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Book Review of Yeli Parda Woth by Omkar

Koul

Book Review

yeli  parda woth (When Curtain Rose, A collection of Kashmiri short stories) by Autar Krishen Rahbar, published by the author 2014. Rs 400, Pages 180.

Reviewed by Professor Omkar N Koul

Autar Krishen Rahbar, a well-known short story writer and a literary critic in Kashmiri, has worked as a producer in Radio Kashmir and has been associated with various literary organizations. His first collection of Kashmiri short stories entitled tobruk appeared as early as in 1958. Incidentally, it was the second collection of short stories ever published in Kashmiri; the first being Sat Sangar by Akhtar Mhi-ul-Din. As a researcher and literary critic, Rahbar wrote his book entitled Kaeshiri Adbuk Taerikh (History of Kashmiri Literature Vol I) published in 1966 and co-edited an anthology of Kashmiri prose.  He has written articles related to various aspects of Kashmiri literature.
      The book under review is Rahbar’s second collection of short stories containing sixteen short stories written by him over a long period of time after his first collection of short stories was published. Some of the short stories in this book have been published earlier in journals/ collections and have been translated in other languages as well.  As his short stories have been written during a long period of time, they present different formats in style and technique. He has crafted his short stories keeping in view necessary ingredients of a short story. He has made successful experiments in the style and narration using suspense, flash back, appropriate words, idioms and phrases, with an intention to glue in the reader. 
      Rahbar uses his wit and humour in most of his short stories and engages the reader and compels him/her to think. The title short story ‘When curtain rose” explores unexplored mystery of the creation of a human being and human condition. His short story “Nirvaan” has Gautam, son of a rich businessman, as the main character, who takes refuge in meditation to seek nirvana the ultimate goal.  He is not able to concentrate in his meditation and remembers his wife and worldly pleasures. In the meantime, he gets a telegram from his wife saying he is free to do his meditation to seek ultimate bliss and not bother about her as she has remarried someone else.  
      There are a few stories related to the husband-wife relationships. Disapproving an age-old injustice towards women, denial of their basic rights at the hands of men, Rahbar portrays the husband–wife relationship in his story “You have Forgotten me, my Love” in a unique way. A husband and wife die in a road accident. On the query of Dharamraj about their choice of marrying each other in their second birth, the husband speaks for himself and takes the consent of his wife for granted. The wife gives vent to her life-long sufferings and injustice she had to undergo as a woman who is always taken for granted. “The Gift” portrays strong emotional relations between husband and wife. They exchange advanced secret wedding gifts with letters addressed to each other if ever they have to remarry after losing their partners. Before destroying the box of these gifts, merely out of curiosity, the widow opens the letter written by her husband and finds it blank. In another story “Khwajalal”, a businessman, forgetting the sacrifices made by his ailing wife for the prosperity of the family, cheats on her, making her suffering more painful. It takes a strong young woman employee to make him remorseful for his misdeeds. He spends time with his ailing wife now on her fast recovery.   
     Rahbar portrays Wali Gujur as a simpleton who prays to God with a broken heart asking for a second garden for his employer so that he can get an additional job to take care of.  In one story, despite their outward deceptive looks, Rahbar brings out inner love and compassion of a hippie couple in their behaviour towards fellow passengers travelling by an overnight bus.
      There are a few short stories reflecting the situation before and after the political turbulence in the valley and the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits. The story “Roots” presents an earlier situation. Three brothers owned an ancestral house in Srinagar. Out of the three, one was settled in Delhi. Three sons of another brother had to leave the valley to take up some petty jobs in different cities. Their father had to join the family of one of his sons in Kolkatta to take care of their kid as the kid’s parents were working. Two brothers decide to sell two-third part of their ancestral house to a local Muslim. The third brother, who had a job in Srinagar intended to keep his portion of the house believing it should not be difficult for him to live in the same house, but is forced to sell it to the same person within a week and move to some rented accommodation. The story “It is the Extreme” reflects a situation of the state of uncertainty in the valley where people lose their lives and become victims of violence. The story “Add Subtract Divide” projects the problems of maintaining the identity of Kashmiri Pandits. The incidents of inter-caste marriages of the boys and girls keep the parents brooding about the good old days and environment in the Kashmir valley before their exodus. The “Shadow” presents the painful situation of living and hunting for rented living accommodation and the comparisons with one’s own houses in the past, and shadows of unkind alien rulers causing sufferings.
      There are several stories presenting the human psyche and wild imaginations. In “The Flowing Water” the protagonist is carried out by receiving a love letter and a beautiful photograph of an unknown girl who he is unable to find and finally destroys them secretly in the flowing water. In another story, a woman on a death bed arouses love, sincerity and faithfulness in her husband’s mind, who confesses his illicit relations with other women providing solace to her. In another story, the changing behavior of a young woman at her parents’ house is directly related to the kind of relations with her husband and the in-laws at different points of time. In the “Pious Deed” a beggar picks up a deserted infant from the steps of a Dargah, primarily lured by money thrown by people, and develops affection for her. The child falls sick and dies. This lands the beggar in trouble with police investigation.  
      In short, Rahbar provides us short stories on different themes using diverse formats and techniques.  He uses simple language full with idioms and phrases. The stories are interesting and captivating.  I hope Rahbar will continue to write short stories and enrich this genre in Kashmiri further. 

Aug 26, 2014
onkoul@gmail.com

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