Homeland after Eighteen Years


Homeland after Eighteen Years
(A 48-hour Travelogue in Kashmir)
by K L Chowdhury
Book Review by Bilhan Kaul:
Yet another book of poesy by Dr. K.L Chowdhry has confirmed what we already know – that he is our top poet in English Language. A poet who has captured the essence of an era. And there is good news for common reader as well. His fourth book, a travelogue “Eighteen Years after” is easy to understand. More, the book is scathing attack on the fundamentalist Kashmir. Much more than his God, men and militants. This is probably because poet is much more confident and relaxed and understands that result matters much more than technique. That is why his travelogue may not be favourite among technique obsessed critics. “Great literature, says Albert Camus, “is written in the silence of the heart.”

Dr. K.L Chowdhry succeeds in conveying his agony and that of his community over his forced migration in a manner that strikes deep chord. This is because there is no exaggeration. Whether his nostalgia of visiting hometown after eighteen long years or his pain to see utter ruin of Kashmiri Pandit temples and their lost property or his excitement for the lost world or his angst at the total Islamisation of Kashmir, everything strikes a chord in the heart of the reader.

It is first business of any writer to convey his feelings. If he succeeds in that his job is more than done. Let us not forget that poet encapsulates the essence of the moment and how effectively he captures the moment is secret of the art.

On his first glimpse Dr. Poet captures the moment.

Gone are the farmlands and fields,
Gone are the pastures and rural scenes,
And then finds evidence of decay in vitasta
“There is no evidence whatsoever
Of her youthful voluptuousness”
In another gem, poet captures the agony of Kashmir Pandit,
“The chinars are getting extinct
Like the indigenous Kashmiri Pandit”
Going further in the same poem “chinar”
The poet conveys”
I miss the evocative autumnal scenes of mounds of fallen leaves
This is painful sigh which is tinged with nostalgia of era gone by finds reassurance in his another poem “Overview”.
“If there is anything that has not changed it is mountains in the distance.”

Notice how the Dr. Poet balances sense of loss with some reassuring words. One is an unconscious yearning and other one is conscious application of feel good factor. Emotions, conflict, sense of loss, romanticism, pain, pleasure and beauty is what drives, the world and is what drives the poet.
The author on day two is in a rush to capture everything in a short span of time.

Dr. Chowdhry conveys in his poem “Ramchander Temple” that he has no heart to go inside the temple. As he says “for I will have lot to answer to the deities inside.

When poet visits Habba Kadal he bemoans the fact that there is no Pandit to be seen. That indeed is the shame. There is lament for the sad and sorry condition of Vicharnag. The front cover photograph of the Dharamshala captures the agony and then the poet visits his birthplace Rajveri Kadal and sighs

“How sweet you sound to the ear
What memories your name brings.”
The critic, says T.S Eliot “is the other thing.”

But Dr. K.L Chowdhry with his memorable poetry has captured the heart of readers. As already said it is book of poesy which can be understood by layman as well. And that is what every author should strain for. Because to connect with readers is extremely important. The poet’s enchanting world of infants remains his best work till date. This latest work will hopefully be widely read. This work adds to his stature.
About the Author
Dr. K L Chowdhury retired as a Professor of Medicine, Medical College, Srinagar. Presently he is the Director of a charitable institution, Shriya Bhatt Mission Hospital and Research Center, Durga Nagar, Jammu.

He is a physician and neurologist, a medical researcher, poet, social activist. He writes on diverse subjects – medical, literary, social and political and has numerous research papers to his credit, his pioneering work being “The Health Trauma in a Displaced Population” which was presented at national and international conferences. He was declared Shehjar's 'Kashmiri Person of the year' for 2007.
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