The odyssey of Kashmir’s young writers!
Even in a hostile environment marred with decades-long conflict, youngsters in Kashmir have, time and again, proved their mettle in every field of life at home and outside.
In the fields such as Art, culture, supports, music and so on, innumerable boys and girls have been making their presence felt and often come up with surprising successes. Continuing this trend, a good number of young adults have started showing up in the field of literature, as writers of prose and poetry in recent years.
We met several budding writers, all in their 20’s, to see and understand how they made their inroads into this creative field and what goals they have set for their future.
Belonging to a humble background, Adnan Shafi, who hails from South Kashmir’s Tral hamlet, is the only author of an English poetic collection in his area. His book, ‘Tears fall in my heart’ is a collection of poems and was published by the ‘Global fraternity of poets’ in 2018.
Though many of his verses portray the beauty and the changing seasons of Kashmir, his work however has a strong underlying theme of the difficulties of life in Kashmir. He depicts, using very common and eloquent similes and metaphors, life of ordinary people in Kashmir and successfully draws a parallel between the beauty of the place and the hardships faced by the people.
“I have grown up seeing tragedies occurring frequently across the Valley. I have seen the conflict and violence unfolding at this place. I have seen and met numerous victims of this situation. That is why you find pain and sorrow in most of my writings.” Adnan, who was born in 1996, told Kashmir Images.
Dr. Madan G. Gandhi, an educationalist, litterateur, poet, and a visiting fellow at St. John’s College, Cambridge, wrote the foreword of Adnan’s book. Gandhi writes, “Adnan’s poetry is something of a novelty in the sense that it is emphatic and contemplative, both. …The anthology hints at those who are ignorant of the prevailing conditions and ethos of Kashmir…. The poems truly describe the poet’s own love for the state, the plight of the people in Kashmir, and the way their innocence, desires, aspirations, and dreams are infringed.”
When Adnan passed his 12th class in 2014, his relatives and friends thought that he will not be able to pursue his education further because of the lack of resources. However, he did not give up. He decided to go for distance mode of education and later graduated from Kashmir University as a private student. He also went on to do his post-graduation in English literature through IGNOU, in pursuance of his dreams.
“I want to establish myself as a writer and author. My dream is to be one of the recognized authors.” Said Adnan, son of a private school teacher.
“I started writing poems after 2016. I kept it a secret until my book got published. I wanted to give my father a pleasant surprise. It was the happiest day of my life when my father heard about the publication. He was delighted to know about my achievement,” Adnan said.
The book was launched in a literary function in Haryana by the publishers in 2019, in absence of the author. In 2020, Adnan was awarded by Gujarat Sahitya Academy as his writings stood out among 350 writers in the competition.
Nida Noor, a mechanical engineering graduate from Srinagar is thrilled for receiving the first copy of her debut novel-‘Two and a Half, The knock of Chillai Kalan’ from her publisher. Her, more than 300 pages of fiction, work is based on one of the oldest folktales of Kashmir.
“For me, this is the happiest moment of my life. I have been reading books since my childhood. Reading books always was a great source of satisfaction but it is an entirely different and an amazing feeling to write one. I feel delighted to be able to present my own book to the people.” Noor told Kashmir Images.
The enthusiasm of this 23-year-old budding author can be gauged by the fact that she has already started work on the second novel.
Noor has featured ‘Wai Wouf’ supposedly a nocturnal creature in her novel and has named this mythical character as ‘Posh’ in the story. The story of this, apparently, evil woman, who lived in a deserted magical place called Wanhaar, begins with the murder of her uncle. It progresses with her decision of taking revenge. However, the novel ends with a pleasant and positive message of forgiveness and peace.
“I have grown up reading the stories about the long lost princesses from a palace we actually have never seen. I have read fiction stories about the ugly doings of lady Tremaine, Mother Gothel, and the Evil queen. All these stories are good but they are not connected with our land– Kashmir.” She said.
“Then I thought why not to pen down and share one of our own folk stories in a creative way. My book is firstly a tribute to our heritage and rich culture. It’s for the older generation of my land who always found great meaning in the fictional tales and greatly helped to shape young minds.” She added.
Nida’s book, written and completed during the Covid pandemic, will be launched in the ongoing Chillai Kalan (the harshest period of cold in the Valley), in Srinagar.
Saraf Ali was a teenager and a class 12th student when his first book of poems, titled “A smile worth a billion poems” was published in 2017. On this, he was showered with praises and appreciation by everyone around him and that encouraged this young man to continue his passion.
