I can connect to it because I intended to major in literature as well, but societal pressure forced me to pursue engineering instead”
She believes that despite this hesitance in the Valley, the recent approach to redeem book culture through the many outlets may change this narrative in the long run. “People are accustomed to the culture of book cafes and bookstores. There has also been an increase in the number of book publishing houses and related enterprises, allowing budding poets and authors to publish their work and share it with the world”
Nida considers studying literature allows readers to imitate the style of others which in turn influences to establish one’s own style. “I’ve always been fascinated to Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Harlan Coben’s fictional stories. Gothic novels have always piqued my interest, and I eventually found myself creating one”
Syed Jeena Josephine, a first year literature student at Islamic University of Science and Technology (IUST) shares the reasons behind choosing her passion as her profession. “My inborn tendency of imagination, creativity and the urge to make valuable judgments has been a burning passion which magnetized me to the field of literature. So, literature, I understood is a rich medium which aims to develop students in and values as integrity, compassion ,loyalty and responsibility”.
To her literature is a bond between soul and nature. “The writings of art in terms of novels, prose, poetry and fiction have made my soul a prisoner of literature and so on availing opportunity at this level, I feel my dream closer to my destiny chosen”
Speaking on where literature today stands as a mode of learning amongst the youth in the Valley, Jeena calls the inability of appreciating the value of Peace and Humanities as a subject as the biggest challenge in the society, which underlines within it the aftermath of understanding literature. “I think student community from Kashmir needs to understand the content around. The taste in our blood is poetic and saintly nature loving. Reading cultures, learning creativity and developing sense of individuality is possible within literature and the taste once explored brings a soul close to nature and nature reading makes a man a perfect soul”
Not being confined to just one language, literature covers a vast area in Urdu and Kashmiri languages in the Valley too. A writer in Urdu, Dr. Zahid Bashir thinks that the intellectuals emerging from such languages have always put the issues of the society’s reflection forth via literary modes. “When India was under the administration of British Empire, a major chunk of inspiration came from the writings of Prem Chand that awakened the spirit of unity and independence amongst people, killing their ignorance by his fictional courageous stories of unity. His contributions involved bringing a whole new revolution to Urdu literature”
He credits Prem Chand for inducing the ideas of “heroism” via the depictions of diligence in laborers and farmers as real beauty as opposed to the accepted norm of portraying such ideas through comparisons from a woman’s appearance.
He further highlights how the need back then to expose the deep rooted evils in the society were fulfilled by the literary works of Saadat Hassan Manto and Kashmiri writers Wahshi Saeed and Deepak Badki, which reflected the then era as a mirror of its phase through their stories and had a pragmatic effect in society that only literature had accomplished.
Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts people and author, Mohamad Junaid thinks that people often fall into confusion because poetry falls between the notions of literature as a “professional activity” and a “pastime.”
“Historically, very few poets and writers made a living out of literature, even though poetry was a highly desirable and respected form of expression across all classes”. He rewards literary products laced with such labor as an eminent beauty with high qualities of expressions which all societies must value and support. “This requires a cultural transformation” Junaid highlights, “which happens only in societies that are free to deliberate and imagine which of course, is what literature is meant to do. A vibrant society and a vibrant literature are, thus, co-dependent”.
For Junaid, literature is imaginative, creative and fantastical, coming with some forms of rules which make a literary work recognizable and understandable. “One learns these rules and plays with them. More than a mode of learning, literature enables a form of engagement with the world that challenges what we learn traditionally. Good literature frees the imagination and opens novel ways of seeing and imagining possibilities”, he says.
Winner of Muse India Young Writer Award 2015, The Half Mother by Kashmiri Novelist Shahnaz Bashir, considers adopting literature as a hobby beneficial since it provides readers with a motive to cherish their own space and time of enjoyment over other materialistic pleasures.
“There always exists a section of readers fond of pulp and trivia like many writers but one must know that the same society standardizes literary works for their artistic merits and temporal worth”.
Shahnaz feels literature possesses an appeal of an “immoral beauty” that lasts even after an author’s demise for eternity. He believes the literary trends, though uncontrollably puerile are indicative of paving way to an intellectual betterment.
“The first thing that a spring, gushing up through earth to emerge on its surface throws up is froth, then muddy water and then a pristine stream that flows calmly forever”