Almost seventy five years after Rev. John Hinton Knowles came out with his famous collection of Kashmiri folk tales, in 1962, S.L. Sadhu, came out with a new collection of Kashmiri folktales that had some old popular stories, like 'Himal and Nagrai', 'Akanandun', 'Shabrang' and 'Musa - Kapas' (interestingly, a cousin recently informed me that a version of this famous Kashmiri folktale was published in popular Indian Children's magazine Target in 1980s with phrase 'Musa - Kapas' replaced with 'Kong - Posh') and then it had some new stories too. While Knowles told these stories like an Orientalist, with extensive notes and with an eye for origins of the tales, in a language that was at times too pedantic, S.L. Sadhu seems to have written the same stories with a sense of enjoy, a joy that might have been felt while hearing these stories in person, on cold dark night, curled up in bed, holding on to a Kangri, doing Shalfa with family. The Kashmiri in these stories does not come across as a specimen compiled by an Orientalist for study. Kashmiri in these stories comes across more strongly. And the language is what would now qualify for 'Indian English' with its seemingly strange use of phrases (the kind that makes western readers throw fits).
The book is also interesting as it also ties to add some new folktales to the Kashmiri literary space. Thus we have a story like 'The Hydra-Headed': they say a mysterious monstrous creature now infests waters of Jhelum, it is devouring unsuspecting people, waters are dangerous. The story is about the way news used to float around Srinagar. We are offered various sound-bites from the city-folks about this monster.
As we near these sounds, a picture of Kashmri society - imagined, dreamed -around 1960s and not from early 1900 when this news about a 'man-eating crocodile' was in fact doing the rounds of the city, an incident recorded by Tyndale Biscoe and a imaginary beast slayed by 'Biscoe Boys' by swimming en-mass in the river. S.L. Sadhu, a former student of C.M.S. Biscoe School, was probably paying tribute to his school in that tale.
Reading S.L. Sadhu's collection along with the book from Knowles actually broadens the space of Folk tales in Kashmir. Sadhu wrote these stories with young readers in mind. The book embellished with some wonderful sketches by Mohan Ji Raina.
It is a shame that while the book by Knowles is still in print and easily available both offline and online, S.L. Sadhu's book is not so easy to find.
I came across the book recently at Digital Library of India and converted it to pdf format for easy reading.