BOOKS & PUBLICATIONS
( Abode Of Agony )
Author: Kshama Kaul
Translated from Hindi by Dileep Kumar Kaul
Publisher : Iralek Publishing House, Mumbai (2023)
Language : English
Paperback : 535 pages
Available on Amazon, Flipkart and other Platforms
( Original Hindi also Published by Bharatiya Jnanpith )
“When I wrote ‘Dardpur,’ I tried to be loyal to the truth and nothing else… Whether I get bouquets or brickbats, I will continue to write on these realities.” Kshama Kaul
Kshama Kaul belongs to a family well entrenched in literature and performing arts. As a Hindi writer from Kashmir, Kshama Kaul has been brutally frank, direct and forthright in putting forth the pain and sufferings of exiles and innocents from Kashmir. She is a writer, ace translator, poet, social activist and above all a sensitive human being. Most of her work is based on the pathos and the genocidal tragedy that befell a peace-loving community; old women turning dumb and helpless, men struggling to keep the wolf at bay and investing every penny in the education of their children, greedy politicians doing lip sympathy with the victims of hate and prejudice and ignorant victims siding with the perpetrators of cruelty in the hope of getting elusive justice. She exposes the double talkers and their politically correct statements, the so-called secular left and the vote bank politics of the country that forces a victim to go to the perpetrator of injustice for justice. Kaul’s poems, stories, essays, and novels have been translated into various languages of the country. She has been delivering lectures on the topics of exile, genocide, culture, human rights and ethnic cleansing in various universities and colleges in the country. Kaul lives in Jammu.
Using Sudha as the protagonist, Dardpur is a moving portrayal of the life of the exiles from the Kashmir Valley. Kshama Kaul relates the universal and timeless struggle between the forces that can destroy us and those that can lead us back from sorrow and pain to life itself. A saga of the entire community of Kashmiri Pandits who were forced to leave their ancestral land purely on account of religious frenzy and terrorism by a mindset that believes in hate and intolerance. It weaves the analysis of a campaign to throw out the Kashmiri Pandits using terror as a principal tool. The voices of the victims are suppressed quite often by the colluding political dispensation of the period. A reader feels the helplessness of the Pandits in an environment of hate and prejudice. The issues of genocide and subsequent denial and cover-up by shaming and defaming the victims have been skillfully dealt with in the novel. The novel has been translated into some major languages of the country. Published by Bhartiya Jnanpith in Hindi ( 2004), the novel has also been made a curriculum text by some universities in the country. The much-awaited English translation is brilliant, to the point and flows like the original Hindi version of the novel. One feels as if the translation has been done for the intended audience. For this, Dileep Kumar Kaul the translator of the novel deserves kudos. Some key features of the plot and the novel’s powerful narrative could be summed up as under:-
Easily Identifiable Names, behavioural Patterns, Situations, and Places
In this novel. Kshama Kaul uses physical description, action, inner thoughts, reactions, and speech to create images for the readers. Her characters drive the story from their traits to their actions, from their feelings to how they change throughout the book. Kaul has been very skilful in selecting the names of her characters. These names create a painfully nostalgic interest of the reader in the story. These names offer the first clue to who she or he is for the reader. The familiarity of the names has set the tone for the book. The novel has many characters and as the events unfold, these characters enter and leave. Their names also reflect the period or the era to which these events are set in, and the class or status of the characters. A reader finds his friends, relations and neighbours in these characters and names. Such is the impact of the characters of this novel that quite often, the reader himself feels like a character of the narrative. Once a reader identifies with the names of the characters, their behavioural patterns, places and situations around which the narrative is woven, he is immediately drawn towards the story and comes to it again and again. Every Kashmiri is familiar with names appearing in the novel like Jameela, Mehmooda, Dilshada, Habla, Gani Dar, Rahman Daga, Ramzan Pir, Aziz Lone, Ali Mohammad, Ghulam Qadir, Jigri, Kishni, Tulsi, Tarawati, Sati Ded, Rajrani, Tathi, Kakani, Babli, Sudha, Deepti, Meenakshi, Bailal, Baijaan, Gasha, Tatha Ji, Bihari Lal, Tikka Lal, Dwarika Nath, Lass Kak, Chand Ji, Papa Ji, Mana Kak, Aftab Ram, Shambu Nath, Kaka Ji, Boba, Mohan Boyi ( the priest ) and Sat Lal etc. The events appearing in the novel are also set in some familiar places like Ganpatyaar, Habba Kadal, Baramulla, Karan Nagar, Kupwara, Sopore, Lukbhawan, Shankaracharya, Karfalli Mohalla, Gautamnaag, Kani Kadal, Shivalaya and Sangrama etc. Some more familiarity is generated with the mention of Ahdoo’s hotel, Bukhari, Tahar, Kangri, BBC news, Khasu, Pulhor, Pheran, Pakistani salt, Kulcha, Ghar -devta, Nizam e Mustafa, Geeta Bhawan, tents, Shiva, Shakti, tribal raiders, Zoondub, Parmeshwari episode, Bhawani-Sahasranama, Al-Fatah, JKLF, Panchastavi, Kaafir, Nara e taqbeer Allah o Akbar, hindustano draiyo taan- Pakistano vandyo jaan, batani batani dodye muss, Bharat mata ki jai, Aey kaafiron aey zaalimon kashmir hamaara chhorr do .
