Monday, October 30, 2023




DARDPUR ( Abode Of Agony ) by Kshama Kaul

Translated from Hindi by Dileep Kumar Kaul

Published in 2023 by Pralek Publishing House, Mumbai

Price 699/= Pages 535

Available on Amazon, Flipkart and other Platforms 

( Original Hindi also Published by ‎ Bharatiya Jnanpith )



 “When I wrote ‘Dardpur,’ I tried to be loyal to the truth and nothing else… Whether I get bouquets or brickbats, I will continue to write on these realities.” Kshama Kaul


Kshama Kaul belongs to a family well entrenched in literature and performing arts. As a Hindi writer from Kashmir, Kshama Kaul has been brutally frank, direct and forthright in putting forth the pain and sufferings of exiles and innocents from Kashmir. She is a writer, ace translator, poet, social activist and above all a sensitive human being. Most of her work is based on the pathos and the genocidal tragedy that befell a peace-loving community; old women turning dumb and helpless, men struggling to keep the wolf at bay and investing every penny in the education of their children, greedy politicians doing lip sympathy with the victims of hate and prejudice and ignorant victims siding with the perpetrators of cruelty in the hope of getting elusive justice. She exposes the double talkers and their politically correct statements, the so-called secular left and the vote bank politics of the country that forces a victim to go to the perpetrator of injustice for justice. Kaul’s poems, stories, essays, and novels have been translated into various languages of the country. She has been delivering lectures on the topics of exile, genocide, culture, human rights and ethnic cleansing in various universities and colleges in the country. Kaul lives in Jammu. 


Using Sudha as the protagonist,  Dardpur is a moving portrayal of the life of the exiles from the Kashmir Valley. Kshama Kaul relates the universal and timeless struggle between the forces that can destroy us and those that can lead us back from sorrow and pain to life itself. A saga of the entire community of Kashmiri Pandits who were forced to leave their ancestral land purely on account of religious frenzy and terrorism by a mindset that believes in hate and intolerance. It weaves the analysis of a campaign to throw out the Kashmiri Pandits using terror as a principal tool. The voices of the victims are suppressed quite often by the colluding political dispensation of the period. A reader feels the helplessness of the Pandits in an environment of hate and prejudice. The issues of genocide and subsequent denial and cover-up by shaming and defaming the victims have been skillfully dealt with in the novel. The novel has been translated into some major languages of the country. Published by Bhartiya Jnanpith in Hindi ( 2004), the novel has also been made a curriculum text by some universities in the country. The much-awaited English translation is brilliant, to the point and flows like the original Hindi version of the novel. One feels as if the translation has been done for the intended audience. For this, Dileep Kumar Kaul the translator of the novel deserves kudos. Some key features of the plot and the novel’s powerful narrative could be summed up as under:-

