Alumni Oil

My story of survival during the floods brought tears to many. Alhamdulillah many could understand what a lot of people went through during these floods. My experience was something that I cannot forget — and should not forget.

However traumatic it might have been, I have to be thankful for a home to be able to go to. There are many who are homeless and with no income today.

No I am not doing a news reporters job here.

Anyone who has been following the Kashmir floods information in news will have access to this information. What I want to write today about is a gesture of kindness that has filled my heart with gratitude.

So here is the story.

My blog post has been viewed by a lot of people – from all places of the world – many Kashmirs and many many non-kashmiris. After reading my story, one of my classmates from university got back to me and asked if he/she could help. It was instant – and the response was quick. I received money from him/her – and this is what we did with it.

I worked with one of the largest relief camps around. They receive food supplies, medical supplies etc from generous people and distribute it to other relief camps and families hard hit by the flood. I asked them what was not being sent or was in demand – and the answer was quick — cooking oil.

So with the money sent we arranged for 600 litres of cooking oil. Alhamdulillah – many families will be able to cook their meals this Eid thanks to this friend of mine.

Eid Mubarak to this friend of mine! And Eid Mubarak to all the families who  survived the flood. Alhamdulillah for being alive and been given a chance to rebuild.




Surviving through Kashmir Floods

This is my story


My two kids – Abdullah 6 years old adn AbdulRahman 23 days old on the day of flood.


The rainbow the day before the flood

6th September was my cousins mehendi _ day before the wedding day. We  didnt go the whole day as it was cold and rainy and it would be difficult to manage with a new born. My elder son who is 6 was bored and we spent the day playing word building. At around 5, the rain stopped and a beautiful rainbow appeared in the sky. My son was super excited and went outdoors with my mother, took pictures and kept saying what a wonderful day it was.

We went to the mehendi function at around 7.30 which was held in the nearby community hall. It was cold and dark. There was no electricity and all people were too busy arranging blankets and lighting. We were using gas lamps and the discussion was that of the havoc flood had created. Somehow after a long cold wait, the menfolk managed to arrange a backup electricity and dinner was served right after. Dinner over, and we started to make arrangements for going home. It was around half past 10 when we left for home, to see people in groups on the road. We asked what the matter was and were told that the governement had issued an alert to evacuate the area due to flood. They said the flood water was coming from Islamabad and would reach JawaharNagar/Rajbagh area in around 7 hours. The people said, “Where will we go, we will just move to the 2nd storey of the house”.

Once we reached home, we woke up the family who had rented the ground  storey of my father’s house warning them of the flood and telling them that they could move their stuff to the 3rd storey and the doors have been left open for them in case of flood.

I told my parents to rest at ease since I wake up many times to take care of my newborn and that I would warn them in case I see anything. I kept waking up and checking outside for any sign of flood – for any sign of people evacuating.  I heard nothing. The ground was dry. All was quiet.

At 1:30a.m. my husband’s brother called me saying that he would come to pick us up since there is a flood alert in the area. Having seen the upto the brim flood channel two days back, I thought it would be too big a risk to travel at night over the Rambagh bridge. I kept thinking that the bridge could break – and well things seemed ok round our area – so why take the risk?  After a series of calls, I told him that we will be fine on the 2nd floor even in case of flood. I expected flood of 2 to 3 feet. He warned me and said that as per reports  the water might rise up to 6 to 7 feet. Just before dropping the phone, he asked if we had a 3rd storey in our house to which I answered in the affirmative.

Phone lines became congested after that and calls were made with difficulty. My husband (who was out of station) called at 3:00 am and asked if all was ok.

Again, all was well. I had heard an announcement in the masjid right before. I couldn’t hear anything said before, but when I reached the window where the sound was clear, I only heard “Bambaren che ne zuroorat” – there is no need to panic. I told my husband about this and we assumed all is well.