Brutally Frank Narrative
I firmly believe that the critics of this novel have not read it in totality or have based their judgment on hearsay. Kshama Kaul spares none in this novel. I didn’t find anything that is untruth, fabricated or not based on what all of us saw. Through the characters of Amravati and Prasad Joo, she doesn’t even spare the members of her community who demonstrate socially objectionable conduct. Rarely are such naked truths brought into novels. And if brought, the authors have to be daring and prepared to face the consequences. This brutally frank narrative reminds the reader about Kabir’s Doha:-
Kabira khada bazaar mein liye lukaati haath ,
Jo ghar phoonke aapna chale hamaare saath.”
( With a flambeau in his hand,
Kabir has arrived in the marketplace,
Anyone who would torch his dwelling
is welcome to join )
While she exposes the double talkers, the politicians, and the real tormentors of a peaceful community, she doesn’t fail to project some positive characters like Ghulama , the driver who sees everything objectively but can’t muster the courage to stand up and call a spade a spade. There is also Khadim Dar, the illiterate Tonga driver who demonstrates sanity and empathy in an environment charged with hate and prejudice against Kashmiri Pandits.
The characters of the novel throw up some serious and philosophical sentences in their normal communication. These sentences make the reader ponder and think. That alone proves the depth of the feelings with which the novel was conceived and written by the author. I quote some:-
A devotee becomes the deity in her devotion “
After some days when Ritsmaal passed away, Sudha heard people saying Ritsmaal had broken free from the stronghold of Amravati. Broken free…The beauty of death and ugliness of life …Such a conflict.”
If women are sensitive, they are doomed. They become Ranimaal, Arnimaal or Lal Ded.”
Why is history becoming so painful and torturous? Has history been constantly created because, from the very beginning, the phenomenon of sin has not been adequately analysed? The phenomenon of sin kept establishing as the synonym of comfort and delight! And those who walked the path of virtue became powerless! What is happening? What at all?”
Kaleidoscopic Picture Of A Society Living Phony Life Since Decades
The novel opens curtains on many behavioural aspects of Kashmiris in general and Pandits in particular. The author makes his readers believe that Pandits lived a phony life compromising at every step while demonstrating magnanimity, honesty and compassion. When the house of Shambhu Nath is looted in the tribal raid of 1947 by his neighbour (who believes that Pandits may not return), he recognises the burglar who is carrying the looted trunk on his head. The patrolling Sikh soldier of the Indian Army comes to know about this and aims his gun at the burglar who drops the box from his head and seeks forgiveness with folded hands. The Sikh soldier drops the gun only after Shambhu Nath intervenes and begs the soldier to let his Muslim neighbour go away. Hinting at the timidity of character, the author conveys that a Kashmiri demonstrates diametrically opposite behavioural traits in a group and as an individual. According to the author, the land reforms implemented by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah in a hurry were primarily meant to deprive a community of its agricultural land. Through the character of Mastathi, the author questions the legitimacy of Gandhi Ji in politics if he chose to be a Mahatama or a great saint. According to the author, poverty, lack of opportunity, suppression and minority complex shaped the personality of a Kashmiri Pandit in the Kashmir valley post-1947. The author conveys that if secularism was implemented by any community in letter and spirit, it was the Kashmiri Pandit. For this reason, a Pandit would rarely help another Pandit fearing being labelled as communal.
Not only pain and suffering, the novel documents living style, habits, social life and fundamentally the abandonment of a community by the establishment post-1947. The suffering of the community especially in villages adjoining Baramulla, Sopore and some more areas during tribal raid is also well presented. Pain, suffering, and stories of genocidal acts against a peace-loving community pour out from every page of the novel. There may be a difference of core issue or difference in style of presentation, Dardpur comes close to Qurratulain Hyder’s Aag Ka Dariya. If Aag Ka Dariya is one of the Indian subcontinent’s best novel on the traumatic partition, Dardpur is no less in conveying the tragic story of the ethnic cleansing of a peaceful community from their original habitat. While reading Kshama Kaul’s Dardpur, I also found many underlying emotive references resembling David Kherdian’s novel, ‘ The Road from Home: The Story of an Armenian Girl’ based on the most devastating holocausts of our century, when in the year 1915, the Turkish government began the systematic destruction of its Armenian population. Dardpur is like Saul Friedlander’s book,’ The Years of Extermination ‘ on the Jewish holocaust. Who says that the Kashmiri Pandits were not forcibly deprived of their culture, language, religious places, monuments and environment for no fault? It has happened too often and too little taken note of. Those who have doubts need to read Kaul’s Dardpur.
( Avtar Mota )