Easily Identifiable Names, behavioural Patterns, Situations, and Places


In this novel. Kshama Kaul uses physical description, action, inner thoughts, reactions, and speech to create images for the readers. Her characters drive the story from their traits to their actions, from their feelings to how they change throughout the book. Kaul has been very skilful in selecting the names of her characters. These names create a painfully nostalgic interest of the reader in the story. These names offer the first clue to who she or he is for the reader. The familiarity of the names has set the tone for the book. The novel has many characters and as the events unfold, these characters enter and leave. Their names also reflect the period or the era to which these events are set in, and the class or status of the characters. A reader finds his friends, relations and neighbours in these characters and names. Such is the impact of the characters of this novel that quite often, the reader himself feels like a character of the narrative. Once a reader identifies with the names of the characters, their behavioural patterns, places and situations around which the narrative is woven, he is immediately drawn towards the story and comes to it again and again. Every Kashmiri is familiar with names appearing in the novel like Jameela, Mehmooda, Dilshada, Habla, Gani Dar, Rahman Daga, Ramzan Pir, Aziz Lone, Ali Mohammad, Ghulam Qadir, Jigri, Kishni, Tulsi, Tarawati, Sati Ded, Rajrani, Tathi, Kakani, Babli, Sudha, Deepti, Meenakshi, Bailal, Baijaan, Gasha, Tatha Ji, Bihari Lal, Tikka Lal, Dwarika Nath, Lass Kak, Chand Ji, Papa Ji, Mana Kak, Aftab Ram, Shambu Nath, Kaka Ji, Boba, Mohan Boyi ( the priest ) and Sat Lal etc. The events appearing in the novel are also set in some familiar places like Ganpatyaar, Habba Kadal, Baramulla, Karan Nagar, Kupwara, Sopore, Lukbhawan, Shankaracharya, Karfalli Mohalla, Gautamnaag, Kani Kadal, Shivalaya and Sangrama etc. Some more familiarity is generated with the mention of Ahdoo’s hotel, Bukhari, Tahar, Kangri, BBC news, Khasu, Pulhor, Pheran, Pakistani salt, Kulcha, Ghar -devta, Nizam e Mustafa, Geeta Bhawan, tents, Shiva, Shakti, tribal raiders, Zoondub, Parmeshwari episode, Bhawani-Sahasranama, Al-Fatah, JKLF, Panchastavi, Kaafir, Nara e taqbeer Allah o Akbar, hindustano draiyo taan- Pakistano vandyo jaan, batani batani dodye muss, Bharat mata ki jai, Aey kaafiron aey zaalimon kashmir hamaara chhorr do .


 Brutally Frank Narrative 


I firmly believe that the critics of this novel have not read it in totality or have based their judgment on hearsay. Kshama Kaul spares none in this novel. I didn’t find anything that is untruth, fabricated or not based on what all of us saw. Through the characters of Amravati and Prasad Joo, she doesn’t even spare the members of her community who demonstrate socially objectionable conduct. Rarely are such naked truths brought into novels. And if brought, the authors have to be daring and prepared to face the consequences. This brutally frank narrative reminds the reader about Kabir’s Doha:- 


“ Kabira khada bazaar mein liye lukaati haath ,

 Jo ghar phoonke aapna chale hamaare saath.” 


( With a flambeau in his hand, 

Kabir has arrived in the marketplace,

Anyone who would torch his dwelling 

 is welcome to join )


While she exposes the double talkers, the politicians, and the real tormentors of a peaceful community, she doesn’t fail to project some positive characters like Ghulama , the driver who sees everything objectively but can’t muster the courage to stand up and call a spade a spade. There is also Khadim Dar, the illiterate Tonga driver who demonstrates sanity and empathy in an environment charged with hate and prejudice against Kashmiri Pandits.


Philosophical Quotes


The characters of the novel throw up some serious and philosophical sentences in their normal communication. These sentences make the reader ponder and think. That alone proves the depth of the feelings with which the novel was conceived and written by the author. I quote some:-


“A devotee becomes the deity in her devotion “


“After some days when Ritsmaal passed away, Sudha heard people saying Ritsmaal had broken free from the stronghold of Amravati. Broken free…The beauty of death and ugliness of life …Such a conflict.”


“If women are sensitive, they are doomed. They become Ranimaal, Arnimaal or Lal Ded.”


“ Why is history becoming so painful and torturous? Has history been constantly created because, from the very beginning, the phenomenon of sin has not been adequately analysed? The phenomenon of sin kept establishing as the synonym of comfort and delight! And those who walked the path of virtue became powerless! What is happening? What at all?”


Kaleidoscopic Picture Of A Society Living Phony Life Since Decades 


The novel opens curtains on many behavioural aspects of Kashmiris in general and Pandits in particular. The author makes his readers believe that Pandits lived a phony life compromising at every step while demonstrating magnanimity, honesty and compassion. When the house of Shambhu Nath is looted in the tribal raid of 1947 by his neighbour (who believes that Pandits may not return), he recognises the burglar who is carrying the looted trunk on his head. The patrolling Sikh soldier of the Indian Army comes to know about this and aims his gun at the burglar who drops the box from his head and seeks forgiveness with folded hands. The Sikh soldier drops the gun only after Shambhu Nath intervenes and begs the soldier to let his Muslim neighbour go away. Hinting at the timidity of character, the author conveys that a Kashmiri demonstrates diametrically opposite behavioural traits in a group and as an individual. According to the author, the land reforms implemented by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah in a hurry  were primarily meant to deprive a community of its agricultural land. Through the character of Mastathi, the author questions the legitimacy of Gandhi Ji in politics if he chose to be a Mahatama or a great saint. According to the author, poverty, lack of opportunity, suppression and minority complex shaped the personality of a Kashmiri Pandit in the Kashmir valley post-1947. The author conveys that if secularism was implemented by any community in letter and spirit, it was the Kashmiri Pandit. For this reason, a Pandit would rarely help another Pandit fearing being labelled as communal. 


