Thursday, August 25, 2016




My friendship with him is barely one year old.  Prior to that  , I had never seen him either at Jammu or  in  the Kashmir valley  .

Prior to meeting him in person,  I knew him well  through his write ups , books , poems and superb translations. He taught English at various colleges in Kashmir. Many friends told me,  “beware ! he  is terrible with his pen” .  Those who knew him would often say   that he was friendly , leisurely  and above all helpful to the young and promising  writers . Some people tried to  introduce him as   writer  Siddhartha  Gigoo’s father .  In any case both happen to be brilliant  writers .  

In the very first meeting that I had with him, he turned out to be a   jovial,  candid  and helpful person.  And then a  very well read and well informed writer who dislikes people with double speak. “ I detest Double Talkers “
 The last trait   also makes him  profoundly  different  from others ,  affable and  respected .

 I kept meeting  him thereafter  mostly at his residence and quite often in the company of   Ramesh Hangloo of Radio Sharda . He usually  talked about his books , translations , future proposals and so many things from the world of literature and fine arts. 

As writer, Arvind Gigoo  has  a  unique style  and  flavor that keeps  you engrossed . He is  a wonderful narrator of events  . His narrations  are laced with a unique perspective   . Sometimes one feels as if Sadat Hassan  Manto is reborn  and writing in English .As a poet ,he comes up with his own style and content .Philosophical yet simple . Apparent humour but a  subterranean  and  profound criticism of  life .  " I AM DOING NOTHING " is a  poem  by Arvind Gigoo  that I need to  present to substantiate  what I have said about his poetic talent ..


I dialed the number ,
“ Hello !“
It was my four year old grand daughter .
“ Hello Amia , What Are You doing ?”
“ Dadu , I am doing Nothing .”
Doing Nothing is the acme of wisdom.
Silence prevailed upon the words.
I kept the phone.
People do because doing means living .
They are dynamic and hardworking ,
And are busy in doing for their families , 
the society and the world.
“ I am not greedy or ambitious .
But people whom I know and don’t know 
Have sped ahead of me .
I do not want to sit behind .
I crave for recognition and superior position “
“ Do You watch the full moon
and the stars and the clouds and the sunset?”
“ The skyscraper blocks the view .
Have you seen the drawing room of Malhotras ?
They have two more flats . 
And their new car !
It is very expensive .”
Dear reader , I will disagree .
Eating is a ridiculous activity .
The unmistakable rapport and the perfect 
Friendship of the hand and the mouth keep us alive 
And are the basis of life .
And we do for remaining alive .
We race against others 
And climb ladders to accumulate wealth.
We doom ourselves into doing , Into exhibitionism,
Into show .We speed for we are in haste .
“ Damn others , I want my buck . 
I will do for twenty years and then live “
“ So you will live in twenty years ! ?”
( Amia had said : I am doing nothing .)
Sitting still is doing nothing or doing nothing 
Is the cessation of all actions –Of the speed and the climb.
Doing is evil , curse , trouble , unhappiness .
It is un-living or not living .
He said :” perform duty without thinking of the fruit .”
Performing duty is attending to the ordinary 
and the commonplace.
Doing breeds endless desires .
“ Why shouldn’t I desire the fruit of my doing ? I want to prove myself .”
Doing is “ enjoying .“
When doing is in the process of doing ,souls and being get defiled .
Doers stop doing .
As for me while doing 
I don’t – know- what I talked much and spoke nothing .
Do nothing and talk nothing .
Not doing and silence are inaction –I mean in – action.
What man needs is nothing.
No- thing .
Evil will disappear .
The inside will flower .
Your mind is a curse .
If you say ‘NO” to whatever “IS”
You will stop doing and start living .
It takes a flash to stop doing .
Doing is undoing the you in you.
Do and suffer .
Don’t do and live.
When I stopped writing , the telephone bell rang.
“Hello !”
It was my sixty year old friend.
“ What are You doing ?’
“ I am doing nothing .”
“ You fool , stop this nonsense . Dress up, Come out and live. “
I am the contradiction.
I am the clever Rascal .
I am the evil doer .
I dangle between not doing and doing.
I live in silence and speech..
( Arvind Gigoo.. Source ..Sheeraza  published by J&K Academy of Art Culture And Languages ..April- June 2009 issue )

