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In Kashmir the dying art of winter storytelling


Srinagar: The bone-chilling winters of Kashmir have been one of cold and misery but there’s more to it. It has also been the magical backdrop to the unending narrative of traditional storytellers in the past that would transport the young and the old to fairylands of princes, princesses, demons, djinns, mythical birds and wooden horses that could fly.

Both in Srinagar city and the countryside, long and dull winter nights were brought alive by storytellers who had mastered the art in such a manner that they would especially be invited for night-long sessions.

“As radio, cinema and television came to Kashmir, the demand for the storytellers died down gradually till the present times when the younger generation of Kashmiris don’t even know anything about this tradition”, said Noor-Ud-Din, an octogenarian who lives in Ganderbal district.

The storyteller would come to the village with regular periodicity during the winter months in the past and the event was no less than a small village celebration.

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“Children and elders would all gather around the storyteller whose session would begin after dinner. He would sit in the centre of a large room surrounded by his audience. The room would be lit in village homes by an oil-lamp and in well-to-do urban homes by a kerosene lantern since electricity was not even heard of in our childhood,” said Habibullah Dar, another resident of the same district.

Dar’s uncle called ‘Wali Maam’ was a master storyteller.

“He belonged to Anantnag district. He would come to our village for a few weeks during the ‘Chillai Kalan’ (40-day long period of intense cold beginning December 21). The entire village would wait eagerly for his visit. After dinner, he would begin his stories that often revolved around fairylands, love-smitten princes, demons, the mythical birds called the ‘Rooks’ which would lift a person and take him to the ‘Koh-e-Kaff’ (A far off the mountain).

“The changing colours of Wali Maam’s face were so intriguing that the audience would forget the biting cold outside as the magic of shadows thrown by the faint light of the oil lamp added to the suspense inside the room,” Dar said.

It was an endless narrative that would be interrupted in the morning only to be resumed the next evening, Dar recalled.

He strongly believed the celluloid stars of today could learn the art of articulation and dialogue rendering from Wali Maam.

“His voice would rise and fall as if he was on board with the prince who had invented a wooden horse that would fly to the fairyland of his lady love. The prince had to fight the demon who had carried his beloved to the land of djinns and beasts. You couldn’t fall asleep as rounds of ‘Kehwa’ would continue for the entire night to keep the audience alert.

“It was so participative that in between his narrative, the storyteller would ask someone in the audience to repeat the last line of the tale.

“This is perhaps what you people in today’s world call interactive audience,” Dar said as he laughed.

However long the winter night and the narrative of the storyteller, the conclusion was inescapable – the triumph of good over evil.

“Storytelling in the past was not just an art to keeping you amused during the dull and dark winter nights. It was a lesson in morality in which the mighty demons and power villains would always lose to the hero who embodied love, sincerity and compassion”, Noor-Ud-Din said.

While folk theatre and Sufiyana music are being revived in Kashmir, it is the time the art of storytelling is also preserved as the grand heritage of this land. (IANS, Sheikh Qayoom) (image

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Manoj Bajpayee is an amazing actor and a team player on set: Sidharth Malhotra

Sidharth Malhotra on Thursday treated his fans to a question and answer session over Twitter.

Actor Sidharth Malhotra
Actor Sidharth Malhotra. Wikimedia Commons

November 7, 2017: Actor Sidharth Malhotra, who will be seen sharing screen space with Manoj Bajpayee in “Aiyaary”, says the National Award winning actor is amazing and a team player.

Sidharth Malhotra on Thursday treated his fans to a question and answer session over Twitter.

A user asked the “Student Of The Year” actor about his experience working with Manoj in “Aiyaary”.

Sidharth replied: “He’s an amazing actor and a team player on set.”

“Aiyaary”, set in Delhi, London and Kashmir, revolves around two strong-minded Army officers having completely different views, yet right in their own ways. It is a real-life story based on the relationship between a mentor and a protege.

Presented by Plan C and Jayantilal Gada (Pen), the project is produced by Shital Bhatia, Dhaval Jayantilal Gada, Motion Picture Capital.

When asked about the development of the film, Sidharth replied: “Awesome. Excited to show it in a few months.”

Sidharth, 32, also described his “Brothers” co-star Akshay Kumar as his “brother from another mother.”(IANS)

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‘Black Day’ Protests : Restrictions Imposed in Srinagar to keep security in check

Separatists leaders have asked people to observe October 27 as a “black day” in Kashmir.

police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in full riot gear were seen disallowing pedestrian and vehicular movement in parts of Kashmir. (Representative image) VOA

Srinagar, October 27, 2017 : Authorities imposed restrictions in various areas on Friday to prevent separatist-called protests to mark the Accession Day of Jammu and Kashmir to India.

Joint resistance leadership (JRL) of separatist leaders — Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and Yasin Malik — have asked people to observe October 27 as a “black day” in Kashmir.

It was on this day in 1947 that the Indian Army landed in Srinagar Airport following the accession of the state.

“Restrictions under section 144 of CrPC will remain in force in Nowhatta, M.R.Gunj, Safa Kadal, Rainawari, Khanyar, Kralkhud and Maisuma,” a police officer said.

Heavy contingents of the state police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in full riot gear were seen disallowing pedestrian and vehicular movement in these areas.

Railway services in the valley have also been suspended on Friday as a precautionary measure. (IANS)

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UN General Assembly: Pakistan Representative Maleeha Lodhi goofs up, labels Gaza photo as Kashmir’s

Maleeha Lodhi at UN General Assembly
Maleeha Lodhi at UN General Assembly

United Nations, Sep 24: In a failed attempt to counter India at the UN General Assembly, Pakistan’s Representative Maleeha Lodhi tried to pass off a distorted fact. She displayed a disturbing picture of Gaza and labelled it as the “face of Indian democracy”.

Lodhi was responding to Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s description of Pakistan as a “pre-eminent export factory for terror” at UN General Assembly 2017.

The photo, Lodhi displayed at the UN General Assembly to show Indian “atrocities” in Jammu and Kashmir was of 17-year-old Rawya Abu Jom. In reality, the picture is of 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict, where two Israeli airstrikes hit Rawya Abu Jom, family’s apartment in Gaza.

Exercising the Right of Reply, Maleeha Lodhi accused India of “crimes against humanity” and of carrying out a “campaign of brutality” in the Kashmir Valley. To prove her point, she held the photo of the girl whose face was riddled with wounds.

The photo has been featured in many photo galleries online, including by the New York Times and the Guardian.(IANS)