Melodious cicadas buzzing on the tree trunks and yellow-brown tint on the green surface of the rice fields; reminds me of a lovely season called autumn (Harudd). The arrival of the season very often leads me on the path of my childhood where I walk on the staircase of sweet and strange reminiscences. I have a lot of precious autumn memories which very often give me nostalgic feelings. In our local parlance, Harudd is attributed to brutality and ferocity because it renders the planet devoid of apparent vitality and liveliness. Greenery hardly copes with the cruelty of the season, for it sends spring in bloom and summer in bloom to the gallows. But, the point is, the season’s all-new and haunting beauty is in its harshness. The falling leaves of tall poplars and willows form a crusty carpet on the breast of mother earth. Young girls picking up these dry leaves with locally made hard wicker brooms produce a rustling but pleasant sound.
Autumn is more than a season for rural Kashmir, for it is the time for sedentary rural people to cash in on their industrious labor. We can call it the season of allotment, reaping, distribution and disbursement; because rural people show the highest levels of generosity and compassion. In addition to the rich crop productivity, autumn often adds a great deal to my abilities and creative abilities. I find myself emotionally attached to the season. I remember the season for several sources of artists and live performers, who thronged the villages during the season.
Since entertainment is one of the important requirements of human societies, our valley is no exception. Most of our population is directly linked to agriculture and horticulture, so Kashmiris are hardworking people. Although we have had our own fancy and understated modes of entertainment and entertainment, unfortunately internet-enabled smartphones have changed the parameters of our fun and entertainment.
Hardworking people, especially associated with farming, are fond of entertainment because it reduces stress caused by fatigue and excessive exhaustion. We had many decent and modest sources of it. Buskers or street performers have been seen flocking to villages and hamlets during the fall season. The season was almost festive and exuberantly joyful. Street performers would fascinate a rural audience in the rice fields during the fall season. Now folk art has either faded into the blue or is limited to some selected platforms with limited range. I vividly remember the sketches performed by bhaands, solo musicians mesmerizing the men and women who work in the rice fields, and magicians captivating the simple, no-frills villagers. Ladishah, a popular street artist of old, was loved by everyone, especially children. The ringing of iron rings, artistically produced by rolling one’s fingers over these iron rings, hanging from an iron rod (Dehra), was soothing to the ears. Ballads, satirical songs and praise were the interests of his field. Sometimes he castigated administrative inefficiency or recounted the plight of peasants and workers. Even arguments between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law were told with lucidity.
Today, those traveling minstrels of old Kashmir (commonly known as Ladishah) are all but extinct. Local street singers or rappers had an indomitable place in our folklore. The singers were very active during the fall season because the rural areas were bustling with the harvest of paddy, maize and various legumes; and these folk artists would receive adequate paddy produce as a gift and thank you from these farmers. It was the time when most artisans, craftsmen and professionals like carpenters, blacksmiths, barbers, shepherds, mosque imams and others were not paid in cash for the various services rendered to farmers. The barter system was in vogue at the time. No one can deny the fact that our ancestors were generous and sincere. Today, we hardly let anyone take meager sums out of our heaps. We have undoubtedly become richer than our ancestors, but not as generous as them.
Draped in a cotton pheran, wearing white pants and a white turban on the head; Ladishah had a unique and exceptional appearance, and stood out from afar. The artist was pampered by rural people for his skillful art of poetry and voice. Unlike folk musicians, Ladishah sang his own poetry. A ten to fifteen minute solo performance by a Ladishah would win people’s hearts. The children walked with these folk artists from one rice field to another and from one street to another. Children and adults repeated these songs in the houses. Yes, these traveling minstrels have been emulated, which is clear proof of their popularity and public admiration. Now none of these sites are visible in our streets, consisting of houses and rice fields.
The folk genre originated in the 18th century AD in the Kashmir Valley. Kashmiri associate professor at the University of Kashmir, Dr Farooq Fayaz attributes the origin of the genus to the Pulwama district of our valley. According to the professor; The first Ladishah in the valley was from Lari village in Pulwama district which belonged to the Shah dynasty. Thus, the name Ladishah derives from these two identities. Over time, the village of Shah de Lari became Ladishah. Although some attribute the origin of its name to other things, but, etymologically, Dr. Farooq Fayaz’s explanation and theory seems true and correct.
The reflection of advancement and materialistic progression has buried these folk artists under the rapidity and rage of technological advent. The insensitivity and insensitivity of the officials compounded the scenario. Like our folk theater, the Ladishah genre has succumbed to inadequate official patronage and sponsorship. These artists turned to music because our folk music industry is almost flourishing. When an art ceases to extinguish the fire of the bellies, it is reduced to ashes to reduce the pangs of hunger and famine. Had there been enough promotion and scholarships for these folk artists? situation could have been quite different. But, no, the authorities never came to the aid of these artists. the art, culture and language of Jammu and Kashmir; and other literary organizations must come forward to preserve this dying genre of our folklore. The young artists of Ladishah should be rewarded and encouraged to breathe new life into this dead category of our folklore. Schools, colleges and universities have a role to play. Children should be motivated to play the roles of different folk artists including Ladishah during cultural programs in educational institutions. Talented and creative children must be prepared to let our folklore survive, as different units of our culture are vitally important to our survival as a nation. The cultural wings of schools and educational establishments have a central role to play. Hopefully the art receives the necessary patronage from those at the helm and other stakeholders.
(The author is a teacher and columnist for Rising Kashmir. He can be contacted at [email protected]