Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Power of Expression Captured in a Mundane Life

Murassa sees a portrayal of common man's life in books written by R. K. Narayan and even a family resemblence

(Ms. Murassas Shamshad, 21, was born in Srinagar. She matriculated from the Caset Walden High School and completed higher secondary education at the Mallinson Girls School in 2003. She is a pre-final medical (M.B.B.S.) student in the Government Medical College, Srinagar. She enjoys reading and writing.)

Bachelor of Arts

Every since my mamu gifted me the first book of RK Narayan, I have always wondered: Why I keep reading his one or the other book. What specialty does he have? What charm he renders on his readers? Perhaps RK Narayan beautifully portrays the ups and downs of everyday life. The love, disappointment, realization— these common traits are beautifully handled by him. In portraying these things there is no act of heroism. His protagonist is simple and taken from the crowd.

Recently I read Bachelor of Arts. It is a very simple story about a simple boy. Writing simple is most tedious job in the world. Bachelor of Arts traces protagonist Chandran’s everyday life. Narayan brings forth all the mundane aspects of a student life: irksome exams, boring classes, eccentric professors, and bothersome friends and not to forget— first infatuation. His college days and planning everyday, however, he has only one problem that he doesn’t stick with it. And don’t we do the same thing- planning more and reading less. And if it is Narayan’s book then the South Indian family definitely will be there.

The novel starts with the college life of Chandran. He is a typical student who sets timetables but doesn’t stick to them. Like most students of college he has no future plans. He has not thought of a career. In fact he is puzzled what to do after college, like any other youth of his age. However Chandran has an infatuation with a girl who he sees on the beach with her parents. Smitten by love, he unsuccessfully tries to find solace in solitude, as the superstitious parents of bride reject his proposal. This turns him into an ascetic. However, after sometime he comes to know that life is not all about haranguing about the past. He realizes that family means a lot, more than that of a girl’s love. He comes back to the fold of world and starts writing his destiny. From here on he realises that he has to take up responsibilities and chalk out a career. So what does he do? He, like my mamu, becomes a journalist (my mamu and Chandran have a striking resemblance).

Reading this book I could easily suffice Chandran’s character with my mamu. As I turned page after page, never for a moment I thought it was anyone other than him. A story of a B.A. History graduate, who faces the difficult phase and faces a dilemma which most students often go: whether to continue studies or not. And also the question of what next after graduation?

R.K. Narayan comes up with books that enunciate emotions of the common man. He takes themes that strike a chord and have relevant social messages without being didactic. The college activities of Chandran are full of fun and written with a lot of fanfare. Personally I like the debate in which college professor asks whether historians have to be slaughtered or not.

Then there is the friendship saga with Ramu and their mutual admiration for each other. Here again R.K. Narayan touches the human emotion. He has overtly highlighted the point that being friends in college necessarily does not end up as friends for life. Through the character of Chandran, R.K. Narayan writes that people pretend that they are friends, but the fact is they are brought together by forces of circumstances. Perhaps true to a large extent.

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