At 6:00 a.m. my aunt  (living in JawarharNagar area) called my father and said that water had begun to rise and it had already reached the drain in front of their house.  I told my father that I’d go to sleep now that they are up. However  at 7:30 a.m. I checked again the the ground was dry outside – I sent a message to my brother in law that all is well at this end. I must have dosed off after that.

At 9:30 a.m. my father woke me up, “come I will show you something” – I saw out of the window and it was not at all what I had expected. We expected the water to come from the front – it came from the back, we expected the water to rise slowly – it was a forceful gush of water. And the water came with all its force and started rising. I woke my son, Abdullah up and we all started looking at what the flood was doing. We saw walls around our and our neighbours houses fall as if made of sand. The water spared none. I reminded him of the story of Prophet Yunus and how only Allah could save him from inside of a stomach of the fish – inside the dark ocean. The only one who could save us from this water is Allah.

The family (husband, wife and father in law) living downstairs had already moved a lot of their stuff to our 3rd storey. I told them to move their rice and other food items up too. Meanwhile, water entered our house. It rose steadily and we kept counting the number of stairs it was covering.  When it was rising higher, I thought it might come inside our 2nd storey and wet our flooring. So my concern was to get everything that can be removed from the floor to a safer place.  We picked stuff and started piling it up on the beds.  I asked my mom to bring her purse with money etc up with her  – just in case.

I took my newborn – Abdul Rahman’s bags up to the third floor and his small mattress. As I saw the water rising to the topmost step of the ground floor, I took Abdul Rahman and Abdullah up.

I have never felt my brain stop working but it was now. I froze.

I held my Abdul Rahaman in my arms and gave instructions to Abdullah to not leave my sight whatever might happen. My mother brought a glass of milk for Abdullah. She said she’d get other things. I stopped her.

And we sat up there in the 3rd storey waiting. My mother kept counting the number of steps of the stairs as they were being covered by water.

We were inside a house that was inside a fast flowing river. Water rose higher and higher. My father saw our beds rise up to the ceiling – floating in water. We were incapacitated. We didn’t know what to do.

I was crying, my mother was crying, Surabhi was crying. All of us were praying.

There was nothing else we could do.

We heard and saw helicopters move in the sky. Some people took out flags with red cloth and started waving it to get attention. The helicopters obviously were not interested in saving any of us.

I heard some man’s voice reciting Quran. It was someone from our neighbors reciting Quran on top of the house where he was taking refuge. We were helplessly waiting – waiting for death?

We heard a house collapse. The sound is still so clear in my mind. And we knew our house could collapse all the same. It was an old house with wooden ceilings.

My father was tense. He sat and talked with the menfolk from the other family. There was tension everywhere.

Phones weren’t working. My phone battery was already low as there had been no electricity the day before. I communicated with my husband through sms messages which went after being resent a few times.

He was worried. When water reached 2nd floor and kept rising he asked if we needed to be rescued. I said yes, but wasn’t sure of how the rescue could be sent.


Our house was under water – ground floor and first floor under water.


I received a sms from my father in laws phone saying Faisal (my husband’s friend) was coming in a rescue boat to get us and to be on a lookout.

At around 2:30 we saw the boat finally. It was a small raft being manned by 2 people – one of them Faisal. When I looked at the boat, it didnt look safe to me.

But it was not time to complain. People were calling out to him to take them to a safe place. Obviously he couldn’t help everyone.

Our neightbours asked to be shifted to a safer and higher house and while the two men in the boat transferred them, I fed my newborn and packed a small bag with his clothes, blanket and diapers. I wrapped him in a towel and we waited on the varendah of the 3rd floor to  be rescued.

I asked my father if he’d like to be dropped to my aunts house – which I believed to be sturdier before Faisal would take us to a safe place. He said he wasn’t sure if they were still at home and didn’t want to waste time. We should leave immediately.

I thought if we leave and reach a safe place, we can arrange for their rescue too. So it was me and my two kids. Abdullah refused to be carried to the raft. It was scary, I don’t blame him. I had to go first. I climbed over the gril/iron fence around the varendah and had to jump into the raft. Then Abdul Rahman was handed down. And finally Abdullah. Faisal said there was place for one more person and Surabhi was sent down.