 In his books  and essays written in English  , Arvind  Gigoo  uses small sentences  with simple English words. Understood easily and effortlessly ,  this style    creates  a vast readership  apart from making  an everlasting impression on  the mind of the reader . In this style ,he  comes closer to Sadat Hassan  Manto.  Like Manto , he spares none while  dealing  with men and  issues in his books  .No prejudices and no biases  . He  remains confined to objectivity  .  With this approach , some people may  get   hit and some  may  get positively revealed  , he bothers not.  His conviction remains “ na kaahoo se dosti na kaahoo se beir “.
  Read him to know that  he is a master in conveying   the apparent and the veiled. I quote some anecdotes  written by him  as they appear in the Book “ A LONG DREAM FOR A HOME   “ Chapter  “ Days of Parting “.

(a)     “Shaha , the old Muslim woman in our neighborhood , tells me on the road, “ what nonsense is this ! we are fed up .” A Muslim gentleman joins us . Shaha  now shouts ,‘ we are prepared to die one by one for independence .”’  Searches and searches.  Deaths. Killings . It is horrible . A Muslim neighbour tells me in confidence,  “ I am afraid of my  own son. Strangers are his friends .I have never seen them .“

 (b  )We pack our things . Father is weeping . I ask Hafiz to arrange a truck for us . He says :’ go home . A mini bus will come to you in twenty minutes but don’t talk to me on the road  henceforth. “  We put our things In the mini bus very quickly. One almirah full of old books belonging to my grandfather remains untouched .I will come some day and carry them. These are rare books which my grandfather had bought in  Italy , Turkey  and other countries . Through the window the daughter in law of Mohi ud din tells me, " forgive  us . Go wherever you want  to go . May god protect you.’  She is weeping .”

His description about life in downtown Srinagar goes as under :

“The street urchins pelt stones on the houses of Pandits when a cricket match is played between India and Pakistan. Nobody takes  such things seriously. Educated and illiterate persons rub shoulders. All steal electricity . Pandits celebrate marriages in the houses of those Muslims who have big houses .Carpets and furnishings are lent to Pandits for use all the day. Shias ,Sunnis and Pandits live in  harmony. Many Muslim families have leanings towards Pakistan.On two Eids , most of the Pandits go to Eidgaah . My Muslim  friends come to me on Shivratri days and have lunch with me. Pandits and Muslims play cricket in Eidgaah. Others fly kites over there . In the evenings , some Pandits smoke charas in the Janam Bhumi temple or in the compound of Ram Mandir. A handful of Pandits gamble in Ram Mandir. A few Pandits and Muslims drink in stealth. The quarrel of boat women lasts for days  together . For onlookers , it is an entertainment of the highest type .Some young Pandits and Muslims steal hens and cocks belonging to few Muslim families , kill them , cook them and eat them. The owners of the hens shout curses on “ cock thieves “ .   The lanes , Kochas and roads in our locality are filthy and covered with garbage .. Jagan Nath Saqi , the well-known radio artist sits in the shop of Shamboo Nath ( Shomb Kak ) and talks about his past.  Pandits who now live in new colonies wonder how we Pandits live in the down town.”

His translator’s note  to the book " Light And Shade" Poems by Sunita Raina Pandit   is inimitable and matchless .  This book contains Kashmiri poems  translated  into English by Arvind Gigoo. I quote  the  text of  this  note:-

" While translating the Kashmiri lyrics of Sunita Raina Pandit into English, I resorted to compression, reconstruction and re-composition . I allowed the architecture and linguistic nuances of the original to suffer. I subverted without worrying about exactness, fidelity and accuracy of equivalence .I ruined the syntax, metre and richness the original Kashmiri .The   lackluster  voice is an artificial exercise in which the ineffable impact of the Ghazals is lost but their soul swings and rings. This translation does not communicate the music, rhythm ,passion and transparent grace of the original.."
( Arvind Gigoo...... Translator..)

