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Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri



A Strange Experience

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

Sometimes I go through strange experiences. If I am in a balcony and some birds are nearby chirping, I begin understanding their conversation. If I am in a garden I feel that the trees and other forms of vegetation are talking to me. If I am on the bank of a river the waves communicate with me. You will not believe it but it is true. I myself do not believe all this but only after the event. While I am in the company of these, everything is clear to me but as soon as I am on my own, it all baffles me as it does you. I do not blame you for treating all this as a figment of my imagination but please bear with me. Believe me as a gentleman that I am not selling pure fiction. I am narrating to you what all I usually go through while I am with these friends (as I like to call them).

I am reminded of a poem in Kashmiri written by that genius of a poet who was fondly called Master ji. A sparrow came and sat on the sill of his window, where he was seated with his eyes closed. As soon as he opened his eyes, the sparrow flew away. The sensitive poet was grieved; it touched his heart. At once he addressed a few verses to the little bird. He asked why it had flown away. He asked whether it did not like his eyes because it had flown as soon as he had opened his eyes. He lamented that men devoured their eggs and flesh because of which they were scared of humans. All the same the poet was in conversation with the bird.

So am I, not only with birds, with flowers and trees but also with other forms of nature. When I look to the tall poplar tree with its up-stretched branches I get an impression of a haughty arrogant person. I hear the tree tell me, ‘be like me -headstrong and egoist. Walk with your head high and do not bend before any one. See, however strong and forceful the wind may be, I am shaken momentarily but not bent. I prefer to break than bend.’ Then I turn to other side and see the mighty Chinar. It tells me, ‘my dear! Be graceful like me. Help others. Give them shelter. Protect them from Sun and rain. Service rendered to others makes you gracious, magnanimous and splendid. It gives you prestige and makes your life purposeful and meaningful.’ Likewise, when I come across a fruit tree laden with apples, pears, pomegranates or any other fruit, and approach it, the voice I hear says something like this, ‘if you have some worth and are capable of yielding anything worthwhile, you have to be humble and submissive. Humility is a virtue that makes you great, worthy and valuable.’ Many a time when I am in a flower garden, the tiny buds and enchanting flowers talk to me. Once I was brooding near a small flower plant. Suddenly a little bud spoke to me. It said, ‘do you know what Josh, the famous Urdu poet asked me one day? He questioned my very existence, which aims at just a smile. I replied to his query by asking a counter question as to how many people are lucky enough to get even one smile in their lives. He had no answer.’ Suddenly a flower resumed where the bud had left the conversation. It said, ‘the bud is right. It is a bud only as long as it smiles. Once it smiles it becomes a full-fledged flower like me. We attract people by our beauty, patters on our petals, our multifarious hues and the scent that we emit. If you have to be a symbol of beauty, you must possess colours of virtue and fragrance of goodness.’ Not that I am a silent listener. I also tell them what I feel. Sometimes I thank them for their advice but whether I am intelligible to them or not is not known. Even then I speak out my heart to them.

Once I told a mango tree, ‘what use is your motto of service unto others? Are you not hurt when people climb on you and your delicate branches get broken? Do you not get bruised when people throw stones at you in order to have your fruit? Is it not humiliating when someone curses you finding your fruit tasteless or rotten?’ the tree replied in its magnanimity, ‘if you live only for yourself, your life is wasted. If you live for others as well, your life is virtuous. You should not bother about what others do or how others behave. You do what you feel is right and proper. Leave others free to decide for themselves what they consider right.’ I was reminded of a saint who was offering his prayers on the bank of a river. He saw a scorpion drowning. He picked it on his palm. As soon as it was out of water it stung the palm of the saint with its pincers. The hand of the saint shook and the poisonous creature fell in the water and was about to get drowned. Again the saint picked it from the water and again it stung his hand. There was a tremour in his hand because of which the scorpion again slipped off. Again the saint saved it from drowning. The saint was doing its duty and the cunning creature was at its dirty job, perhaps helpless because of his nature.

One day while I was on the balcony of my house, I was surrounded by a host of birds, small and big, of a variety of patterns and speaking in different tunes. A small budgerigar asked me in a sweet tone, ‘may I sing for you?’ I gave a nod. It sang a melodious tune. It lulled me to sleep and in my dream I saw the bird as a small fairy moving around me and singing a scintillating song. I was mesmerized. Suddenly another bird hopped near it and began scolding the poor bird, in these words, ‘why do you sing for him? You know they are called human but in reality they are inhuman. They destroy our nests and eat our flesh and eggs.’ The little parakeet sided with me and replied, ‘do not blame them. Some of our ilk also pounce upon us, injure us and then devour our flesh. Moreover, this person is a poet and poets by nature are humane, kind and sensitive. They are sympathetic and are moved by the grief and suffering of others.’ Then came a kite swooping and sat at the railing. It complained to me, ‘Kashmiris would occasionally throw sinews of goat and sheep flesh up in the sky from the roof of their house for us to eat. We would hover around and dancing would jump at these meat pieces. These days they no longer feed us like that.’ I told it, ‘while you are right, you must realize that they have been uprooted from their hearth and home. It has become well nigh impossible for themto follow their traditional customs and continue with their habits.’ The kite looked to the large black crow that was parching nearby and gave a look of appreciation. The birds also seem to understand human tragedies.

Many times I have had intimate conversations with the flowing waters and the waves of a river. I am very fond of sitting on the banks of a river for hours on end. On one such occasion I was sitting on the bank of a river. The water was flowing single-minded and making a sweet sound. Waves after waves were rising and then getting subsumed by the river. Small whirlpools were dancing and I was absorbed watching all this. Suddenly the water whispered to me, ‘Do you observe me flowing unhindered without resting? You should emulate me in living your life. I try to flow within the parameters of my two banks. When I transgress these there is flood, inundation and destruction all round. Take a lesson from it and never overstep the norms and standards laid down by ethics and morality.’ I was amazed to find how much there is to learn from this mighty river. The whirlpools talked about turbulence and turmoil but the most profound lesson came from the waves. They taught me the secret of human existence that further strengthened my belief in non-dualism of Indian philosophy. One of them even explained the reality in plain words. ‘Look at us,’ it said, ‘we are born of the waters of this river and we get merged in these waters. We are part of this whole although we appear to be distinct. Our ebb gives us a notion of being separate from the river but our flow shows us the reality of being part and parcel of the same river. We are witness to this phenomenon where one gives rise to many and many eventually become one.’ I was reminded of these lines from the Upanishads, ‘Poornam-adah poornam-idam poornat poornam-udachyate poornasya poornam-adaya poornam-evaavashishyate – Everything here is complete. Add complete to complete or subtract complete from complete, it still remains complete.’ We have to know this whole, this perfect and this complete, of which we are a part. Or is it that we appear to be a part but in reality we are the whole, as explained by the wave?

Source: Har-Van

T. N. Dhar Kundan's Articles


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