Art & Culture

The shadows of Kashmir loom in the Holy Land of Jews

Shail Mayaram
Shail MayaramNov 17, 2015 | 16:28

The shadows of Kashmir loom in the Holy Land of Jews

Each morning by the sea I meet you, love you, embrace you...

You are in the waves, the sky, the trees, the grass...

Each morning renews that love, that prayer, that promise of a meeting

when I will be able to rest my head in your lap and tell you of my pain....

Israel as a Gift of the Arabs: Letters from Tel Aviv; Yoda Press; Rs 495

The last three days I have been in Kashmir, in a manner of speaking, reading Salman Rushdie's Shalimar the Clown on the beach and then preparing to lecture on Kashmir. Yesterday, Oved gave a fine presentation on Bollywood Cinema on Kashmir. It was interesting to see the responses of students and how they began to draw parallels with the Palestine situation. Oved showed how the camera created a visual fantasy of Kashmir in the 19th century through the work of persons who had photographed its lakes and mountains minus man depicting a place which was empty, or at best there were remote, distant pictures of human beings. I was reminded of MK Raina's film on Kashmir, which is again all nature and the music of the santoor, a very nostalgic rendering.

Sarah commented on how early representations of Palestine had also depicted a Palestine empty of all people. Jews were sold the idea of the Holy Land as uninhabited. My comments to Oved were that Ananya Jahanara Kabir's book, titled Territory of Desire: Representing the Valley of Kashmir renders it the territory of desire, but reduces the category desire to materiality and power. Desire is a complex term: Tara had done the preceding presentation on Mir Sayyid Manjhan Shattari Rajgiri's Madhumalati in whose construction "desire" is for fana, annihilation of the self, self-realisation. I wonder if there is any account of the psycho-history of Kashmir say, the friendship between the Indian National Congress and the National Conference, the relationship between Sheikh Abdullah and Jawaharlal Nehru. What is the relation between the personal and the political? What happened that changed Nehru's perspective in the period leading up to the Sheikh's arrest?

Shabbat dinner was with David, Sabina and her children. Sabina's son Edan was home from the army after an extended spell of absence; they had been busy with exercises involving a landing from the sea. Her daughter, Lagina is all excited because at midnight she is going to be able to drive on her own while her boyfriend still has to have a companion in the driver's seat! Edan pours a glass of wine and leads the Shabbat prayer-song and Lagina and her boyfriend join in the singing.

Sabina and I have been talking about literature; I borrow Tom Reiss' The Orientalist from her. David and Sabina have cooked a nice dinner of mushrooms, pasta, bhindi and baigan sabzi [okra and brinjal Indian style].


Do you have any Palestinian friends?

A friend's daughter invited me to have watermelon at their place next door. She is very pretty with beautiful green eyes, a feather in one ear, nose pierced, hair cut on one side and a braid with some decoration hanging down on one side of her head and a short braid on the other. She dropped out of school and was also able to avoid service in the army.

Instead she is a great traveller; she spent six months in India (Pushkar, Rishikesh, Parvati Valley) and now plans to go for another six months to Latin America as part of a group called Rainbow that meets every year. Some 3,000-4,000 persons will live in Argentina from new moon to new moon. They are like the hippies of the 70s, believing in peace and living communally for a while, bathing in waterfalls and making music. In the meantime she is going to live and work in Jaffa. Do you have any Palestinian friends, I asked. Men yes, not women, she responded.

Palestinian women never go out alone.

(This excerpt has been published with permission from Yoda Press.)

Last updated: January 17, 2016 | 15:15
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