Salute goes out to Veronica Peer Patki and others who have taken a pledge to revive the ancient Kashmiri Pandit script, Shāradā!
Here’s her story:
I got introduced to Shāradā during my teens, when I stumbled upon the father’s horoscope in our pooja room (prayer room) which I could not read then, though I realised that some of the letters were like the Devanagari script but not readable. Out of my curiosity I inquired about that script and I learned that it’s an ancient script that was used by the priests in the Kashmir to write and perform the priestly tasks. It was interesting to know that Shāradā used during the medieval time to write Kashmiri. The conversation with my father that day had sown a seed of inquisition for Shāradā in my mind which had remained dormant until lately. I clearly remember it was on the day of navreh (Kashmiri new year), I had received a greeting message through an acquaintance in Shāradā. The last line in the greeting read “can u read your mother script ” with a question mark at the end of the sentence. I mark that day as a day of my first Shāradā learning class because ever since then I have been struggling and finding ways to know more & learn Shāradā.
It is rightly said; that when u desperately want something, the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it. And now I believe in it strongly than I ever have. Not very long ago, in the beginning of the year 2018 I received an invitation to learn Shāradā through a group of enthusiasts and Shāradā scholars who have come together to teach Shāradā. I, without giving any second thought joined it and within a few months’ time I could now read and write Shāradā. This was like a feeling of honour and pride to be a part of the core Shāradā team.
I feel sincere gratitude towards the core team for giving me this opportunity to learn something that I had been striving for a long time. This core group conducts online courses through various Kashmiri WhatsApp groups/local community centres to reach out to people who are willing to learn the script and have a passion for bringing back something that got lost in the way. We have been encouraging people to print marriage and yagnopavit invitations in Shāradā and even while performing the ritual which is called “krul” in Kashmiri is being written in Shāradā, this has helped in gaining a lot of popularity amongst the people.
We as a team have collaborated with various publications in Jammu and Bangalore that publish the work done by the team members. But as said nothing comes easy, there are certain limitations that we come across. It sometimes becomes a challenge for a few team members, trying to reach out to people during the rituals like yagnpavit/kahnethar/marriage functions, have faced resistance from the members due to the lack of knowledge about the script and hence implementing it in their everyday lives does not go well with many. But I believe that is where our real work and challenge begins. It makes us believe in our vision even more profoundly and inspires us to expand our horizons to teach more and more people about this beautiful script. I feel it’s not just any ancient script that we are reviving, it’s the identity and foundation of our core. Our mother tongue has already lost the momentum and there cannot be a better way to revive our language and its script.
I totally agree with the thoughts of one of the prominent members of the core team and my mentor Rakesh Koul. As he puts it, “Today the community stands at its tough time being away from the roots and there are many challenges in maintaining our culture and language. Being the member of community each one of us have a responsibility towards it. A script is a first identity of any community like Shāradā being a unique identity of every Kashmiri Pandit. With a very small effort and with a dedication towards our Maa Shāradā, we can revive the script. Our community members are great intellectuals and have mastered many foreign languages also. We have scholars in Farsi, German and many foreign languages.” Mr Koul, being an expert in the subject shares some pointers on how we can learn Shāradā and make it popular in our community.
The script is based on Devanagari and hence is not difficult to learn:
• Practice only one alphabet every day.
• Make it as a ritual that when a child is sent to school, he writes first SHĀRADĀ only. Shāradā being the mother of knowledge will bless your child. There are many communities in India who have similar ritual.
• Whatever you have learnt share it into all social networks to motivate others • Send greetings like Wohorwod Mubarak etc only in Shāradā.
• Celebrate one day as Shāradā day and motive is to only have debates, discussions related to Shāradā on that day.
• Publish articles, facts about this lipi in any publications known to you.
• Communicate with each other in Shāradā when are learnt. Work towards introducing it in our community schools.
• Encourage fellow members with rewards and recognitions for Shāradā.
• Have written and decorated Shāradā alphabets in every drawing rooms so that you can proudly say to outside guest that THIS IS MY SCRIPT.
• Publish Short stories in every community magazine which is published in various places globally”