Not only pain and suffering, the novel documents living style, habits, social life and fundamentally the abandonment of a community by the establishment post-1947. The suffering of the community especially in villages adjoining Baramulla, Sopore and some more areas during tribal raid is also well presented. Pain, suffering, and stories of genocidal acts against a peace-loving community pour out from every page of the novel. There may be a difference of core issue or difference in style of presentation, Dardpur comes close to Qurratulain Hyder’s Aag Ka Dariya. If Aag Ka Dariya is one of the Indian subcontinent’s best novel on the traumatic partition, Dardpur is no less in conveying the tragic story of the ethnic cleansing of a peaceful community from their original habitat.  While reading  Kshama  Kaul’s  Dardpur, I also found many  underlying emotive references resembling David Kherdian’s novel, ‘ The Road from Home: The Story of an Armenian Girl’   based on the most devastating holocausts of our century, when in the year 1915, the Turkish government began the systematic destruction of its Armenian population. Dardpur is like Saul Friedlander’s book,’ The Years of Extermination ‘ on the Jewish holocaust. Who says that the Kashmiri Pandits were not forcibly deprived of their culture, language, religious places, monuments and environment for no fault? It has happened too often and too little taken note of. Those who have doubts need to read Kaul’s Dardpur.  


( Avtar Mota )



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Sunday, October 29, 2023


                  ( Death of Bali by Meju)
              ( Raja Mahipat Dev by Meju)
     ( Dasaratha with Barat of Sri Rama by Meju)
  ( Meju with Raja Mahipat Dev by Meju ) 
        ( Hanuman and Sri Rama by Meju )
                ( Birth of Sri Krishna by Meju ) 


Falling between Jammu and Basohli and deriving its name from Raja Manak Dev, Mankot  kingdom of Jammu was ruled by the Jamwal clan of the Dogra Rajputs. Presently known as Ramkot, for a period, Mankot was a part of the  Jasrota kingdom of Jammu. Accessible from Udhampur and Kathua, people of this area call themselves Mankotias. There is a fort which was the seat of „Mankotia‟ chiefs, who are known as Mankotia Mians.

Shortly after 1650, Mankot developed a school of portraiture, and this was to last for more than a century. The miniature painting style associated with the Mankot flourished from the late 17th century to the 18th century. Many religious texts were illustrated during this period. Apart from Ramayana, episodes from the life of Sri Krishna, as told through the Bhagavata Purana, were often illustrated.  Many prominent art historians and critics like M S Randhawa, W G Archer, Chaitanya Krishna, and Sonika Sandhu have done extensive work on Mankot paintings. Mankot art bears a similarity to the Basohli type and the artists  of Mankot Darbar have used vivid colours while their subjects are often  bold. Most of the Mankot Miniatures are lying in museums across the world. Many are preserved in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Meju has been a prominent artist of Mankot Darbar. His paintings are also in possession of various museums the world over. Meju is believed to have been active for more than 50 years 1680-1750 in Mankot. He illustrated the Bhagwat Purana for Mankot Rajas pages of which are now lying in Museum Rietberg,  Z├╝rich, Boston Museums, Metropolitan Museum Of Art ( New York),  and  The Cleveland Museum of Art.

