Muzaffar Karim presents a short story driven by language, the Kashmiri language, and with a protagonist about to embark on a journey. While waiting, Sultan Saeb voyages through his thoughts into the terrain of memory and into an inner world full of song, verse, and literature—all the while structuring a speech in his head to be delivered at the point of his destination, a Kashmiri language conference. Karim’s story is set in an airport, a transitory space ideal for ruminating and reminiscing, especially for a scholar of the Kashmiri language stuck waiting for a flight that has been “delayed due to bad weather.” The multiplicity found in this subtle piece of fiction complements the many complexities of a Kashmiri language that propels its plot, thematic undertones and narrative style.
Academic and writer Muzaffar Karim translates and introduces Jaun Elia’s “The Garbage Dump of History,” a piece originally titled “Jannat Jahanam” in Urdu that appeared in Suspense Digest (July 2000). Karim’s introduction and subsequent translation situate international readers beyond Elia’s widely known poetic and academic work, bringing us closer to Elia’s thoughts on Kashmir before, during and after partition. In the process, Karim’s translation reveals a deep sense of empathy, expressed as irredeemable angst that the poet, scholar and philosopher felt for Kashmir and its people, and particularly its disenfranchised Muslim majority. By way of translation, Muzaffar Karim retrieves a piece of writing that serves as a relic or a historical document to register the desperation, angst and nihilism that has festered for decades as Kashmir has remained besieged and exiled from any semblance of peace. That that desperation and angst is expressed by Elia via this translation by Karim makes it even more symbolic of the hostile and unchanging times.
Muzaffar Karim brings us an excerpt from his post-apocalyptic novel set around 2050 when a nuclear attack by India has wiped off Kashmir from the face of the earth, leaving behind a few survivors. Among them, a few people are still fighting back, including Qais, the narrator, who is part of the Resistance. Qais’s only companion, besides Hamdan, is an old charred children’s book miraculously discovered beneath the rubble. The book narrates the story of the magical valley of Ka and the subsequent weakening of that magic due to the conjured up ‘Grandspell’ by surrounding evil neighbors.
The past few months have pitted us against an apocalypse. The city around us is attaining a new meaning. In this excerpt (Chapter 9 of the novel) Qais and Hamdan reactivate the wrecked subway and see Kashmir from a different perspective.
As the academic session in Kashmir starts after a six month lockdown, Professor Muzaffar Karim provides a perspective on the challenges faced by multiple parties within an education system that treats those entrusted with imparting knowledge as expendable.