Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Kashmir, Shinya Fujiwara, 1978

Kashmir
Shinya Fujiwara
Translated by Margaret F.Breer
This Beautiful World Vol. 60
Kodansha International Ltd., 1978


Shinya Fujiwara arrives in Srinagar at night through road. Tired he decides to sleep late into the morning and explore the 'Emerald City' of Srinagar after lunch. He goes to sleep. He awakes to the sound of someone singing. He checks his watch, it says 5:00 A.M. He looks out the window and sees few stars twinkling in western sky and hears birds chirping. He thinks he has woken up in evening and missed an entire day. He is about to jump out of bed but just then again he hears the strange singing.

"These words were sung by a strong quivering masculine voice and sounded strange to my ears, the ears of a foreigner. But the spiritual intonation might cause one to feel that long ago, when still in the womb, one heard these sounds together with the mother's heart beat."

He was hearing Azan for the first time in life.

After a few days in the city Shinya, the Japanese photographer,  noticed a phenomena typical to Srinagar city. The second Azan.

"Hearing this second song after Azan always cheered me. It came from the stray dogs which roam this emerald city. Even thee dogs must have felt the force of the morning prayer for they seemed to be singing the Azan. The first few times I heard this far away howling, i did not know what it was. By the third or fourth day, however, I was sure that the dogs were calling in response to the people. It then seemed rather comical, and as I lay in bed I could hardly contain my laughter. Yet listening to this wordless song day after day, it began to sound just as devout a prayer as the real Azan and I was moved almost to tears. I should probably not even have written about being impressed by the distant howling of stray dogs, yet any tourist in kashmir who fancies the unusual should listen for this wordless Azan. It made me vividly aware that religion in Kashmir governs not only man, but all living creatures right down to the smallest insect."

This is one of the most subtlety humorous 'Guide Book' I have read about Kashmir. Later in the book when he compliments a man for his devotion to religion, he is reprimanded and told, 'I am not the only one who is religious. Here in Kashmir, everyone gets up early. While the Azan is recited, many people are in the temples saying their prayers. We believe that anyone who stays in bed when he hears Azan will receive only half the profit of Allah's blessings.'

In addition to some beautiful photographs, this slim little book also offers some useful tips to the travellers  besides listing and describing the 'must sees' (although the history of the places is a bit breezy, bit wrong, but yes interesting for tourists ). Every chapter starts a some neat drawings of oriental designs giving the book a feel like you are reading one of those old English travelogues.



The only problem with a book is problem that books with great photographs often suffer: sometime great photographs are slip over two pages. Who likes that?



In between pages, the subtle funnies just keep rolling. When Shinya is tired of all the salesmen chasing him in the streets and on the waters of Dal for buying one or another thing, he decides to employ a trick to avoid unwanted attention. He change his look. He goes about the city unkempt and wearing worn out cloth. Of course, everyone starts ignoring him. He roams the city unattended. But this also upsets him, he misses the nagging calls of the infamous Kashmir salesmen. He even comes to like them. This is a book of simple pleasures that gives a glimpse of simple pleasures that Kashmir could offer travellers.

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Some more photographs from the book:


In his photographs Shinya inadvertently also captured a phenomena that doesn't exist in Srinagar anymore. A Kashmiri Pandit wedding. Although the book makes no special note of it, in the photograph we can see the the 'groom's welcome song' being sung by women who were muslim neighbours  An old Kashmiri tradition.


Also, it is interesting to note that the composition of a basic Kashmiri Pandit plate for the wedding day hasn't changed much, there is: Hakh, Razma, Dam Aloo, Tchaman (in the pic probably served by someone from a bucket), Nadur Ya'khin, Palak, Aulav Churm'e and Muj Cha'tin.



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4 comments:

  1. I am going to look for this book... You never fail to bring up another aspect of Kashmir...I love this blog... Keep up the good work... my eyes welled up, thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for reading! This is an 'out-of-print' book. I managed to get it from an off shore second hand seller in U.S. The shipping actually costed more than the book.


      Delete
  2. What is this jest in majesty? This ass in passion? How do god and devil combine to form a live dog?”
    ~ Nabokov

    It is ironic that by the summer of 1990 sound of howling dogs took a sinister and ominous meanings. The stories I heard in Jammu: The security men noticed this phenomena and declared even dogs as Muslims for answering the shrill calls from Masjids. Naga regiment took to hunting dogs with gulel and eating them. The population of dogs came under control. Some in city were happy. Decades later in bit more peaceful time the population again increased. But these dogs were something else, a fierce menace...almost man-eaters. Mass castration and hysterectomy were carried out last year. [BBC link]. They now even attack babies.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Any body who has lived in valley has his dog story. I believe they are as much a part of Kashmiri lore as Pundits of bygone days, tourists and muslims.

    ReplyDelete

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