Millennium Post

"Gul Gulshan Gulfam" | The Kashmir that was

An excursion through a meticulously recreated Kashmir of yesteryears, writes Kavya Dubey.

Price:   465 |  18 Nov 2017 3:24 PM GMT  |  Kavya Dubey

The Kashmir that was

The decade of the 90’s is an era frozen in time. And underneath the frozen surface lives the valley in all its finest details. Salvaged from the turmoil-stricken Kashmir is this very elaborate tale of a humble family living off their three houseboats: Gul, Gulshan, and Gulfam. Their livelihood takes a hit with terrorism snaking throughout the valley; but their business is more than a profession, so life begins to take unforeseen courses.

Pran Kishore is an illustrated dramatist and novelist credited with taking the theatre of Jammu and Kashmir to an entirely new and different height and to stages across India. His growing body of artistic work asserts him as an institution with regard to art productions about Kashmir particularly. His awards and accolades are a silent testimony of his artistic excellence that is seen sprawling throughout this novel: ‘Gul Gulshan Gulfam’ – dubbed the Mahakaavya of Kashmiri literature.

As much as this story is a delight to read for its presentations of Kashmir in all its splendour, darkness, gloom, and glee, it must be acknowledged that this is a brilliant translation, and to a reader alien to Kashmir, Kashmiri ways and language, it is like walking into an ornate houseboat!

The most striking aspect of this novel is its very vivid descriptions. This visual element is retained from the TV series of 1987-88 that was televised on Doordarshan. It went on to acquire a historical significance.

Unfortunately, other than the title track, a glimpse of this series does not seem to be available (easily) on the web. Nevertheless, that one minute and forty-three seconds of the title track video is that many seconds of authenticity – the boats, the ferries, the lake, and the music (an award-winning composition).

 It is this TV series that, decades later, appears as this novel in English. The reason behind this massive work and remarkable accomplishment is a very pragmatic yet personal one (for the writer): the scope of television series is short-lived and its frame is limited at various levels. But seething beneath the rationale of giving a more natural and lasting form to this work was the unsettling feeling of a rather compromised authenticity. Despite the best efforts to present all elements in keeping with Kashmiri cultural traditions, the medium of Hindi, instead of the native language, was the nagging feeling that led to the birth of this novel out of a TV script.

Theatrics, dialogues, special effects are capable of creating an impact on the audience for their quality. But to represent the complex undercurrents of the human psyche, of Pran Kishore’s own admission, poetry and novel are the best forms in which the human mind could be unravelled fully.

The expanse of Indian English literature includes a tremendous range and variety of increasing works done by young and senior writers alike.

Works of literature are essentially reflections and elaborate documentation of the details and the non-newsy, barely-marketable aspects and features that go into giving a story its form and fluidity. Tourism is a major lifeline of the valley economy. How well it does is a significant measure of peace. How the natives cope with the volatile climate is another area of exploration.

This novel is an excursion through a meticulously recreated Kashmir of yesteryears.

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