Author: Saadut
•4:08 PM

Autumn arrives in early morning, but spring at the close of a winter day.  ~Elizabeth Bowen

This autumn we were supposed to have a rendezvous with cherry picked intellect in Srinagar. The Literary Festival was supposed to be a gathering ‘THE voices’, and I along with the entourage of my extended family kids looked forward to it. Kids in Kashmir have been denied the childhood that their counterparts elsewhere enjoy: the access to colored animated boxes on paper, the amusing characters coming to life in pages don’t seem to happen in Kashmir. Kids here grow ahead of time: from toddlers to direct adults, childhood skips them literally. We had expected Enid Blyton, Panchtantara and Mark Twain to be read here. We expected ‘The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County’ to jump into Kashmir Autumn, to let Samuel Langhorne Clemens lighten our pain by his humor. But seems the ‘Jim Smiley’ in the organizers plot had bet on the wrong frog and as was in Mark Twain’s plot the frog did not move much to Jim’s (organizers) disappointment. Of course the organizers would not want to tell us that Mark Twain lived in Hannibal Missouri, which was a slave state and it was here that Samuel (Mark Twain) was familiarized with the scourge of slavery.

We expected the Panchtantra to be read here, some may say it is already being enacted in these lands. Wished to see how the organizers translate ‘The Cunning Hare and The Witless Lion’. Does the ruling lion really jump in the well fighting his own shadows? And then for those who have read ‘The King and The Foolish Monkey’ wouldn’t you want the organizers to describe the plot in the present times? Does the King’s monkey really use the dagger to kill the fly? 

“The Wishing Chair’ (Enid Blyton) could not be included in the Literary Festival as the chair was tucked away in the corridors of power, ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’ could have been a part of Festival but we feared the organizers getting stuck in the ‘Land of Dame Slap’ on top of the tree. The shrewdness of the school teacher in ‘Land of Dame Slap’ would remind us of state’s state we were living in. Escapism the kids were looking at, not a reminder of the forced mute, the stick (read baton) that was already a part of their daily lives in Kashmir. 

Heard that an author of Satanic fame was to grace this festival. The fair skinned writer was known to look from the corners of his cinemascope spectacles. I always wondered how the bald old man attracted such young beautiful women, his escapades often reminded me of ‘Beauty and the Bald (Beast)’ story of course sans the happy ending. His four marriages looked like power stints of a local politician, all neatly divided into time bands. Was Chetan of ‘the Vending Machine’ fame also roped in by the organizers? This would be the icing on the cake, having seen his Re 99 books being weighed by the ton on the payments of Sunday market Daryaganj. His ‘Two states’ title could define the local political narrative, a place with two states of power (the barrel & the speak): his ‘The 3 Mistakes of My Life’ could have identified with 1947, 1953 and 1987.  

Unfairly there has been much criticism to the impending Autumn Festival, which was uncalled for. The festival did not have propriety rights on Kashmir speak nor did the critics, who should have been thankful for having got that social network ‘post window’ freedom to express themselves. And in any case enough Kashmir narrative had been included in the Literary Festival with ‘Hello Basti’e Khallar’: have we not been seeing “houe’n khayye basti’e Kahllar” in Kashmir for long? What new did the critics expect in this Autumn Festival? The festival could not be hijacked with Kashmir talk; the critics should have known that ‘Kashmir’ was not the world for the organizers.

Chickening out of the festival was entirely the kid’s loss; they missed on some real entertainment, some live performances here.

Even before the autumn in Kashmir had set, the Festival had run into winter. And typical of the Kashmir winter when all power, politics, governance escapes Kashmir, the organizers of the Literary Festival fearing frost bite decided against landing in the valley. The frost bite was self inflicted for them, our feet having got used to the mockery, these lands long resisted the makeup’s ‘Kashmir’ tag has been subject to. Like in the name of ‘Kashmir Handicrafts’ Amritsar and Nepal products have been sold in the markets for long, similarly under the garb of “Kashmir’ tag a vague political narrative, fiction instead of facts, delusions instead of reality has been sold by them. For those critics who criticized such attempts of camouflaging the real Kashmir narration under the banner of “Intellectual Renaissance Festival’ should have known such events are mere entertainment, mere comic. Treat them like that only.

These ‘Cherry picked Intellect’ were here to read stories and not all stories are real.

6th September 2011

(Pun intended, please don’t waste your energies firing views and counterviews on such an autumn)