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Summing up SRINAGAR (Book Review)

ZGM’s Nostalgia shapes into a book bringing alive the stories from the city that once was

Dr Abdul Wahid

Dr Abdul Wahid

Kashmir in recent years has witnessed a surge of books. Most of the books tell us the grim stories of the two decades. Most of these books have a single theme this one, but this book – Srinagar My City My Dreamland – is a compendium of articles written in Nostalgia column of Greater Kashmir over last few years, touching multiple topics. These articles tell us about the myths, beliefs, and superstitions, various social and cultural practices, religious customs and so on, connecting us with our past which is both bitter and sweet. The book tells us about innovative wisdom of people in spite of them being largely illiterate. The book is a bridge between generations, a generation born in 1940s when the sub-continent was at a critical juncture of history and connects us with the preceding two generations from whom Zahid has heard narrative history of Kashmir. Zahid himself is witness to events of contemporary Kashmir from 1958. He tells us about non-conventional political centers where grass roots level workers assembled during leisure hours to discuss and debate politics. This grass roots level politics is now absent in present day political groupings.
Zahid apart from mentioning names of great political leaders like Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, Mirwaiz M Yousuf Shah, Choudry Ghulam Abbas, Allah Rakha Sagar, Ghulam Ahmad Ashaie, Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad, Moulana Syed Masoodi has not forgotten the political workers who have remained unsung and have been forgotten even by their own party leaders. These people like Ghulam Qadir Shakshaz, Ghulam Hassan Teensaz, Mohammad Yousuf Fantosh, Abdul Rehman Sodagar, Abdul Salaam Dalal and others have written the history of our struggle.

He often tells us how barber and tailor shops were important in the political awakening of ordinary Kashmiri people. These are the shops where he came to know about political events, socio religious affairs and so on. Great story tellers would visit these shops and their tales were more vibrant and truthful than those of contemporary historians. This narrative history is rich both in content and quantum; though not literate these people would analyze political events with accuracy. They had received no formal education but could read a revolt in Z.A. Bhutto’s lighting a cigarette in the conference hall at Tashkent, when Lal Bahadur Shastri and Ayub Khan had signed an agreement following 1965 Indo-Pak war. Later events proved that Bhutto had a strong disagreement with the declaration.

This book tells us about the mesmerizing personality of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, his achievements, failures, his promises and betrayals. Zahid seems to be highly obsessed with this extra ordinary personality, being both as an admirer and a staunch critic of this towering leader who remained at the centre stage of the Kashmir politics over half a century. He recalls how a man who struggled against autocratic rule became intolerant to dissent and criticism after assuming power in 1947. Listening to Azad Kashmir radio and Radio Pakistan was considered a crime because of their critical comments against Sheikh’s person and politics. The radio sets if found playing these two stations were chained, arrested and kept in a local Police Thana! But when Sheikh was arrested in 1953 and Pakistan welcomed his new political stance, he and his followers would listen to these two stations religiously.
Zahid feels intensely nostalgic about the period from 1958 to 1975 – the period of activities of the Plebiscite Front workers. He remembers with clarity how people in his birth burg observed 9th August as a black day when black flags were hoisted on houses as Sheikh Abdullah was arrested on 9th August 1953.
Nowhatta has undoubtedly remained the fountain head of all resistance movements against feudal lords, brute monarchs and alien rulers. People of this area have engaged military forces in ding-dong battles over last 65 years. This part of city known as Shahri Khas has remained the heart of resistance. He talks of two important political centers in this part of city, Mirwaiz Manzil at Rajouri Kadal and Mujahid Manzil across Zaina Kadal bridge.
Mirwaiz Manzil was sealed by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah in 1947 because Mirwaiz Yousuf Shah was a supporter of M A Jinnah. Mujahid Manzil was grabbed by Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad in 1953 when Sheikh Sahib had been arrested for his anti India Struggle which was launched to restore Kashmir’s political and cultural identity on the principles of Right of Self Determination.
The book tells us how SR Gunj, Suraj Bazar, Zaina kadal, Jamia Masjid and Bohri Kadal have remained big trade centers and mentions about the shrine at Khanqah-e-Mualla, where the spark of freedom struggle was lit by an enigmatic personality – Abdul Qadeer – which later led to the events of 13th July 1931. It also tells us how martyr’s graveyard came into being at Naqashband Shaib, Khawaja Bazar. This graveyard lies some 100 yards away from the author’s birth place.
The book tells us how rebellious people residing on the banks of Nala Mar were the victims of the conspiracy. Nala Mar was filled to disperse this resistant class of people who had given sleepless nights to the rulers even after 1947. They were mostly workers of Muslim Conference and followers of Mirwaiz Yousuf Shah. He writes a sad commentary on the death of Nala Mar. its demise has led to the impending death of Dal Lake and stagnation of other water bodies. His account is amazingly reflective and connects us with our treasured past.
The book is a journey down a long and torturous memory lane, connecting us with our past; an era of simplicity, when during periods of drought people took pitchers of water on their heads and climbed barefooted upto the shrine of Mukhdoom Sahib to pray for rains. It was a period when students would visit various shrines during examinations for seeking blessings. It was a period when people would like to inscribe tattoo marks on their arms and their foreheads. Those were the times when young boys would find role models in hero’s like Dilip Kumar, Shammi kapoor, Dev Anand and Raj Kapoor. When school going boys and girls would relish novels written by Gulshan Nanda, A.R Khatoon, Dutt Bharti, Razia Bhat and Naseem Hijazi. This was a period when affluent people would go for a Dal trip engaging a Donga. This was a period when children would relish boiled beans and wheat sold by hawkers early in the morning instead of potato chips and chocolates.
Zahid is proud of having remained a student of Islamia High School which was founded in his town of birth by Mirwaiz Rasool Shah, the Sir Syed of Kashmir in 1905. This school brought an educational revolution, and socio political awakening.
This book is a sad commentary on our insensitivity towards our dying heritage, however, Nostalgia in Zahid’s own words, is an elixir which energizes, exalts a person and strengthens patriotism.

Dr. A. Wahid is Ex-HoD Medicine, SKIMS, Srinagar.
Reach him at

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5 Responses to "Summing up SRINAGAR (Book Review)"

  1. Tuddum Gup says:

    Excellent book must have.

  2. Adriana says:

    thanks for share!

    1. Aijaz Ahmmed Aijaz says:

      Dear Dr.Wahid,

      I have not yet gone through this nostalgic book on Srinagar city by Z.G.Mohammad,but your valuable review on the said Book has provided me the sum & substance of the book as you have quite vividly analysed the authors important experiences,memories,observances and passionate thoughts about the historical Srinagar city.I will of course read the book in near future but for the time being your comments will do for me.Thank you but the critical appreciation is not elaborate rather attention has focused on appreciation areas only.The author no doubt deserves our appreciation for enabling us to travel on the roads of past golden days……!

      aijaz ahmmed aijaz , SRINAGAR

      1. zahidgm says:

        It is available at New Delhi book fair.