Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel and post Colonial Asian Fiction, Yiddish Literature, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality historical novels are some of my Literary Interests

Saturday, April 11, 2015

"The Enemy" by Abdul Gani Beg Athar (translated from Kasmiri by Neerja Mattoo)

Our future brother-in-law is from Kashmir and I dedicate this humble post to his honor and as my way of welcoming him to our family

When great powers fight over possession of territories it is the people who live there, whose lives will not really change whoever rules, that suffer the most.  Ever since the 1947 Partition, India and Pakistan have both claimed Kashmir.  There are also continuing political and military drives to develop politcal sovereignty for Kashmir, to make it independent.  Both Pakistan and India have nuclear weapons making this a matter of world import.  

One of the many benefits of short stories is they can, in just a few minutes, let us see how it is to live in many ways, many places, many times.  As "The Enemy" opens a Kasmiri man knows his badly injured brother is in a prison over on the other side of a bridge to land both Pakistan and India claim.  To India troops the man knows he will appear a Pakistani  spy, to the Pakistanis he will seem Indian.  He works up his courage and crosses the bridge.  He is taken, as he almost certainly knew he would be, to the poilice station and tortured to get him to release information which he does not have.  As he is being beaten he begs to see his brother. 

"They read the stamp on my brow and one of the two spoke, 'Indian!' The other pronounced, 'Arrest him.' 'No, no, sir, I am not an Indian. Neither am I a Pakistani. I am only a Kashmiri. Do you see sir, that log hut at Keran? That is my home. And you see that log hut on the other bank? That is where my brother lives. He is very ill and has no one but God to call his own over there. Please, sir, give me just half an hour — I need only to ask him how he is, get him some medicine, a drink of water, maybe.' A rifle butt hit my neck and the earth shook under my feet. They dragged me to their bunker. More soldiers — they also read the tell-tale stamp and declared, 'Indian. An enemy spy.' And then began the torture."

 Ultimately he get his wish and is thrown into a cell with his dying brother.  

Here is how the story ends, words echoed in 1000s of wars since time began.

"They said that they knew very well that the dead man was my brother but they could not let me participate in his burial rites. 'We are helpless,' they concluded. 'Seek permission from your officers, please,' I begged. 'They too are helpless,' they said. 'From the officers' officers then,' I pleaded. 'They too are helpless,' was the reply 'Who is it that can help? Who has the power?' I asked. 'That is something we do not know."

ABDUL GANI BEG ATHAR Abdul Gani Athar (1943-....) is a teacher in the Jammu and Kashmir Education Department. He has written poems, short stories and plays in Kashmiri. A collection of his short stories in Kashmiri was published some time back. His work has also appeared in Sheeraza (Jamniu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages).

Mel u