“There was something about that city which was different otherwise why would one feel haunted many years later by its external magic,” is an emotionally charged statement of the author as she describes the Nostalgia of the people who left the place years back but still have sense of belongingness with it. Such is the fascination of the Jammu that People even though after passing of more than half a century, are still emotionally attached to the place and feel proud of being Jammuites. ‘Memory Lane to Jammu’ (Editors: Rehmat-Ullah-Rad and Khalid Hasan, Sang-e-Mahal Publishers, Lahore) is one of such compilations in which the authors not only narrate their connection with Jammu but share with the readers their sting of uprooted ness with the place they love. All of them left Jammu in 1947 during partition and settled in Pakistan administrated Kashmir (PaK).Though all of them have established themselves as prominent personalities but still feel the vacuity. The contributors include high ups like late Mohammad Yusuf Saraf, Chief Justice of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir High Court, while the co-editor, Mr. Khalid Hasan is a prominent journalist.
The book under review is an edited one with six essays. The book was originally published in Urdu in 2003 and later on translated in English by Rehmat Ullah Rad and Khalid Hasan. In the words of Rehmat-Ullah-Rad,editor of the book “This book is the result of efforts made over the last several years by Khalid Hasan, the Co-editor, to have those among the people of Jammu who remain and who remember something of the city and its ways to record and preserve their memories.” The book includes essays including’Those Jammu Days’ by Rehmat-Ullah-Rad ‘My Jammu Memories’by Sorayya Khurshid, ‘My Forgotten City’ by Muharram Hashmi, ‘The Jammu That Was’-from Khalid Hasan -, ‘A Jammu Remembrance’ by Aziz Kash and M.yusuf Saraf’s ‘The Jammu Massacres’.
This work is an attempt to revive the old memories of Jammu city which the authors still have about the city. The book has a beautiful and heartening description of topographical, traditional, and cultural life of Jammu city in pre-independence era. Every piece of writing is a gorgeous narration of Jammu city of fifty six years back, which has stony streets, the hills and the people with a smile on their face and innocence at heart.
Rehmat-Ullah-Rad recalling his days in Jammu, goes into the past remembering those beautiful days. His portrayal of the city in a meticulous manner helps the reader to easily assess the feeling of belongingness of the author with the city. Even after more than five decades of departing, the author still remembers every lane and every place of Jammu. The illustration of the streets, Bazar, Mohallas and famous Chowks is so impressive that after reading it, one has oblige to appreciate author’s memory and description about Jammu city. The graphical description of the city shows authors’ identification with the city. They are so much intensely related to the city that even small identity marks are important for them. Sorraya Khurshid in her writing described Jammu more beautiful than the valley and even compared it with the city of Rome.
The community life of the city was simple and harmonious. One can understand the assimilated multi-cultural dimension of the city by the way every festival was celebrated. The excitement and enthusiasm was identical in every community whether it was Dusshera, Baisakhi or Eid-Milad procession. During Taazia procession, the Hindus and Sikhs would set up water points called Shabeels for the marchers. Dusshera festival was celebrated with great enthusiasm by all the sections of the society. The excitement and celebrations were started before one month and the main celebration was held at Parade Ground, this tradition is even existed till today but only the fascination and passion is not evident. The commonality linked to the people as Jammuites and not as the religion with which they belonged. Every thing was common and related to them, there was no communal conflict among the people, and no community encouraged any kind of ethnic cleansing.
Limited resources and modest needs maintain the simplicity in life. The main sources of entertainment were festivals, fairs, snake charmers and the street sellers. The author recalls very interesting incidents of street sellers which always got the attention of the people and how they successfully fooled the people with their strong convincing attitude. The Gummat Gate and Chowk Khana was the main haunts of the Street Sellers for selling their home made tooth powder and snake juice made by boiling black snake. There is also an interesting narration of a man who used to call himself a spiritual master, who would draw out a little blood from his chest and with that blood he writes some amulets and sold that amulets to the innocent villagers.
Besides the natural beauty, the inter-community relationships, the very simple life of the people, the exploitation against minorities by feudal rulers of the state, the prejudice in higher education and in employment is also explained in this book. This book reflects the intense feeling of bitterness against the existing regime of the Jammu. The experience of riots, which forced the people to leave the place to which they belong and even make them strangers for it, somewhere is so traumatic that even after more than fifty years the feeling of bitterness shows in their writings. The role of Sheikh Abdullah and his deputy Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad is appreciated by the authors and repeatedly mentioned.
The last essay ‘The Jammu Massacres’ by M.Yusuf Saraf gives an interesting narrative that how the communal riots changed the whole situation, in otherwise the peaceful city. Everyone who leave the place with a hope that they will came back after some time, never had seen the city in fifty six years. This piece of writing describes the situation during communal riots, how some Hindu organizations and the ruling elite played an important role in spreading the sense of fear among the people.
This book is an attempt by the writers to find answers of some questions like, will the generations who came next to them ever know that there be anyone whose heart would sing when the name of Jammu is mentioned? Why they would talk about the city of Jammu that was and which haunted them for the last fifty six years and why would they need to remember it?
This book is beautifully written. All the papers draws attention to common and specific experiences of the authors, small experiences of their childhood and school days, when everything was simple and peaceful and explicit experiences of communal riots and partition when they were uprooted from their places. Touching every aspect of daily life of Jammu city, this book gives the historical, cultural, geographical and political detail but somewhere gives only one sided view. However, the writers elaborately dealt with the plight of the people who migrated from Jammu, they fail to mention the trauma faced by the people who came here from the other side and met with the same kind of circumstances during partition.
As already explained by the editor that this work is not for literary claim it just an attempt to go back to the old memories, we can say that this book is the result of nostalgia of the people who never overcome with the feeling of forced severance from the place they belonged. Every description in this book is so authentic that one can visualize the things while reading it. With this work they try to search their roots. In the end, book left the reader with some questions, Is the present generation identify them self with the place as the earlier generation? Is the division actually solved the problem? Are the people ever overcome with feeling of uprooted ness and un-identification? This book is unique in the sense, it is experimental therefore very simple in its approach in reflecting the emotions of the people who belongs to this city but now they are strangers for it.