academicians strive to include moral education in the school
curriculum to check crimes in society, most people are clueless as
to how this was addressed among the older generations of Kashmiris.
Sociologists here argue the now nearly extinct art of storytelling
by parents and grandparents was, in fact, the daily moral classes
children went through at home.
"The invasion of television, Internet and cinema has, in fact,
killed the tradition of storytelling in Kashmir. Children picked
up their sense of rectitude through the stories their parents or
the professional storytellers told them at home.
"The moral subtext of these stories was always universal, that
truth would triumph over the evil. Crime never paid and however
mighty the tyrant might be, it would always be the hero with the
right moral conduct who carried the day," Farah Qayoom, a teacher
of sociology in Kashmir University, told IANS.
Till as late as the 1960s, the art of storytelling as a powerful
means of social communication was alive in Kashmir.
Most villages had professional storytellers around whom children
and even elders would gather, especially during the lengthy winter
nights to listen to the tales about far off lands.
"The coming of the storyteller into the village was an event
nobody would miss. We would wait eagerly for the evening when the
storyteller would sit on a straw mat with an oil lamp on the
pedestal to highlight the changing contours of his face as he
transported you into the world of fairies, princes and demons,"
said Sheikh Abdul Rehman, 81, a resident of north Kashmir
Residents of another north Kashmir village remember the late
Ghulam Muhammad Rather as a master storyteller of the area.
"He would bring all his story books along when invited to tell us
a story. His stories about the prince with the wooden horse that
flew over land and water to reach the demon's cave where his lady
love had been caged are fresh in my memory," said Samad Sheikh,
72, a resident of Haripora village in the same district.
The art of storytelling is something the locals allowed to die out
as more dazzling and pushbutton means for entertainment became
available to them.
"I never heard a story in my entire childhood that did not have a
moral message. I remember the story of the son who dragged his
ailing father out of the home to the market place to get rid of
him," Ali Muhammad Dar, 65, a resident of Gowharpora village in
Badgam district, recalled to IANS.
"The father told the son to abandon him a few steps further down
"The son wondered why the dying man was insisting on being
abandoned at a certain place. He asked the reason. The father told
him that was the exact place where he had abandoned his own father
in old age. The son understood the terrible mistake he was about
to make and carried his father back home", Dar added.
As society battles with problems of old parents being abandoned by
affluent children, crimes against women, drug abuse, cyber crimes
and the like, shouldn't Kashmir recreate its moral police in the
shape of the traditional storyteller?
(Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)