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In Kashmir the dying art of winter storytelling

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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 courtesy:c1.staticflickr.com)

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Brutal media, the beloved minority, and the tortured majority

The media has changed its sphere of projecting people who are national and the anti-national elements are tragically boasted for their deeds

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This glaring aberration in the world of media is visible as clearly as stars in the darkness of the night.
This glaring aberration in the world of media is visible as clearly as stars in the darkness of the night. Wikimedia Commons

I’m afraid, it’s quite clear that the ferocious jaws of the media and the fierce claws of the minority are well up to the annihilation of the whole civilization of the Indian subcontinent. Wake up, wake up from your slumber! The “secularism” is a sharp-edged dagger handed over to you to cut your own root.

– SALIL GEWALI, Shillong

If something that really makes one look at certain reputed media with the eyes of suspicion then it is for their blatant play of double standards. The double standard itself is disgusting. The integrity of the service is greatly compromised here. When such unethical trick is played at the cost of humanity then the consequences could be very disastrous. This could steadily push the society into the sea of frustration. Thereafter the social anarchy.

This glaring aberration in the world of media is visible as clearly as stars in the darkness of the night. Those who are suffering from a varying degree of mental glaucoma may fail to see it.

Have we not witnessed that media fraternity often sets off the alarm bells when the victims of the crime instances are from a “particular community” but it maintains a “brutal silence” when the perpetrators are those it considers minority or Muslim? Yes, the particular minority are eternally beloved, so they are blameless. Even the traitorous terror-makers from the minority are unblemished to such media folks and a major group of columnists associated with the media. That’s why such elite media and its associates zealously stand up to sympathise with terror-sponsored stone-palters in Kashmir, a bunch of secessionists in the academia and so on and so forth.

Also Read: ‘Don’t Sensationalize or Glamorize Suicide’ Asserts WHO ; Says Media Can Play a Significant Role in Preventing Suicides

No wonder if one who sings ‘Vande Mataram’ then he certainly stands to lose the support base of such media, no matter how influential he is, no matter how dedicated and truthful he is. So, I humbly advise any active citizens, particularly those who want to serve the country, not to utter this jingoistic phrase when alone. Better not at all. On the other hand, if you roar – ‘Bharat ke tukde tukde’ or ‘Pakistan Zindabad’, which are heard more aggressively and more frequently these days, then all defensive forces become hyperactive to safeguard you. These subversive activities by any brats will be soon celebrated and interpreted as a part of the fundamental right, that is ‘freedom of expression’. Have we not noticed in Kashmir where CRPF or other security personnel receiving humiliating bashings, the video clips of which often go around on WhatsApp, from the local? And in case the bold security persons retaliate then those elites from their armchairs thunder that the democracy in the country is under threat? The majority are attacking the minority, blah, blah, blah..!

Elite media and its associates zealously stand up to sympathise with terror-sponsored stone-palters in Kashmir.
Elite media and its associates zealously stand up to sympathise with terror-sponsored stone-palters in Kashmir. Wikimedia Commons

I believe everyone knows how certain so-called student leaders often openly incite their unruly crowds at JNU and other academic institutes. But when the questions of sedition are raised against them then the media comes forward to denounce the government. Mr Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid, Anirban Bhattacharya, Shehla Rashid Shora, Mr Jignesh Mewani… are lovable sweeties to those intellectuals because their treacherous adventures make them more cheery and lustier. Each anti-nationalist “scream” by these jerks never get wasted. It is systematically used to degrade the nation, demean the culture and denigrated the religion.

Till some years back college ruffians were nonentities but now they are held all of a sudden as leaders and opinion makers. These dangerous creatures are applauded and discreetly advised how best to go about. Many national political leaders as well jump to embrace and defend these troublemakers. But, on the other hand, the same warmth, attachment, and love are not at all showered upon any patriots by any mainstream media. So, citizens who want to sincerely endeavour to bring peace in the country are not at all given any platform, nor encouraged. Rather, the nation’s lovers are intensely scoffed at. They are non-existent, nay subhuman, to the pseudo-secularists. Of course, those people, often branded as ‘bhakts’, are aptly dragged only to paint them with bad colours.

Also Read: Fuelling propaganda: Has the modern media lost its sense of objectivity?

This Republic day brought a great grief to many. A 22 years old student – Chandan Gupta of Kasganj, UP, was heartlessly murdered. His crime is his participation in the ‘tiranga yatra’ singing Vande Mataram. No noticeable outcry of condemnation from any influential elites. Again, Ankit Saxena, a photographer who loved a Muslim girl, was attacked, and girl’s relatives silt his throat in cold blood. Most of the media carried the news as “honour” killing as if it was in some way justified. What would have happened if the same heinous crime was perpetrated by the majority? It would have been Dadri-2. In another monstrous incident, a BJP party worker Mr Santosh was stabbed to death in Karnataka. The killing of patriots is too frequent in Kerala. But no ‘award wapsi gang’ gets ever freaked out at the news …!

Such brutal attacks upon the majority are a very regular phenomenon. But what is “very less known” to the whole general public is that over 95% of such gruesome attacks, and also various kinds of sexual atrocities upon females of the majority, are “not at all reported”. Only those which can’t be suppressed get published. But they usually die down well before the dead bodies begin to rot. Well, no scream of criticism, no alarm of “intolerance” is ever raised by any over-conscious citizens when the people from the majority are killed. No media panel discussion ever called in otherwise cases. Nor even the condemnation of the “onslaught on the humanity” ever heard.

Kanhaiya-Kumar was responsible for openly inciting unruly crowds at JNU.
Kanhaiya-Kumar was responsible for openly inciting unruly crowds at JNU. Wikimedia Commons

Well, had there not been a double standard in reporting the attacks on the “humanity”, if ever the ‘freedom of expression’ is truly valued, such barbaric perpetrators, no matter which community they are from, would not have at all reared their ugly heads. Is it not probable in near future that those beloved villains might “double-cross” and pose continuous threats that would toll the death nail for the double-tongued journalism, apart from the majority! The prelude to that situation is double clear now than ever before.

Also Read: Macaulay’s harrowing effect on Indian media

Lastly, please note, none of the horrendous crimes by the particular community ever become a “Dadri” — the stench of which is still being felt by our depraved columnists. Is this not a part of the grandiose scheme? The situation is dangerously ominous! I’m afraid, it’s quite clear that the ferocious jaws of the media and the fierce claws of the minority are well up to the annihilation of the whole civilisation of the Indian subcontinent. Wake up, wake up from your slumber! The “secularism” is a sharp-edged dagger handed over to you to cut your own root. This is a bitter truth nobody can refute!