BOOK REVIEW: ‘OF GARDENS AND GRAVES’
‘Of Gardens and Graves’ is a beautiful anthology of translated poems and essays on Kashmir written by Suvir Kaul. It is accompanied by photo essays of the daily life happenings in Kashmir by photojournalist Javed Dar, offering a visual viewpoint to the poems in the novel. The book narrates the textures of life in the valley under the heavy militarized air of the 1990s. It also examines the political actions undertaken at the time, leading the reader to the present state of conflict while emphasizing the pre and post-independence histories of Kashmir.
Poetry as a means of expression in literature, has acted as a doorway for venting suppressed emotions for Kashmiris. Understanding the writings of the authors and poets between each word and sentence is exactly what is highlighted in the novel ‘Of Gardens and Graves’. About 25 to 30 poems in English translation have been included, composed originally in Kashmiri over the past 25 years of conflict. These poems are in no doubt the perfect ensemble of words and emotions which showcase the impact of long-term violence on the Kashmiri population. Each piece of writing has a different approach of binding words together and yet the focus in each of these poems revolves around the same thing- the loss of identity and culture, and the dislocation of individuals and communities as a whole. Subtle tinges of poignancy are brushed in each letter of the poems showcasing a sense of perpetual grief that comes with violence and loss.
The book also contains personal essays from the author, which talk in detail about how the valley descended into the atmosphere of conflict and follows the timeline preceding the 1990s, from the time of the Dogras and the British rule. The essays also throw light on the politics of the same timeline; that pushed the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir into territorial and political subjugation. It briefly mentions and borrows references to the major upheavals leading to brutal massacres in the valley to get a better insight of the situation in Kashmir following the 90s.
This collection of prose and poems allows the readers to peek into the juxtaposition of spectacular events and everyday life, and how intertwined the two are in the Valley. ‘Of Gardens and Graves’ is a book perfect for understanding Kashmir, its past, and its present through individual pieces of poetry and personal essays.
Noor Tramboo – Class XII