We were being rescued.

And we set out in the very small raft. I was worried for my parents – feeling helpless as we set out. We moved from over the houses – after all – it was one big river. The two men maneuvered the raft carefully – ensuring it doesn’t touch anything sharp – avoiding the roofs, avoiding the electricity poles. We used the electricity lines to help move in the water and we reached the rajbagh road (near Minto Circle).  A shikara carrying people was coming towards us. And suddenly – I saw Faisal try to cover a hole in the raft with his hand. Our raft had popped.

What happened in the next few seconds is still so unclear to me. It all happened too fast. When our boat popped, the first thought was to save the kids. Abdullah was transferred to the shikara which coincidentally was right next to our collapsing raft. I gave Abdul Rahman to a unwilling and scared man in that shikara. Abdullah started screaming and crying – “Meri mamma mar jayaygi” – “My mother is going to die.” Our raft was collapsing – from the bottom as well. We grabbed electricity high tension wires – and managed to get on top of a two storey building that had a flat roof – just the concrete slab.

We were alive.

We transferred the kids back to us on the building and the shikara moved on. I hugged Abdullah who was still in a shock. In fact we all were in shock. We sat on this building – which was the Rajbagh Postoffice building – shocked and unsure of how we were still alive. We laughed amidst our tension. It was laughter hiding the tension and fear that we all felt.

The towel in which I was carrying Abdul Rahman was damp. Luckily the blanket I had carried in the bag was still dry, so I wrapped him in that black and white striped blanket, and held him over the damp towel so it doesn’t get wet with my wet clothes. We sat thinking of what to do next.

We waited for some boat to rescue us from the post office. Boats came and went. They had to get people from places, or were already full. Some said we can take 1 person. Faisal asked me to go first with the kids and reach a safe place. I knew I wouldn’t be able to get help for them if I go as I wouldn’t be able to do much with two kids to take care of. It would make more sense if one of the men goes and comes back with a boat to rescue us and my parents and Surabhi’s husband and father in law.

The other guy with Faisal was sent. We told him to get a big boat so we all could be rescued. After he left, Faisal sat and said, “Do you know, I don’t know that guy!” – I was shocked – I was sure it was either his friend or cousin who had come along for our rescue. Faisal explained that when he had got into the raft his cousin had come along but didn’t know how to maneuver the raft. Then he had asked if anyone knew how to use the raft and this man had come forward. This man had been with Faisal the whole day rescuing people before they reached us.

Had we put our last chance of being rescued in hands of a man we didn’t know? He had just had a narrow escape from death. He might not be willing to put his life in danger for us – again. But maybe he would come back for us – we still had hope.

We watched all the boats coming but he didn’t come. Faisal thought he should try something and tried to make a raft of bamboo sticks that he got from an adjoining building. Well that raft that he made failed and we knew we were stuck here.

Finally it was getting dark and now we were getting worried for we would be stuck in open in the cold in the middle of nowhere.

A boat came by and Faisal pleaded with them to take just the kids and me. My 22 days old Abdur Rahman and my 6 year old Abdullah and myself were moved to the already full shikara. I managed to find a place to sit. A very kind lady held AbdulRahman with her and also handled Abdullah. She asked Abdullah to hug her tight and keep his eyes closed during our journey. It was already very dark – and the boatman had to move the shikara among rooftops, electricity poles and wire, broken trees – and there was no light – no flashlights to show him the way. He was skillful and we were lucky enough to reach Abdullah Bridge. Where we had come from didn’t make any sense – no land routes made any sense at all. There was water everywhere – in fact our boat moved over the dividers near Abdullah bridge and dropped us right onto the bridge.

On the bridge.

