Toiba Paul presents her review of “The Book Thief”, the best-selling novel by Markus Zusak that was also adapted into a popular film. Toiba’s review more specifically addresses the commonalities of the human experience shared between those who lived in wartime Germany with the Nazi regime in power and those who have live in Kashmir. While no direct analogy is perfect, the review focuses on individual experiences and suffering brought about by war and relates these back and forth between the world depicted in the novel and the world that surrounds people living in Kashmir. Since literature and fiction are particularly adept in communicating individual experiences of circumstances as vast as war, Paul is effective in conveying the similitude that exists between the Kashmiri experience under war with that of the characters in Zusak’s novel. In doing so, the young writer makes a compelling case for why “The Book Thief” should be read widely in Kashmir and how it can help contextualize the unaddressed experiences of those who live or have had to live under brutal violence and repression.
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Ali Saffudin brings us his latest installment—three lakefront songs performed and recorded live on the shores of Srinagar’s most visited water body.
Ather Zia recites two of her ghazals in Kashmiri for a people and their land, where the idea of a “prolonged longing” has emerged, such that time is always out of joint because space has been bent and constricted. It is in such spaces and under such circumstances where the poetic verse resists despair and gives form to grief, while sustaining hope. English transliteration courtesy of the poet, with photography by Masrat Zahra.
Manan Shah revisits a heritage site that holds the answers to a significant number of questions about the presence and development of Buddhism in Kashmir’s lengthy history. As a student of archaeology and ancient history, Shah offers a core introduction to a site of great importance that was excavated in 1923. Till date, the Buddhist Monastery at Harwan remains a marker of a Kashmiri history that places the Himalayan territory as an important historic location for the convergence of multiple cultures. In its exposition, Shah’s piece also shows Kashmir’s inherent cultural sophistication through a reading of Harwan as an archaeological and historical site that provides a view into Kashmir’s past far beyond the mediatized discourses and reductive narratives that attempt to represent Kashmir within a limited scope of relevance and importance—as a mere socio-political appendage whose place in South Asian and Central Asian history remains posited on shaky ground. Perhaps inadvertently, this essential piece provides an introductory glace into a history where Kashmir is a center and not some territory within the margins set by others—and in that, a place frequently referenced by multiple visitors seeking both knowledge and answers. The piece features the author’s photography of the site that was included in the World History Encyclopedia (republished here via CC-NC-SA).
In this timely piece (featured in our opinions and perspectives section), Muzamil Jaleel poses and evaluates two essential questions: Is New Delhi’s outreach to pro-India parties a tactical step to normalise the devastating changes introduced in J&K since August 5, 2019? Has the Sangh Parivar’s Kashmir project run up against a roadblock or has it been compelled by international players to change course?
Kashmir’s resident poet Rumuz E Bekhudi presents a poem shaped by an economy of verse that packs volumes and tomes of meaning into eight small verses—communicating the silence that makes islands out of beings submerged in a state of loneliness, even amidst a togetherness buried deep in the fabric of a society engulfed in a never-ending war.
Saba Zahoor presents a poem that is close to the heart of anyone who has experienced the love, warmth and care of grandparents. These verses are a testament to that love, because more than in its presence, it is perhaps more deeply felt in an absence or in a void of some sort. More often than not, familial love is treated in simplistic terms between emission and reception that defines a relationship based on reciprocity or recognition. This poem sheds light on a shared experience and sentiment felt by a wide range of people around the world who are caregivers to elderly parents or grandparents who suffer in a particular way. Its verses tell us that we are not alone in that shared experience with the poem itself bearing testimony to that fact.
Kashmiri blackout artist Asma Firdous presents sixteen blackout poems and works of word art that she has produced over a specific time. The piece comes with an extensive introduction by Amjad Majid (titled “Blackout Poetry in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction: An Editor’s Introduction”) to familiarize viewers and readers with this artform and a statement by the poet and artist herself followed by the sixteen blackout poems.
Quratulain Qureshi presents a poem that sends across a message that the poet summarizes clearly, without embellishments, and in her own words: “It is wrong and highly problematic to equate the fight of a people for their rights and dignity with that of the oppressive methods of their persecutors. Hence, this poem: an address to the advocates of such a ‘pacifism’.”
This article traces various social media expressions during the ongoing pandemic and asks the overarching question: how should one understand, express and practice compassion and empathy in this new context of global – yet differential and graded – uncertainty, loss and suffering? It focuses on the unfamiliar shift of entire populations across the globe from physical, tangible spaces to a virtual, online presence and the consequent issue of what norms, rules and ethics govern this online area of expression and action during a pandemic. Caught between an either-or narrative between a display of privileged quarantine living, a sense of empathy for the marginalized or a downright lack of it, the article observes that social media responses to the pandemic produce a ‘competitive performative compassion.’ It argues that such compassion becomes fetishist and results in the very thing that the expressed compassion was meant to counter, that is, continued unequal suffering. This article was first published in Lund University, SASNET journal Chakra: A Nordic Journal of South Asian Studies, Special Issue: Articulations of a Pandemic (2020 ISSN 1652-0203) and is published here via permission by the author.
Juvaria Syed introduces a piece of fiction that is an attempted decalcomania of the ruminations of common Kashmiri people—an attempt to chart the dispersed wanderings, expressed in word, that form a variegated Kashmiri consciousness—ultimately resulting in a fictional text that is closer to reality than the framings of most mediatized constructions. The piece is shaped by nine sections that reveal fundamental preoccupations, misgivings, apprehensions, and cynicism that many readers will identify with and are felt during various periods of time. The tone registered in Syed’s fictional prose oscillates between cynical, satirical and parodic in certain parts so as to shed light on how closely the political is intertwined with the absurd in Kashmir. Beyond these limited and summarized descriptions, here is a piece of fiction that maintains a dialogue between the personal and the political. Along the same lines, Syed’s writing finds its creative form between heteroglossia and polyphony—while experimenting with style to give voice to narrators who otherwise are made to remain invisible or are subjected to constant erasures and silences that most Kashmiris are well-acquainted with. The piece is accompanied by a “Reference for Code Switching” (at the end) with the English translations of specific words and terms found in Syed’s writing.
In a poem that invokes Edward Said’s memorable words in the first verse, Bayed Mubarak surprisingly takes an altogether different direction in engaging with a language of simplicity and childhood. A bird, Captain Fluf’, becomes a metaphor for innocence at a time when children have been killed with bombs that wouldn’t spare pigeons or any other life form—all under the pretext of self-defense and counter-terrorism. The poem might not communicate such things overtly, but the type of anger that is born from unimaginable violence is a clear motif that draws the point home with sarcastic bitterness.
Parray Shahid presents two grief-stricken poems that travel to a distant land and to its peoples, who in many ways are closer to the heart of Kasheer than any nearby neighbor—especially in what concerns a kinship formed from a state of subjugation, and sealed with a pact of resistance.
Inverse Journal presents three short stories by Anton Chekhov translated into Urdu and Hindi, and recorded in audiobook format by Adbi Dunya. We have included links to the full text in English translation for each of these stories.