The Ugly Kashmiri (Cameos in exile) written by Arvind Gigoo is a unique book because on hundred and eighty cameos (short literary sketches) describe in condensed brevity the history, politics, sociology and psychology of the Kashmiri Muslims and Kashmiri Pandits. It is for the first time in Indian writing in English that one literary piece printed on a full page presents and depicts its subject and speaks volumes about it. What is remarkable about the book is that the author unravels the mind of Muslims, Pandits, politicians, security forces, intellectuals and common people with cold detachment.
During the political happenings of the nineties the convictions of all Kashmiris crumbled to dust. That is why the book is dedicated to ‘Ahmed the Blacksmith’ who stuck to his goodness even under disturbing conditions. We learn that the youth of Kashmiri Pandits are in ferment, that the elderly Pandits suffer the pain of uprooted ness in exile and that the Kashmiri Muslims cry for a glorious and peaceful Kashmiri. The author wants all Kashmiri to change from ugliness to beauty.
The cameos have layers of meanings. They abound in ambiguity, pun, and allusions to historical and political happenings, satire, irony, wit and black humour. The author hasn’t spared even Gandhi, Nehru, Sheikh Abdullah, Farooq Abdullah, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. He is critical of Nehru’s policy on Kashmiri and Gandhi’s ‘ray of hope’ that he saw in Kashmiri in 1947. The author talks about Jinnah and Zia-ul-Haq. He exposes the leaders and politicians who played with the sentiments of the Kashmiris. He makes fun of the vacillating political attitude of the Kashmiri Muslims. He has revealed the psyche of the militans. Arvind Gigoo, who is himself a Kashmiri Pandit, is critical even of Kashmiri Pandits. They too are a victim of his sarcasm and laughter. He laughs at Panum Kashmir, rituals of Pandits, the temple they erected in exile and their hypocrisy. Some cameos describe the love-hate relationship of Kashmiri Muslims and Kashmiri Pandits and their sense of Humor. Some cameos are about Jagmohan who was the Governor of the J&K state twice and about the attitudes of the Kashmiri Muslims and Kashmiri Pandits towards him. The author has sharp observation, acute psychological insight and awareness of history and politics. But some of the cameos are puzzling and mind-boggling. The notes at the end of the book explain the hidden meanings of the cameos. There should have been notes on all the 180 cameos.
The ugly Kashmiri (Cameos in exile) is book of meaty aphorisms and short reflection of a person capable of viewing historical, political and social events without any pre-conceived notion. He aims his arrows at his targets mercilessly and fearlessly. In cryptic and enigmatic style he is eloquent about events that are and were revolting in Kashmir and outside. The pictures that some of the cameos presents are dark and lurid. Others are full of compassion and pathos. There is bitter truth in his anger and ridicule against the decay of an ethos. Gigoo sees the ugliness by which Kashmiri has been disfigured, and mocks at the persons responsible for all the misdeeds. But in the crisp Preface he confesses that the source of his cameos is his love for all kashmiris. His observations sting and disturb. He is critical of the politics of hypocrisy, duplicity and falsehood. He has used language to bite. The book is meant for the well-read and the educated. As an important political and social document it is a collection of pithy observations, cynical about capacities of men, skeptical of their motives, remorselessly critical of all. These literary cameos are brilliant because of their compression and precision of expression. They present the essence of sophisticated disillusionment, cynicism, wit and unpalatable truth.