Jamia scholar unravels the richness of Kashmiri literature, languages

Jamia scholar unravels the richness of Kashmiri literature, languages

The rich linguistic diversity of Kashmir and its associated literature have now found documentation in the form of a wonderful website. A PhD scholar at Jamia Millia Islamia University in Delhi, Asiya Zahoor has collaborated with her sister and another youngster residing back home in Baramulla, Kashmir, to develop a website called ‘Bol Bosh’.

The website documents no less than 12 languages and dialects spoken across Jammu and Kashmir, interviews of well-known and obscure regional writers and their culturally-rich writings.

The website was recently launched at a literary event at Oxford Bookstore in Connaught Place. Present at the gathering were several proud students of Kashmiri origin from Jamia Millia Islamia University, as well as eminent members of the Kashmiri community in Delhi.

Asiya is a highly educated woman for the remote district in Kashmir she hails from. Imbibing from her father, who was a teacher in Urdu, and her mother, who used to regale her with folklores for bedtime stories, Asiya, first, studied Arts at the Baramulla Women’s College.

She then followed it up with a Masters and MPhil in ‘Diasporic Literature’ from Kashmir University. Next, a Ford Foundation fellowship enabled her to study Psycholinguistics at Oxford University in UK, and later, she came back to her native village to teach.

Asiya says her interest in ‘literature and linguistics’ was further fuelled from teaching children of different ethnicities. She explains, “Kashmir, lying on the cusp of Central Asia, is home to various racial communities. Consequently, a huge array of languages and dialects are spoken in the hilly and plain areas. While teaching children from such different backgrounds, I realised that knowing their first language is always beneficial.”

“Moreover, due to certain state policies, writings by native Kashmiri authors and poets have progressively been erased from school syllabi forcing children to see Kashmir through the eyes of European historians and novelists. I felt I must do something about this. That is when I discussed this with my sister and came up with the idea of Bol Bosh.”

After three years of negotiating the toughest terrains to reach out to the farthest located, and yet brilliant, regional writers in Kashmir, Asiya’s Bol Bosh today documents languages as varied as Kashmiri, Pashtu, Gojri, Ladakhi, Dogri, Kohistani, Poguli, Burushaski, Sheikhagal, Shina, Bhaderwahi and Pahari. But the brave woman says that it was as much an enlightening journey as an arduous oneto undertake.

She recalls, “Once my sister Maheen Shah, student Ubaid Aziz and I reached Uri, which is an extreme border village, to meet a gentleman knowledgeable in Pahari and Urdu. We were surprised to see that he had over 7,000 books on the subject. Another time, we met a farmer in Baramulla who had never been to school. But his poetry in Kashmiri was richly illustrated with allusions to the holy Quran, folk stories and the beauty of Kashmir.”

The secretary general of the Youth Parliament of Jammu & Kashmir, Basharat Ali, who was also present at the website launch, said, “This is a one-of-its kind initiative and hugely appreciation-worthy.

Who knows, if in this age of globalisation, these languages will survive the coming years or not. I hope Bol Bosh goes on to document many more languages and writers. Our coming generations should take pride in our collective linguistic and cultural heritage.”  

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