On the bridge there was chaos. It was dark, and people were just silhouttes without faces. Once we were out, I walked – barefooted as I and Abdullah was – on the bridge looking for the car that was supposed to wait for us there and pick us earlier that day. I remembered Faisal saying it was a white Safari with the number something like JK02. I walked like a mad woman – AbdulRahman in my arms, a bag across my shoulder, and Abdullah right next to me. I walked looking for it, but couldn’t find it. I thought it would be unlikely that anyone who expected us to come in the morning will still be here at night waiting for us. Also, the other side of the bridge which had been dry was also filled with water.

We were were stuck on a bridge which had water under it and on its two ends.

I asked around to see if we could move to nearby and safe DalGate area (where my husband’s uncle lived). One man said – “This tipper is going to dalgate. Get into this and you will be dropped.” I asked him where it would drop us exactly – for I knew it will be difficult for me to find the house in the dark. He said you will be dropped and will have to walk a bit in water to reach the housing areas. I thought it dangerous to have to walk in water in the dark with two kids so I stayed back.

I went back to where the boat had dropped us. I was going to see if anyone would take us along to their house – anyone’s house. I was helpless and scared for my children.

A kind lady told me that once transport is arranged she’ll take me home with her. But I knew their vehicle was completely packed. She was still waiting for someone and asked me to take refuge from the cold in an auto that was standing there. I sat in that auto with my two kids. It saved them from the cold. Abdullah was tired. I told him to put his head onto my lap and he fell asleep right away. I cried to see my kids in this situation.

One man came by and asked if we had eaten anything that day. I didn’t say anything – I couldn’t say anything. He gave me a pack of bread with a few slices of bread in it. I woke up Abdullah and fed him a slice or two. He ate them hungrily. I checked Abdul Rahman – I kept checking for his breath – so see if he was still breathing.

Someone said that the tipper that had gone to Dalgate to drop people had toppled in water. Had we been saved on more time?

I heard someone say that people should move from this side of the bridge to another as water might rise on this side. I walked to the other side of the bridge and sat down. I huddled Abdul Rahman in my lap. Abdullah sat close by. He was cold. I covered him partly with my shawl while some of it was on top of AbdulRahman, while some on my head. I sat feeling miserable. I felt scared and worried for my parents – at least we were alive. I wasn’t sure if my parents were still alive – our house could have collapsed. I was worried for Faisal and Surabhi who were still stranded on the post office. I could see flashing lights from Rajbagh, and hear people screaming for help. I felt miserable.

While in this misery, I spotted a relative on the bridge. Their family too was stranded on the bridge. I sat close to them. Suddenly, Usman my cousin who was getting married comes infront of me “Baji, what are you doing here?” He told me his story. Their house had collapsed but they all have moved in time to another uncle’s house. I told him my story. He looked at my bare feet and asked me to wear his slipper. I wore them for a while and them asked Abdullah to wear it. It was way too big for him, but atleast covered his cold feet. I asked him if I could send an sms through his phone. I tried, but it didn’t go through. His cousin Babar came by I asked him I could send an sms through his phone. Again he said you can try and I sent an sms to Jahangeer telling him that we are alive and on the bridge. The message went through and after some time Jahangeer called on his phone and I talked to him. I told him briefly what had happened and where we were. He said the he had already talked and that rescue boats will be sent only in the morning. At least he knew we were alive.

That night was the longest night of my life. Sitting on top of river Jehlum, I waited for morning. Abdullah was cold, hungry and sleepy. I wasn’t sure if my new born will survive. I was shivering with cold myself.

Usman said that it is dangerous to go in a boat now as people just cram in and there is danger of it getting toppled. We will move early morning to a safer place.

At dawn, the birds woke up and and announced morning. I thought to myself. I would have loved to be here in normal circumstances and would have marvelled at the beauty around me – but right now – even this was part of a nightmare.

We all gathered to get into the boat. It was set to go near SangarMall wherefrom I would’ve gone to Usman’s relatives house with them. Usman said he would go back to JawaharNagar and try to see if he can rescue people from there. I implored on him about my parents and that I was worried on account of them living in an old house and that it could collapse anytime. I returned him his slippers, telling him that I will reach a safe place soon.

