'Gobyaer': Untangling The Thread Of Grief| MENAFN.COM

Tuesday, 29 November 2022 07:38 GMT

'Gobyaer': Untangling The Thread Of Grief

(MENAFN- Kashmir Observer)

MILLENNIALS and Gen Z are often deemed pernicious to content's future. Ravaging across different platforms, they seem to have transformed content. This transformation is dominantly criticised for demoting the sanctity of true art. Every generation has gone through its own tryst with literature and we've found skeptics and prophets across them. Value judgments aside, there's no harm in heeding to the puritans at times. Perhaps, this is why Aleph Book's new anthology of short stories written by Millenials and the Gen Z authors is praiseworthy.

The anthology A Case of Indian Marvels: Dazzling Stories from the Country's Finest New Writers (edited by David Davidar) features forty short stories which deal with India as it had been for the past few decades and India as it is now. The variety captures the pulse and status of India's condition very intimately, trying to bring stories from every niche.

In the confluence of these stories, we find Kashmiri writer Sadaf Wani's literary genius, Gobyaer. 

Kashmir Observer got in touch with the writer to understand the intricately woven tale. Filled with a unique intimate symbolism which almost runs like an indecipherable code, we try to read her story with her.

Why is writing important for a place like Kashmir and what drove you to writing, especially, fiction writing?

For a place like Kashmir, where Gobyaer finds itself sedimented in our bones, writing or any other form of creative expression, can be a radical act as well as a practice for personal healing, catharsis, and comfort. While the bigger existential questions loom over us, creative practices give us something to cling to during this waiting period. I also turn to writing for the same reason.

I enjoy fiction and non-fiction writing. I find it fascinating how non-fiction, specifically research writing, allows us to look around and identify how external structures shape and govern our most private and intimate life decisions. The whole process of investigating, shifting frameworks, and then seeing familiar things in a whole new light is very exciting to me. In fact, one of my major next projects is a non-fiction book, a short biography of Srinagar.

Fiction performs a very different and, in my opinion, a more superior function, its creative potential allows us to radically imagine and create alternate realities. For most things in life, we tend to accept our roles in normative systems without much thought. Fiction enables us to question, not just our roles but the very existence and functioning logic of these systems. I find it almost magical in how it allows us to communicate, transcend, and subvert our personal and socio-cultural limitations and gives us a chance at being something more. In places like Kashmir, we rely more on such possibilities.

What is it about the genre of short-stories that makes it a better bet than other genres?

I don't know if the short stories genre is better than other genres, but I am inclined towards it because, for someone like me, who is still developing their writing style and literary identity, it allows me to experiment without committing to a particular plotline or writing style. This flexibility works both ways, even for readers who can't commit to longer works, short stories allow them the space for engagement and building sustainable reading habits.

A lot of folk tales I grew up hearing from my grandparents and cousins have registered as a series of short stories in my head. There were always familiar background settings, and the characters would appear and disappear without revealing much about themselves. I found it really cool how you could enjoy a narration without making the whole narrative about character construction.

In the short story“Gobyaer”, the first-person narrator is invisible and an observant specter-spectator. What is this choice trying to convey?

I've used this narration style of the looming spirit which tracelessly moves around Kashmir in“Gobyaer” and in a number of my other short stories. This narration style came very organically to me, partly because it is rooted in my formative experience of growing up in Kashmir, and partly because of the collective expectation that is placed upon us women, to exist in shadows, especially when it comes to public spaces, our own cities, towns, and villages.

Finding the narration style is a challenging step for every piece of writing, and I have always felt deeply uncomfortable using a narration style that tries to speak for, or homogenize Kashmiri experiences. Therefore, the narrator in my stories always only refers to their experiences and is very conscious of being an observer who can only speculate what people are experiencing.

Why did you rely on symbolism so much?

Any work is invariably a product of its times. And this piece too is a product of self-censorship that has seeped into our consciousness as a result of the times we live in. Like many other writers, I too place my faith in symbolism and its potential for communication.

I have been very clear in my head that my writings – both fiction and non-fiction are largely for Kashmiri audiences. That clarity helps, because once the readership is loosely defined, I don't feel the pressure to explain or break down cultural experiences and motifs, so I write with reassurance that there is some shared understanding between me and the readers, and they will get references without me having to walk them through it. Besides, I think it's very important that in our scholarship, and literature we Kashmiris, look inwards and address each other. Recent works which I feel have achieved the same, include Shabir Ahmad Mir's The Plague Upon Us which skillfully employs symbolism to show us that a lot can be said even when you can't say much.

Kashmiri women carry with them the double-trouble of a matrix of marginalisation. Is this why you've called your complaints of“not being seen”,“not being heard”“little inconveniences”?

In a way, yes. Even though the looming spirit in the stories does not have a normative gender, its experiences (by virtue of it being an extension of me) are essentially gendered. The spirit and its longing for visibility and mobility within the streets and lanes of its 'homeland' is derived from how Kashmiri women are expected to conduct themselves. While this kind of surveillance and prohibition on mobility and leisure are not exclusive to Kashmiri women, they are a part of our lived realities and they are intensified for us by intersecting factors such as political conflict, militarization, patriarchy, financial dependence, etc.

In Gobyaer and in other short stories also, you can see the visual imagery of how men interact with their surroundings is very different from women. Men are seen in tea shops, in larger gatherings, on roads, in playgrounds, etc. whereas women are almost always indoors. When women are depicted in outdoor spaces, their mobility outside the house and neighborhood is always justified by their domestic duties.

This forced invisibilization of women from public spaces and public conversations is also a manifestation of violent oppression, but because there are so many other forms of oppression at play, we are barely allowed to address these conversations. Women are not, and have never been, just passive observers of the Gobyaer.“But the men never stop talking, and so the women always leave the room in frustration.”

Book Details:

A Case of Indian Marvels: Dazzling Stories from the Country's Finest New Writers

by David Davidar

Category: Fiction

Price: Rs 999

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