How does a 19-year-old Engineering Dropout become a Novelist

  • Huzaifa Pandit
  • Publish Date: Dec 15 2017 9:43PM
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  • Updated Date: Dec 15 2017 9:43PM
How does a 19-year-old Engineering Dropout become a Novelist

Let’s encourage our youngsters who are taking the risk to write their own stories

The literary scene in Kashmir is witnessing an epistemic shift as there is a renewed interest in creation and dissemination of literary narratives. Rather than remain confined to a select clique, as was the case earlier, the arrival of social networking, and profusion of vanity presses has aided a democratization of literary production. The launch of a novel Wandering for Love by a 19-year-old engineering dropout, Faheem Bhat, is a case in example. The novel written over more than 25000 words stands as a testimony of the passion with which young Kashmiris have taken to writing.

Such a profusion of narratives demands an interrogation of the motives that fuel this profusion. There has been a lot of debate in the recent times about the quality and quantity of narratives. While some critics have dismissed these narratives as pornography of reality, others have classified them as corrosive and sloppy. There is no doubting the claim that some of the writing is juvenile and merely reactionary. It is not sufficient to offer the apology of 'resistance literature' and 'Kashmir conflict' to justify it. A work must conform to standards of good writing, however vague and flexible the term ‘good’ is. This criterion has been defined differently and variously over the history of criticism, but none can claim to have arrived at an infallible definition.

I have argued elsewhere though that the standard of good definitely is not the universality and timelessness that western canon would have us believe. One standard we might choose is whether or not the writing corresponds to an aesthetic of struggle against imperialism Whether or not our narratives qualify these standards, or will such standards remain relevant over time, only the future can answer. This is not the cause of my inquiry. I am striving to understand the causes that fuel this profusion.

It appears to me that the answer lies in a realization – conscious or unconscious -- that the Kashmiri subject is determined by a gaze: the panoptic gaze of the military state, and the subtler but no less insidious gaze of ideological apparatuses. As Shahnaz Bashir exhibited in his collection of short stories, Scattered Souls, the Kashmiri subject turns this gaze inwards to create a subculture of censorship and subjugation furthering the imperial cause. The profusion of narratives is a rebellion against this inward gaze. Somewhere, we have begun to realize that we wish to be free of this restrictive gaze, and the need for expression. The power of the written word, and its capacity to archive the socio-cultural histories, has dawned upon us. It is evident that we have finally gathered the courage to expose our vulnerabilities to the world through our writing, and are willing to be critiqued and challenged.

For too long, we have lamented the absence of a literary culture in Kashmir and attendant circumstances. We have been averse to risk for far too long, and the ghosts of this past still haunt us in our corrosive dismissal of current crop of writers. However, if the older generation remains wry, and the younger remains averse to risk, who will initiate the requisite conversations? For this reason alone, we need to encourage the younger writers.

I am not encouraging adulation or deification of young authors, rather a balanced approach – generous praise offered alongside an informed critique of their works such that they can grow unhindered. Faheem must therefore be congratulated for his achievement. His book must be read and feedback offered in a gentle yet firm manner.

 

Huzaifa Pandit is a doctoral student at University of Kashmir researching on Resistance poetry