Sunday, 26 April 2015

Articulating the Pain

There is a pain that can’t be normally articulated, it needs art to do it!
We are living in the midst of a war against women’s rights – even today less than 20% girls are really free to choose their partners, and their “choice” is subtly constrained, and sold at the altar of social conventions. We are so unkind to women that I have no doubt, none of us will stand the scrutiny in the other world if our spouses, our sisters, our mothers, our in-laws relationships tell their stories before God.
The sad, brutal, heart breaking stories of women’s lives, to which we are all witness but mostly chose to ignore, are eloquently brought to the fore by our versatile Rahim Rahbar who has dozens of works to his credit as documentary maker, serial writer and fiction writer. A life dedicated to art is what sums up his career so far. 
Hell is where opinions rule, where social ego dictates our choices, and kills the individual in us. Hell is the home where girls live in exile pining for new home where they imagine they will find love and fulfillment. Hell is the beauty that dies for the sake of a mirror of contemplation. The following paragraph sums up the essence of the stories the author thinks are his best. 
A mother losing her son, loses sanity, and is asking everyone about his whereabouts, tossing his clothes up and down and cursing the earth for taking him away and crying maeni mahraozo mouj lejyo. A beautiful Bakarwal girl falls in love with the narrator also loses sanity as she is not allowed to transgress tribal mores and denied marriage with the beloved, goes wild and is injured by a wild animal, and gets her leg damaged, meets her lover and dies with a sigh. (Wan-i haer) Another story is of a woman named Faezi who is everyday madly going to and fro on the road and curses this road on which his beloved has been killed. When asked why she keeps disturbing every passerby, she cries “Everything is here out of joints. Faith is gone, belief is gone, relationships are gone, days are disturbed as are nights, thoughts, dreams, aspirations, words, titles, mates, all are in disarray.” Another, titled Shaheed, portrays a historian writing history of his people, lest the suffering goes undocumented, is caught in a crackdown and asked to choose between his work and life. He chooses the work so that posterity has a document and is killed in cold blood, and his corpse is for days unattended on a local chooraha. There is another story in which the hero, Ahmud, identifies himself with Abraha who destroyed Kaaba and is convicted by local clergy for this heresy. Before getting executed he laughs away the verdict against him and says : “I was that Mansoor who uttered Anal Haqq..” And he dies muttering: “Hata paan-i bi kus goas, panaey oas bi bahaney” Another story told by the first person who is identified explicitly as Rahim Rahbar himself mourns failure of love affair to consummate, destroying him, and he finds refuge in art giving expression to the pain he has suffered 
Rahim Rahbar is a creative writer who is broadcasting his pain on wild paths. Rahbar gives voice to the feminine pain that has not been so extensively documented till date by any Kashmiri short story writer. Documenting the suffering of the muted, marginalized class, and gender is what distinguishes Rahbar’s art. Rahbar deftly explores social, political and religious themes and his horizon extends to amazing variety of ideas. 
One must be have the extra zeal to write so much despite professional and family engagements. In this sense Rahbar belongs to the select few writers who have devoted whole life to literature. We must be thankful to such soldiers of pen. However, so much writing comes at a cost and that cost is quality of writing itself. One can write only a book or two in a lifetime that we can present with the confidence of a Mantoo whose one epitaph reads “he wonders still: Who is the greater writer, God or he?” and another one reads that he “believes his name was not to be written twice on the cosmic stone.” 
Many stories though failing as pieces of art succeed in communicating the pain that makes him restless. As effortlessly as we can talk or gossip he can weave a short story. Writing hundreds of stories, some of which appear more journalistic pieces and personal impressions rather than well finished works of art, one can nevertheless focus on the best he has to offer and be thankful to him for giving voice to the voiceless even risking the reputation of woman centric or woman obsessed writer. That goes to his credit and one can identify, in the history of the tradition he has inherited, great names who have highlighted the plight of woman in a patriarchal culture to the chagrin of their contemporaries. 
Despite problematic conception of the tragic that notices unredeemed suffering or tragic waste mostly, some hackneyed phrases and run of the mill plots, and occasionally overdone metaphors and other rhetorical devices, Rahbar’s economy of expression, his absorbing narratives, his wide canvas that leaves almost nothing untouched redeem his corpus of short stories.

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