Dardpur by Kshama Kaul


Dardpur by Kshama Kaul 


क्षमा कौल

Format: HardBack (Edition: 2004)
Size: 9.0" X 5.8", Pages:428

Publisher: Bharatiya Jnanpith, (India).
Language: Hindi
Price: INR 300.00 (Hardbound)
ISBN: 04217-4269

धार्मिक उन्माद और आतंक के चलते कश्मीर के संस्कृतिमूलक समाज के भयावह विखण्डन तथा कश्मीरी हिन्दुओं और मुसलमानों के आपसी रिश्तों के संवेदन, द्वन्द्व एवं जटिलता को एक संवेगी रूप से उद् घाटित करने वाला सशक्त उपन्यास।

Kshama Kaul with her book at her residence in Jammu, India
Book Review by Harbans Singh
Forceful exploration of exile
Brutally frank and moving, Dardpur is a tour de force undertaken by Kshama Kaul. Many a people have attempted to portray the pain and suffering of the people who have been caught in the whirlpool of terrorism and other related forces. But none before the author has taken the reader along the road that traces the communal history of Kashmir and the gradual erosion, decimation and appropriation of the culture of Kashmiri Pandits.

For the uninitiated the darkness that has descended upon the Kashmiri Pandits might have its genesis in the autumn of the first year of independence, when tribals from Pakistan invaded the valley, but the truth is that it has been a gradual process which began not only with the Islamisation of the inhabitants but of the icons and the places of worship, too. Thus, for the protagonist of the novel, Sudha, the myth regarding the conversion of Lalded, the transformation of the Parvati temple to a Muslim place of reverence and the subtle changes taking place continuously among the majority inhabitants in the valley, is a painful experience aimed at obliterating the existence of a people, rich both in history and culture — and aware and proud of the richness.

Sudha keeps travelling between the collective consciousness of her ancestors and the present which is as chequered as the past. In doing so she delineates on communal relationships but more poignantly brings out the agony and anguish that the migrants suffer. The fact that for many, exile has turned out to be a blessing in the form of new opportunities is little compensation for the loss of the home and hearth. Often, the isolation and alienation of the characters is disturbing but the fact that there are characters like Noora, Ghulam Nabi Pandit, Imtiaz etc proves that humanity has not altogether diminished, though people like them might be too weak to stop the wheels of the inevitable change.

The author is at her forceful best when exploring the plight of the women. Honest depiction of the characters, including that of Sumona, the constitutionally correct symbol of secularism, or, Huchkukil — the scheming and avaricious neighbour of the Bhats, is her hallmark. Not the least, her tracing of the present status of women to the banishment of Parvati by Shiva on consistently losing the game of dice, is remarkable. However, a dispassionate reader might feel that her comments upon the politics of the day somehow dilute the intensity and passion that the characters and the narration command.
About the Author by Anupama R

Kshama Kaul presenting book to Chandramukhi Ganju
Smiling eyes and a cheerful voice greet you when you meet Kshama Kaul. But the almost-childish innocence belies the painful memories of Kashmir she tries to deal with as a novelist, poet and diarist. Kshama Kaul was in the city to read at the Kritya International Poetry Festival.

Kaul was born in Srinagar and lived there till she was married and had two children. She started writing during her college days. For a while, she wrote in general . Till one day, she had to leave her home, her land and was made “homeless in our own country.” As a writer, she thought her responsibility was to tell the world about the new realities she encountered — the reality of terrorism, of exile and of human apathy.

To a great extent, writing has been a therapeutic exercise for this Kashmiri writer who writes in Hindi. When she — like many other women — was forced to live in a different state away from her husband, with little access to basic amenities, several challenges came her way.

Even today, she finds it unfortunate that her children have not been able to see their ancestral house in Kashmir: “We’re such unfortunate parents… our children are inheriting deep pain from us.”

I wrote about all this in my first diary and writing it helped me overcome my depression,” she says.

In the process, Kaul tries to portray the collective struggle and pain of the Kashmiri woman. Her ‘Pandit Story’ — published in ‘Speaking Peace: Women’s Voices from Kashmir’ (Kali for Women, 2002) recounts the horrors of the sexual assaults and rapes that Pandit women experienced.

Brutally frank, Kaul agrees it’s very difficult to write about such painful issues, but also adds, “Unless you have done anything difficult, you haven’t done anything substantial.” Her novel, ‘Dardpur’ (‘City of Pain’) has been acclaimed as a “brutally frank” exploration of themes such as exile, communal history, and so on.

As a novelist she also tries to address the intellectuals and implores them to look at these plaguing realities and redefine accepted notions, if necessary.

More than anything else, Kaul considers truth as the driving force behind her writing: “When I wrote ‘Dardpur,’ I tried to be loyal to the truth and nothing else… Whether I get bouquets or brickbats, I will continue to write on these realities.”

In portraying this reality, how does she choose between fiction and poetry? “When I want to say something straight, I go for prose. But when it’s complicated or philosophical, the words come to me as poetry,” explains Kaul.

Though no contemporary writing has really touched her, Lalded, the 14th century Kashmiri woman poet continues to haunt Kaul with her strong words and honest vision.

As for Malayalam literature, Kaul has been influenced by Ayyappa Paniker, K. Satchinandan and masters such as Thakazhi Sivasankaran Pillai. She especially savours ‘Chemmeen.’

Sitting in a hotel room that offers a glimpse of the city’s green environs, Kaul looks happy to be in Kerala. In many ways, the greenery reminds her of her Kashmir, she says wistfully.

All one could hope for at that moment was for more sensitive writing from this honest writer. “I have so many things to tell before I die,” she says
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