 A sample of his English Translations are as under:

(Portrait of a Child)

A portrait hung 
the wall. 
The chubby child 
and opened his cupid mouth. 
I said, "are you my virgin past?" 
The rainbow smile vanished, 
and the thoughtful child said: 
"Are you my defiled future?" 
The answer reached me. 
  Grown-ups don't remember purity 
children don’t know defilement.
( This is  a poem by noted  Kashmiri poet Arjan Dev Majboor translated into English by Arvind Gigoo  and published in the  book titled "WAVES "  )
 (Spring-wind passed by our door)

Spring-wind passed by our door
with restive fingers
beat its breast.
I asked a flower, “What happened?”
In a corner
it puckered its lips.
Soon a dry petal appeared
the spring bushes
beat their breasts.
( From “  Anecdotes  “ Mini poems of loet Dina Nath Nadim translated into English by Arvind Gigoo )
(The oil in the lamp dwindled)

The oil in the lamp dwindled;
the wick was a flicker
the light too dwindled.
A moth danced into the dying flame;
the half-burnt hope
fell into a niche.
When the flame died
darkness gave a hysterical laugh.
Why trust laughter!
Weeping knows no end.
Who lost
who won?
( From “  Anecdotes  “ Mini poems of Poet Dina Nath Naam translated into English by Arvind Gigoo )

He  has also done beautiful  English translation of  Hindi poems written by     Maharaj Krishen Santoshi , Agnishekhar and Kshama Kaul apart from Kashmiri poems of Dina Nath Nadim, Sunita Raina Pandit,  Bimla Raina  and some more poets .

If you need to read some serious humour and cameos  then read his book, ” The Ugly Kashmiri (cameos in exile)”. Here he spares none  in his crisp , brief and poignant cameos ( 180 in total ) .He touches the very edifice  of social  life in Kashmir where he lived . He provokes you to think, “ was that life  based on hypocrisy and falsehood ? “

 In this book , he  talks about Pandits , Muslims , militants,  killers , plunderers , intellectuals , leaders , language and  customs  . The reader is  perplexed   with his incisive and  scissor like style that rips open every thing for display. It takes some time to understand  and comprehend what he actually intends to convey. I quote some cameos :


"I am where I am not,
Therefore, I am not where I am"
"We must preserve our culture."
"By reviving dead rituals."
“We salute this man for he is a martyr,
We kill this man for he is a traitor,
We nail this man for he is an informer.”
“ From Pakistan to plebiscite to India to Pakistan to independence to anything and anywhere in one breath.”
"Listen! How can I talk about the plight of Kashmiri Pandits? I am a secularist."



"Mohd. Yaseen , Take this money that I owe you.I am leaving this place tomorrow"
"You nasty Pandit, you betrayed our cause.But accept this one thousand  rupees from me for you will need them in wilderness."



" We resolve to preserve the Kashmiri language without reading it, without writing it and without speaking it"
" The motion is carried"



( From left to right Dr Ayaz Rasool Nazki  former Director ICCR Kashmir ,  Well Known Kashmiri Actor Shadi Lal Koul, Avtar Mota and Prof Arvind Gigoo at "THE  DIALOGUE " Venue in 2016 )

 He is a Kashmiri  at heart and a Pandit as well. Liberal ,forgiving and  patient . No ,never an agnostic or an atheist as was conveyed to me by some friends .I could infer that  he  does not believe much  in  ritualistic  and dogmatic  religious activity. Can’t say beyond that . 

As and when I meet him , some specific  couplets of Majaz  Lakhnavi come to my mind . I quote them ..

" Dair o kaaba ka me nahin kaayal,
Dair o kaaba ko aastaan na banaa.
Mujh mein tu rooh e sarmadi mat phoonk,
Raunaq e bazm e arifaan na banaa .
Iss zameen ko zameen rehnay dhe,
Iss zameen ko tu aasmaan na banaa. "

 Next time  more . So  long so much on  Arvind  Gigoo ..

( Avtar Mota )

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