Hailing from Pampore town of South Kashmir’s Pulwama district and in his early 20s, he has another book under his belt. His second book “Triggered Sorrows” is fiction but according to Ali inspired by his own experiences as a student. The book describes the life of a student, away from his native place.
“For my studies, I was out of the Valley for quite some time. I had both good and bitter experiences of being alone and far from my home and family. I also had a keen observation of my fellows, who like me were far from their near and dear ones. I observed how students missed their family and native places but at the same time how enthralled they were with the sense of liberty and freedom. I saw students’ adopting to new scenarios and facing new challenges. I saw them struggling with things they had never experienced earlier. I also observed them enjoying adventurism. Then, I decided to pen down these observations. This is how my book was created.” Ali, an engineering student told Kashmir Images.
“I sent the manuscript to ‘Educreation Publishing’, one of the famous publishers and was lucky enough that they found it significant to publish. The book came out in January 2019.” He added.
Ali bagged a Global Readers Choice Award for his book, recently. He was bestowed fifty dollars as a token of appreciation, by this reputed literary organization. These days, the young author is consistently participating in anthologies. “I am trying to polish up my skills. I want to become a good writer,” he said.
Rahila Akhter, a student, an artist, a graphic designer, and now a novelist published her book titled “Then mind was discovered Back,” in 2019.
The novel features a girl, named Zara, who preferred following her parents’ dream regarding her career, without giving up on her own. She fulfilled both dreams. She became a doctor as her parents wanted her to be, and then she grew to be an author as well, which was her own desire. However, the process of accomplishing both the dreams at the same time was full of struggle for Zara.
“The story idea was triggered nd got developed while observing some real-life instances in our society, where children are mostly instructed by their parents and peers regarding their future goals,” Rahila, who did her early schooling from her native area of Lolab, Kupwara, told Kashmir Images.
Rahila’s book was published by ‘Notion Press Publishing’, a famous publishing house in Tamil Nadu, in 2019. She had planned to launch her debut novel with fanfare at SKICC on August 13, 2019. However, it could not happen due to several reasons including the lockdown.
“Even without a proper launch of the book, I got tremendous appreciation for my work. People liked the book.” She said.
“In my school days, I used to maintain a diary writing my thoughts and observations on different issues regarding life and society. Then I thought, I should start writing seriously. However, I had no idea that I would be able to complete the novel in such short time.” She said.
In this novel, Rahila has tried to explore different dimensions of a central idea. On one hand, the life of the main character, Zara becomes stagnant while pursuing her parents’ dream but, at the same time, she has a realization that her parents’ dreams about her are based on utmost sincerity and affection. The story suggests that everyone has the potential to pursue more than one dream.
The 23-year-old author is studying horticulture at SKUAST Kashmir. She wants to pursue her education and intends to continue her writing passion.
Insah Khawaja, from Bijbihara township of Anantnag district in South Kashmir, published her book titled “Finding the lost you,” in 2019. This is a non-fictional book based on the guidelines for people suffering depression and anxiety. The book published by the ‘Notion Press’, New Delhi, is a handy guide on how to maintain a strong state of mind when all is not well.
In fact, Insha, the 23-year-old author, herself is a living example of courage and strength. Her life is inspiring as much as her work. She has learned the art of living in adverse situations and is keen to share her experience based knowledge with others.
Insha was just twelve years old when a truck collided with the car she was travelling in along with her father. They were rushed to the hospital and her father succumbed to his injuries.
This tragedy triggered a major depression to the extent that she had to rely on constant medication for seven long years of her life. During this period, the mental illness impacted her to the degree that at one point in time the left side of her body got paralyzed and her doctors said that all this occurred due to her depression.
In this tough phase of her life, Insha started to maintain a diary writing her day-to-day experiences. She also penned down the ideas to tackle depression. It was after seven years of continuous treatment that doctors finally declared Insha free from her depression. Then, she decided to publish a book consisting of her experiences that she had been already noting down in her diary..
“I do not want anyone to suffer as I did. I hope my book will be useful to those who are in depression and anxiety related ailments. It is a handy suggestion book.
The book was admired widely and people including noted poet and author Brij Nath Betaab appreciated Insha for her work.
Insha, who has just completed her B.Tech and now intends to pursue a Ph.D., says that her next book is all set to be published.
“My second book is on Sufism. It is a poetic book and it consists of the verses of hope and inspiration. My life has been of a struggle with pain and tragedy nearly paralyzing me but I have learned how hope and faith helps in adverse situations.” She says.