Of all the people conquered by the Arabs in the seventh century, the Persians are the only ones who can boast a major literature in the indigenous language that they were using before the conquest. When asked recently why the vast majority of Egyptians, the heirs to the great pre-Islamic civilization, speak Arabic rather than Coptic, a leading historian replied, “Because we had no Ferdowsi”. This half a line crisp answer is something which opens a Pandora box and needs to be thought upon! Ferdowsi was a Persian writer who wrote a very famous ‘Shahnameh’. He is widely regarded as the preserver of the Persian language and of pre-Islamic Iranian cultural identity. Ferdowsi and people like him have made the Persian literature and culture so rich that even English people look sound cynical and are putting up with a complex when they say, “now we have Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Keats, are we still not as good as they (Persian) are”?
Now the million-dollar question is! In this modern era of science and technology where info-tech is ruling the roast, the missiles, nuclear weapons quantify the strength of a country, the foreign reserves, value of dollar defines the economy of a nation. Does ‘Shahnameh’ finds a place? My answer to this question is a big YES! And my claim is vindicated by the fact that in this reindustrialized world Rumi is one of the best-selling poets in west. Though technology has done considerably well and has proved be a great facilitator for human kind and now behaves as an inevitable integrant of our lives. But! we are defined by our roots, our ethos, our cultural heritage, our legacy, our literature and literary giants that is our basis which exemplify us and if we dwell deep into ourselves as humans we find solace, tranquillity, peace in these basics instead of something else.
If someone living on the contour of the earth wishes to purchase a famed Persian book he can do so easily as it will be available on the virtual market like amazon, eBook, etc if not in any physical market and same is the case with English, Greek, French literature. Now gaping through the same prism to our state of affairs and merchandising with our literary heritage. Here I would like to broach my own experience, I have been wandering through the city markets to purchase a book on the poetry of Rasul Mir, Soch Kraal, Wahab Khaar etc but to my hard luck I could find nothing more than some pamphlets with an n number of typos. When asked why the books are not obtainable the 2014 deluge surfaces to be a big excuse. This gives a feeling that the floods has been more disastrous to Kashmir than atomic bomb to Japan. How infelicitous that we are not able to find our (Kashmiri) literature in our own markets where else should we look for it? I fail to understand how should we disseminate our past, our heritage to new generations? I am afraid what percentage of our new generation admire them even have heard about them?
If Rumi, Ferdowsi, Socrates, Plato, Shakespeare etc. are known amongst the generations the credit should be given to the people who have worked and done research on them, the credit goes to the translators, to the people who have worked on their work for making it easily understandable to the masses, credit also goes to the publishers who have published their work in different avatars. In no way are our literary giants are less significant than the great people who are being wade through, gossiped in the academic meetings and coffee shops, commemorated and glamorised all along the globe. Apart from the great people who are known amongst the generations or whose works are available at our market places, we have people like Mehmood Gami, who has written thousands of verses in Kashmiri, his writings and his style is a master piece. Gami’s Mehraj Namma is an epitome of poetic correspondence.
We have had Rasul Mir, who is known as Keats of Kashmir, Mir not following his predecessors or contemporaries took a stride in romantics, he is considered as the ‘imaam’ of Kashmiri romantic poetry. We have had Soch Kraal, whose little known work is still boggling the minds of many, his sonnet ‘dapyomei balyaaras yaer lagau’ is an embodiment of ingenuity and its pedagogical essence is no less than that of Iqbal’s complaint and answer. The unfortunate part of the story is that we have not been able to prove ourselves as true admirers of our heroes which is going to be disastrous for us. How is it possible for us to carry forward our legacy unless we don’t celebrate our heroes? I don’t understand what sort of Kashmiriat we are claiming for if we are not able to do just with our language, if we are not able to propagate our culture and more importantly if we are not able to pass on our literary heritage to our younger generations. It is jeopardising that the institutions which have been established for such purposes have been doing, what we as (Kashmiri) teachers are up to? Here I would like to conjecture that keeping Kashmiri as one of the subjects in early classes is not going to fetch results. But admiring our heroes and imbibing them as our role models will deliver.
The point I want to make here is about getting inspiration, if the west is able to produce good and serious researchers it certainly depicts their sincerity and seriousness towards research but there is a kernel of inspiration from their forefathers who have genuinely delivered. If great Indian Mathematician S. Ramanujan proves to be an inspiration to millions the credit also goes to M. S. Raghunathan and company whose unabated efforts made former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to declare December 22, as National Day of Mathematics which has put a positive impact on the growth of the discipline. We have to bare this responsibility and the people (teaching Kashmiri at University of Kashmir, various colleges of the valley, working in cultural academy etc.) who are directly involved with the language should contribute extraordinarily for the growth and development of our Kashmiri language, culture and heritage.
(The author teaches Mathematics at JK Institute of Mathematical Science, Srinagar. Feedback: email@example.com)