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Revisiting the paradise

Revisiting the paradise

The Legend of Himal and Nagrai: Greatest Kashmiri Folk Tales translated by Onaiza Drabu. Speaking Tiger. Pages 222. Rs 350.

Book Title: The Legend of Himal and Nagrai: Greatest Kashmiri Folk Tales

Author: Onaiza Drabu

Sunny Kaul

A few decades ago when there was no Internet and television sets were a rarity, folk tales formed an integral part of children’s entertainment package. Children huddled around their grandparents, particularly the grandmother, to listen to the tales from Panchtantra or Katha Sarit Sagara. Often these stories were narrated to the kids with an aim to inculcate values among them and also make them aware of the worldly vices. It was a continuous process and ran through the generations until the Internet and other forms of entertainment took over.

Kashmir, like many other parts of India, is a land of billion stories, and every tale conveys a message. The Kashmiri folklore highlights the multicultural and multiethnic image of the Valley, which has been a casualty of the 30 years of militant insurgency. It is this image of the “paradise” which Onaiza Drabu has tried to relive through her book — The Legend of Himal and Nagrai: Greatest Kashmiri Folk Tales.

Drabu has made an attempt to revive the magic of Kashmiri folklore with the translation of some of the most well-known tales that perhaps have been forgotten by the present-day generation of Kashmir. The author has made a great attempt to bring back to life the legend of Himal and Nagrai and characters like Akanundun, which for generations have been an inseparable part of the Kashmiri psyche.

And while doing so, she has made a conscious effort to retain the flavour and originality of each story. Drabu has incorporated Kashmiri words and verses, wherever necessary, and has explained their meaning at the start of each section to make comprehension easy. Though, one may contest that it has restricted the scope of her book to only a certain section of society.

The book has been divided into four sections, the first one containing the Tales from Pataal — the fabled underworld, the second comprises the Tales from Janawar — the world of birds and animals, the third includes the Tales from Zameen — relating to humans, while the fourth section has been devoted to the Tales from Bol Chal, which explain the stories behind local proverbs.

These tales draw the attention of a reader to the unique characteristics of Kashmir and also highlight its people’s connect with nature – the water springs, the birds, the animals, and the jungle.

However, as is the case with folk tales, the spice keeps on adding with every narration, and therefore, one may argue about the originality of each story.

There is also a scope of losing the exact meaning of words in translation. Though carefully constructed, the book, thus, may not be able to weave the same kind of magic which a reader may feel when the story is told in the native language.

The publisher at its end needs to weed out the typos and grammatical errors, though only a few in numbers, to make the reading more tasteful.

Overall, the book makes a good read and may help in reinventing Kashmiri folklore by taking it to the global audience.