Usman left and we have to leave in the boat. However, this boat that we were to leave in had a hole in it. So we didn’t leave. We sat and waited.

Around 8:00 or 9:00 – I had no track of time – we heard that rescue boats will be coming to take people from the bridge. People were lined up so the rescue in boats could be organized.

I was too tired and just wanted to rest for a while. I saw a jeep and thought if I could sit at the back for a while. A man moved the men sitting there and made place for us. We sat and I rested my back for some time. More women got in to rest. Everyone had a sad story to tell. The woman who sat near me had a baby 1 month old who she had sent earlier on with her sister and didn’t know where it was. While I sat there, Abdullah said “Faisal Chachu” – and I asked where – he pointed to him. I called him and was happy to see him. He was surprised to see me and asked why I was still there and had not gone the night before. I told him what happened. Faisal and Surabhi had been rescued from the PostOffice the same day as us and he had sent her on a rescue boat to a rescue point at night itself. Faisal too had been at the bridge – only that he had not seen us and we had not seen him.

Anyhow, we got into the queue and waited for our turn to get rescued. Women were asking for water for kids who were famished and thirsty. Abdullah too was thirsty and begged for water. One woman had procured some water in a bottle for her daugther. I asked her for some water for him. Two cap-fuls of water was what my son got to quench his thirst.

Abdullah refused to get onto the motor powered raft. He said he would never get into a raft ever again. We waited for a shikara and got into it. The men who were rowing the shikara were tired and thirsty. They asked if they could get a little drinking water. There was water everywhere but not a drop to drink. The brave men said they’d get water soon, and asked us to get into the boat. This boat too had a hole in it and a man got into drain that water from the boat as it moved in the flood water to DalGate. Abdullah was too scared and was crying. I asked him to hug me while we moved on and we kept reciting the Kalima together. The roads that are full of traffic had turned to a river. Tourist Reception Center was under water. Jammu and Kashmir Bank’s corporate head quarters was under water. We reached near Jan Bakers (Dal Gate), but the boat couldn’t take us to land – the rush of water was too high and it would make it difficult for the boat to go back to get more people. So they had tied a rope and people waded through water to the other side. Women were carried by men to the other side. I told the men that I could wade through the water on my own but needed help with my children. One man carried Abdul Rahman, another carried Abdullah on his shoulders. I tried to walk through the water with my bag. It was very difficult to wade through the water due the speed at which it flowed. A man came to help me out, carried my bag walked with me till I reached the other end. Once I reached the other side, I freaked out for I couldn’t see my kids. But it was just a moment after that I caught glimpse of Abdullah and AbdulRahman. These men took my kids up the stairs and I walked behind with the bag. I was much slower compared to the men – tired and worn out. I tried to catch up but couldn’t. The men would wait for me to catch up in the middle and then walk on till we reached the cafeteria on the hilltop.

I always wanted to climb up these stairs and see what was at the top. However, this was not what I had in my mind.

We reached up there where this young man asked me if I had a blanket with me – I asked in negative and he got a blanket from somewhere and spread it on the floor and asked me to sit on it with my kids. I sat down, grateful, tired and feeling safe. Abdullah saw some kids with food and asked if he could get some. I told him to wait till I figure out where to get it. Some girls sitting in the corner asked about me – felt sorry for me and asked if I had had anything to eat. They passed me a bananas and I took one for Abdullah. Hungry as he was, he ate quickly. I told him to put his head on my lap and lie down. I folded the edge of the blanket on his legs which were wet. He fell asleep right away.

I was in a refuge camp. There were groups of people everywhere. More people walked in – sometimes meeting someone they knew. Everyone would start crying and asking whereabouts of others they might have some news of. There were people crying. Rescue teams would bring up little kids and hold them high for everyone to see – “Anyone knows this kid?” until the kid was owned up. They gave clothes to people, food and a sense of security.