Meju is reported to have worked as head of the painting workshop in the court of Raja Mahipat Dev (r. 1660–90) of Mankot. He made numerous portraits and illustrations for both sacred texts and musical modes (Ragamalas). The characteristics of his work are the monochromatic backgrounds — mainly olive-green and yellow-orange — the reduction of pictorial detail to only what is necessary for the narrative, and the use of strong dominant colours throughout.
It may be clarified that most of the miniature paintings created in the hills of Jammu and Himachal were executed in a workshop style where a group of artists joined hands with one master artist known as Tarkhan or the man who drew  outlines. Mughal paintings were also  made in workshops, which were a combined effort of a group of artists. The process involved basic draft drawing, grinding and finally filling in colours. Some artists would make colours and some artists would fill colours. There were calligraphists as well in these workshops. Names of master artists were recorded in the royal atelier, which indicated the position they enjoyed in court.  

 ( Avtar Mota )

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CHINAR SHADE by Autarmota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.
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Sunday, October 22, 2023




                     BOOK REVIEW



By  Maharaj  Krishen  Shah

Price 299/= ISBN 978-81-19605-26-2



( Available with Rohit Pandita for 150 rupees

Call …….9596976373 10 AM to 9 PM )



Maharaj Shah is possibly the first person in  the early 1990s to have visited camps in Jammu and documented the pain and suffering of Kashmiri Pandits through his tele-film. He is a  filmmaker , Hindi poet , actor , teacher , media personality and runs of an  independent YouTube  channel . He headed ETV Rajasthan for some years and at the moment he edits   Koshur  Samachar published from New Delhi. He has been awarded by Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and Uttar Pradesh government for his constructive role as writer and journalist. He has already published three well received books titled, ‘ Crescent Moon’ ( short story collection ),’ Pravaah Vitasta ka’ ( biography ) and ‘Television Karyakram Nirmaan Prakriya ‘ ( jointly with Ashok Jailkhani ). After  the first group of successful Hindi writers  like  S S Toshakhani, Hari Krishen Kaul, R L Shant,  Chandrakanta ,  and many more , he is one amongst the second group of  young Hindi writers from the  Kashmir valley who earned name and fame for their contribution  . Others in this second group include Agnishekhar,  Kshama Koul, Maharaj Krishen Santoshi , Nida  Nawaz and  a few more . He hails from Mattan , the historic  town that produced men like Mahatma Parmanand ( saint poet ) and Pandit Kripa Ram Datt who sacrificed his life in the battle of Chamkaur Sahib fighing  against the  army of  Wazir Khan aided by  Mughal forces. Pandit Kripa Ram had joined the forces of Guru Gobind Singh  . He had led the delegation of 500 Kashmiri Pandits to Guru Tegh Bahadur  during the dark days of Afghan rule in the Kashmir valley.

 Edward Said, in his essay ‘Reflections on Exile,’ defined exile as ‘the unhealable rift forced between a human being and a native place, between the self and its true home: its essential sadness can never be surmounted’. The  book under review has 48 poems ( blank verse )  spread over  95 pages with an engrossing  foreword by Dr Shiben Krishen Raina  . Almost all the poems in this collection revolve around the subject of exile , pain , suffering , nostalgia and banishment . The poems carry  the same artistic restlessness and the  unending inquiry with complex questions about exile, identity, language, politics, and faith. One quality of these poems is that the poet does not allow himself to  either feel  delighted or  intrigued by the elusive promise of return. He has sidetracked the issue of so called “Honourable Return “ of exiles from Kashmir to their native place. Shah’s poems bring a feeling similar to the poems of Aria Aber ( Afghan refugee poetess who was brought up in Germany ), Choman Hardi (exiled Kurdish poetess ) ,  Nazand Begikhani ( exiled Kurdish  poetess) and Kajal Ahmed (  exiled Kurdish poetess and journalist ). Through the poems in this collection, Shah finds subtle parallels between his oppression as a member of the microscopic  minority community  and his subjugation as Kashmiri Pandit  by  a mindset that  was swayed by intolerance and hate. At the same time,  Shah’s poems  also demonstrate a strong  commitment towards   the Kashmiri culture and its preservation .

I quote excerpts from  some  poems to substantiate what I have said above .



