Literature defines and preserves one’s history. It represents the culture and tradition of a language or people. The concept is difficult to precisely define, though many have tried; it’s clear that the accepted definition of literature is constantly changing and evolving. But in any case, it tells great tales to generations to come.
Similarly, Balochi literature holds a lot of importance not just for Balochistan, but for our heritage. It holds many works of great poets, chroniclers and writers. Among many popular novels in Balochi literature, short stories by Baloch novelist Dr Naguman titled ‘Why Does The Moon Look So Beautiful’ has its own distinctive place. Dr Naguman is regarded as the most important fictional writer in Balochi Literature. He has published a collection of short stories, titled ‘Dar ay Aps’ (The Wooden Horse).
The book is translated by Fazal Baloch, a Balochi writer and translator. Fazal is considered a pioneer in Balochi literature due to his countless translations of Balochi works into English. Both Fazal Baloch and Dr Naguman keep a strong place in their own area of expertise and are remarkable figures for the development of Balochi literature.
Why Does The Moon Look So Beautiful contains thirteen short stories. Each story carries the essence of Balochistan. In contrast with these fictional stories, similar real stories are taking place in every corner of Balochistan which Dr Naguman has presented beautifully in this book.
Some of the powerful and thought-provoking stories include ‘The Baby’, ‘The Gold Necklace’, ‘Why Does The Moon Look So Beautiful’, ‘The Wind’, ‘The Travellers In The Midday Sun’, ‘The Destination’, and ‘The Wooden Horse’.
The Baby is an emotional story that talks about a mother, her life after giving birth to a child, and the complexities of motherhood which are oftentimes ignored. The Baby, in true terms, depicts the womanhood and the scenario of Balochistan. It is the story of a woman Mahikan, who is seemingly happy with her baby but her husband thinks that they have lost their love after their baby. He thinks that because Mahikan is engaged with the baby all day. One day, the child gets sick. Late at night, they take him to the village doctor but the next day they lose their baby. The baby could have survived if they had proper healthcare available.
Apart from touching on the emotions of motherhood and how a woman loses herself with the death of her child, Dr Naguman also captures the issues happening in the backdrop as the mother yearns for her lost child.
Dr Naguman artfully uses his stories to capture the issues Balochistan has been facing for far too long. In The Wind, he reveals the suffering of the Noshki nukes aftermath. The story takes place in Deenabad, where the people are awakened and helplessness takes over due to the extremely hot weather. Their skin is burnt and they are suffering in devastating conditions. After the nukes, the situation in Deenabad remains unchanged. And people pray that one day the wind shall blow from the heavens as the Earth is no longer a refuge for them.
The writer goes on to question the harsh realities of the Baloch society in his short The Destination. Love sees no religion and no boundaries. But, in the Baloch society, there are some social boundaries that one must never cross… and elopement is one of them. And one is most definitely not supposed to marry in another religious community. For that, people suffer the consequences like death. Despite this, the story follows two lovers, who are together by love but separated by religion. On a moonlit night, Mahmjan (from the Zikri Community) and Noorjan (from a Nimazi sect) choose love over all the societal norms. The story follows the love birds and finds out where life takes them… a happily ever after or an impending doom.
Similarly, in The Travellers In The Midday Sun, he talks about how the Baloch are deprived of many of their basic rights. The story is of a boy who loses his father and now has to take up the responsibility of his family. He sets out in search of a job and finds one in the village as a teacher. On a very sunny day, he travels to the village. When he is tired, he decides to rest under a tree where he meets a shepherd. The boy realises how the region deprived. They have no schools and no teachers. He thinks that he has gotten the worst fate by teaching the village students, whereas the shepherd is glad of his fate as a teacher, who will educate the village child.
Apart from depicting the issues of the Baloch people, the author also highlights the plight of the Baloch woman. In The Gold Necklace, confronts the existence of the women in Baloch society and what it feels like to be a woman when such norms exist. The women are bound and are deprived of their opinions and choices especially when it comes to choosing their life partners. Many are coerced into forced marriages in the name of the family’s honour. The story encourages the women to take a stand and choose their freedom.
African writer Chinua Achebe sums up my thoughts for why this collection is a must read, especially for Baloch readers, “Storytelling is a creative component of human experience and to share our experiences with the world, we, as Africans, need to recognise the importance of our own stories.” This collection contains our stories, written by our writers. It talks about our issues and our day-to-day lives. They will urge you to ask difficult questions relating to the reality of our society. Reading these stories remind us that our stories are important and they matter. And they should matter. These short stories leave an ever-lasting impact, which Dr Naguman has beautifully crafted for us and the coming generations.
The author belongs to Pasni, Balochistan, and is a student of English Literature at University of Karachi.