We can’t tell…

Sweeping across the timeline from 1958 to 2018, Akhtar Mohi-ud-din’s story stands its perennial value

Syeda Afshana
Srinagar, Publish Date: Feb 17 2018 10:01PM | Updated Date: Feb 17 2018 10:01PM
We can’t tell…File Photo

Akhtar Mohi-ud-din’s short story Wannun Ma Banyim (I Can’t Tell) is a perfect piece of prose, daringly realistic. Like many of his writings, it maintains a creative profundity and pathos that remains the quintessence of a writer of his stature alone. Unparalleled and unbeatable.  

Set in 1958 Kashmir, Wannun Ma Banyim recreates a genuine piece of history with incisive details and unfeigned characters breathing in the story. It essentially identifies five categories of natives against the backdrop of a very intriguing incident that takes place at a city centre Lal Chowk where Akhtar Mohi-ud-din as a storyteller appears in the form of an eyewitness—Police as state plotter; Poor as compelled collaborator; Politician as exploiting envoy; Pressman as distorting device; and of course, a sensitive wordsmith as a storyteller. 

Narrated in first person, the story opens with a sudden arrival of four dozen personnel, with launchers for teargas shells slung from their shoulders, and donning the uniform of notorious police of the times known as ‘Kashmir Additional Police’(KAP). That these camouflages were actually policemen of Central Reserve Police (CRP) deputed to engineer a violent mob attack becomes quickly clear as writer divulges the details in an ingenious way. From the pell-mell scene near the lane leading to the Court Complex where even the mynahs sitting on the gables of the Ismail Building caw a shrill warning, the ingression of Qadir Chaan (Qadir the Carpenter) as a government myrmidon for contriving a fierce rabble brings in a startling twist in the whole narration. The story progresses to unravel the role played by the reporters to forward a ‘scripted news story’, framing the whole event as an act of “hooliganism by anti-national elements” which was thwarted by police force that was positioned at the spot well in advance.     

The insightful conversation towards the end of the story between the minion Qadir Chaan and the solicitous writer brings forth the nasty part of politician like Rasheed Bakshi who acts as a goon and exploits the predicament of Qadir Chaan and his ilk.  

Sweeping across the timeline from 1958 to 2018, Akhtar Mohi-ud-din’s story stands its perennial value. Police in Kashmir stands more infamous than it was because of its new ways of ‘terror management’ to help authorities consolidate their power. Lackeys amidst the populace have been infiltrated furtively to mount up anarchy around the real issue. Politicians are running a gory mafia to sustain their relevance. Media persons are becoming a tool of misinformation for staying in line. 

However, it’s only the storyteller who is not the same. The audacious and amazing raconteur like Akhtar Mohi-ud-din is missing. Perhaps because a writer of his caliber wished to be read rather than to be seen. Within the political and social cacophony that surrounded him, he had sensibly sorted out the quiet from the din and the solitude from the clamor. His intrepid intellectual journey, despite the inner chaos out of personal tragedies, shaped his momentous literature. Travelling to the deep interior, he nurtured his creativity in the noiseless, invisible place from where finally his literature flourished.              

Kashmir’s storyteller today is somewhat just toting up never ending voices to a dissonant chorus of meaningless chatter that has become a hallmark of contemporary world of pretentious creative capital. More so, for the ones who locate their roots in a place where fear and doubt also is an uneasy factor to contribute towards creative barrenness, it is damn difficult to avoid the trap of solipsism. 

Bottomline: The benchmark set by literary genius Akhtar Mohi-ud-din as the best short story writer Kashmir has produced so far, remains unsurpassed. We cannot yet cultivate what composed Akhtar Mohi-ud-din. Not only his style and substance. Not only his patience and perception. But most importantly, his intellectual nerve. His courage of conviction. That’s why we can’t yet tell the things he articulated alone, so dexterously and so decisively. 

Even so, Veth Ruz(eh) Pakaan!!



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