Ke  jis raah chalta huun

Nirantar chalta hi ja raha huun

Apni zameen se juda

Aasmaan se kata

Nirantar shunya se ladta

Shunya  bharta

Mausam ko akhbaaron mein

padta ja raha huun”

( from the  poem ‘Samay’ )


( The path that I chose for myself  ,

I  keep moving on it incessantly ,

Severed from the roots,

Cut off from the sky ,

 I  fight the emptiness perpetually,

And fill up the vacuum within .

Only through newspapers  ,

I  keep  track of the changing  seasons .)



“Eik daur dushmani ka tum ne nibhaaya hai,

Eik daur dosti ka mein nibhaoonga ,

Aao meri duniya ujhaadne vaalon

Duniya basaana tum ko sikhaoonga “


( from the poem ‘Eik geet teray naam ‘)


( You fulfilled the promise of  your  enmity ,

 Let me also fulfill my  friendship’s promise .

Come  all  you,

 My tormentors ,

Come ,

let me teach you

 the skills of  worldly settlement .)



“Kaagaz si jal rahi hai zindagi

Siyaahi sa ubhar kar aa raha huun

Nahin maloom kya hai swar aur lai

Mein to bus apni dhun me gaa rahaa huun”

( from the poem ‘Priy mitar santoshi  ke naam ‘)


( Life burns like a piece of paper,

Like ink , I  keep emerging on it  .

 I know nothing about  notes and  melodies ,

 I sing  my own jingles.)



“ mein gali ka kutta

Apni masti me choor


Nidar , ladne ko utaavala ,

Kissi eik ka na hokar

Sab ka rakh kar lihaaj

Guzaara har haal me karta huun

Na gale mein patta pahanta huun

Me to duum kamar tak uthaa kar

Apni ichha se bhonkta huun

………..Par yeh pados ke ghar me

Pal rahaa hai jo naazon se

Mujhe patte ke faayde ginaata hai

Aur duum dabaa kar

 peir chaatne ka mazaa

 samjhaata hai”


( from the poem’ Gali ka kutta’ )


( I am a street dog ,

 I move with my own style and fun,



Fighting on slight provocation,

I belong to none,

Yet I care for all .

I manage in every situation,

Never  wearing  a  leash or a  collar chain,

Raising my tail to my back,

I bark at   will

Look , the dog  being brought up

With attention and luxury ,

In  this neighbour’s  house,

That dog Keeps teaching me

the utilities of

 wearing  a color chain and leash

or licking shoes with a low dangling tail.)




‘Bus  ab rehne do

 kaisi deewali

mujhe kehne do

‘ hum ne is parv ko

Kitne seham ke manaaya

Kashmir me diya jalaana

mana hai ….“

( from the poem ‘Deewali’  )


(Stop it now,

What is this  Deepawali ?

Let me say  ,

  In fright and fear,

We have   celebrated this festival,

To light a lamp

Is forbidden in Kashmir.)




“Shahar ujhadna

Dharti ka sikudna,

Hawa ka rukh badalna

Jinhe dikha nahin,

Woh  aaj

Pull tootne

 ki baat karte hain”

( from the poem ‘Atoot Rishta’ )


(  yesterday ,

those who couldn’t  see,

how the city was ravaged,

 how spaces were  shrunk,  

 and how people changed faces,

today, these very people

talk  about the  

Shattered bridges.)

Most of the poems in this collection speak in a direct tone that is free from metaphors or  similes while some poems included in this collection carry a deep nostalgia that is seem  in the poems of Christina Rossetti .However, the major issue surfacing in most of the poems in this compilation is exile and separation from motherland.  I would like  to mention  some more impressive poems like , Vida ( parting ),Hum To Khanabadosh Hain ,Jaane Se Pehle ,Sapne Jeevan ke ,Bheetar Tak,Tapti Bahaar, Kaun Ujhaad Gaya Sab, Beet Gaye Din Rein,Virus and Sach Bolna Paap hai . I recommend this poetic collection to all the lovers of literature in general and poetry in particular.


( Avtar Mota )







Creative Commons LicenseCHINAR SHADE by Autarmota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.
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