Iqbal Ahmad

Judging a book by its cover!

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Kashmir has had its glorious days of café’s and book stores as well as reading rooms. The Government libraries used to see a good number of people on a daily basis till late 80’s. But, after the inception of militancy and also with the introduction of modern gadgetry, the trend has gone down drastically.

It is more painful for a writer, like me, whose works of literature come after extraordinary research and is published after great hassles and yet find no readers. I have written enough and do not like to write more, when there is nobody to read my works. A reputed Kashmiri writer, once said, that every writer writes for his readers and when one has got no reader, what fun is it for!  In fact most of the works of Kashmiri literature remains unknown as the vernacular dialects, across the globe, have been dominated by a few languages.

Poor readership has been the major issue for local writers who compile their work with hard mental labor and fail to find any takers for their creative works. More to it, most of the book stores in Kashmir, particularly Srinagar, also hesitate to display books that are written in vernacular languages including Kashmiri. I haven’t seen many Kashmiri books on display around the prominent book stalls of Srinagar or at any other place. Although, a few Kashmiri books could be seen at the state Academy’s “Kitab Ghar” near Badshah Chowk, there are no buyers for them as well.

Yet, dozens of books are published here and who publishes these books- no, not any publisher or publishing house, it is usually the author himself/herself who may or may not have been provided certain financial assistance by the States Cultural Academy. Than either the ‘Library Deportment’ or the ‘Academy’ purchases few copies of these publications and keeps them on their respective stalls as part of record.

For a writer, it is very hard to say that writing as a profession here is very difficult to survive not just because of the financial hurdles that writers face but because of the lack of appreciation from general masses. An ordinary book published regarding Kashmir in English language may sweep the market but a genuine and authentic research based book regarding Kashmir written in Kashmiri language will hardly find any takers- isn’t it deplorable!

Many of my friends may feel it bad but it looks to me that we are not wasting time and energy only but paper and ink as well. Think for a while, why does one write? If you are a creative writer, you want to communicate you ideas and thinking to your readers. But if you are a historian or a researcher, you write to document the unknown events and facts for your readers. In both cases, people hardly pay any heed! This is a collective amnesia that we are suffering from and the disgrace that we have brought to our own language is appalling.

In these modern times when our new generation hesitates to communicate in our own dialect, how can one expect them to study books written in Kashmiri? Due to paucity of readership, the basic and genuine Kashmiri dialect has vanished from the libraries and book stores. In such times when people are uncomfortable about speaking and communicating in their own language and encourage youngsters to choose other foreign languages, how can one expect that books written in Kashmiri language find readers!

I would request my readers not to misunderstand me as my point isn’t about discouraging people from reading books written in other languages but my case is for Kashmiri language and its promotion. There is no doubt about the fact that those young Kashmiri writers who can express their ideas in other languages and have written books in other languages have done a commendable job but so have some other writers who choose to write in their mother tongue. They too deserve to be appreciated and read!

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