I sat there trying to figure how to reach Jahangeer’s uncles home. I asked around. There are much confusion but I heard that even Dal Gate was under water in some places. Faisal also came looking for us here and asked us to come with us so he could escort us to Jahangeer’s uncles house.

We started walking. Faisal got Abdullah onto his shoulders and then looked at my bare feet. There stood in front of us a beggar woman. Faisal asked her if she was willing to sell her slippers for Rs 50/- to which she agreed. I wore the beggar woman’s slippers and walked on. We asked for directions – which was met with directions + invitations to have lunch first. Thankfully, we moved on till I reached home. When I walked in, I was met with hugs and tears. Everyone had been worried that we might not have survived.

Faisal said he had fulfilled his responsibility and couldn’t stay. He had to leave.

I was glad to be at a place I could call home. And this was at present home to 4 other displaced families.

The first thing I wanted to do after changing and washing up was to call Jahangeer and tell him that we are safe and find out if my parents had been saved. Telephone lines weren’t working. There was no news of my parents.

Three days later my husbands uncles walked from Baghat to DalGate. They brought good news. My parents were alive and at present in my in-laws house. Alhamdulillah. I was relieved. Now I knew that they knew I am alive and I knew they are well. I was thankful and calm. However, we were told that it would be impossible for us to go to Baghat as the route was way too dangerous.

We stayed in DalGate for many days. I have no count of the days. These days were long tense days. The food stock in Dalgate was already low – the shops had no ways to get new stock, people had swarmed to DalGate from rest of the city. There was no electricity, very little water. There was no collection of garbage and the inside roads stank of garbage. We would hear announcements “Name of person from this place – if anyone knows whereabouts of this person please report to the masjid”. There were people looking for their nears and dears. There were announcements of Janazah/ Funeral prayers. There were reports of death, and rumours of death. The atmosphere was that of tension and misery.

Everyone had lost something.

Parting words:

I wrote this story of mine to pen down what has been going on in my mind ever since. I keep getting flashbacks of my hungry child sleeping on the footpath on the bridge. I keep dreaming of flood even today, and I keep thinking of all those unsung heroes who put their lives in danger to save others. I know Faisal for he is my husband’s friend, and there were so many others whose names I know not. These were locals – brave hearts who I pray will be rewarded by Allah manifold – for no reward is good enough for them.

Lessons Learned:

For the first time I realized what hunger and thirst could do – the state of those who beg for these. I felt pain watching my child go hungry – something I will never forget.
I also realized through experience that Allah will save you in whatever condition you might be – if it isn’t the time written for your death.
I saw that the basic needs for all people – rich and poor is same. No one was looking for comforts on the bridge that night — everyone wanted the basic necessities that make us all equal.

Kashmir Quiz Teaser


5 questions – teaser quiz. There are more to come. 🙂

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Kashmir Quiz Teaser

Here is a quick start quiz for your facts on Kashmir. Very basic – must know for all Kashmiris.

Palestine – Facebook Profile Covers

If you haven’t read this article yet, you should: Ten things you need to know about Gaza and if you haven’t updated your facebook profile cover yet, you should! Its a very small gesture to show your support and solidarity with the innocent people of Gaza who have had their homes taken away from them and their nation reduced to a prison like state.

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The Autumn Leaves Still Fall

It’s early morning in Srinagar. The chinar leaves are fluttering in Lal Bazar. The sweepers are busy clearing the leaves from the roads. While walking through the tiny lanes that lead to ‘Rasool Kandur’ (Rasool the Baker), Charagh Baigh a 14 year old boy, hears a woman cursing the Autumn season, “Yem harud’an tul toas mya, dohayi tchum sadakh pyavan saaf karin, yim kul gasan tchatith thavin” (This Autumn has annoyed me, everyday I have to clean this street, these trees should be felled down).

Charagh Baigh, enters the Kandar’waan (the baker’s shop). There are too many people inside the shop, he is furious. “Bael aas bi, osus bi shangith. Yim pophi yin gow bael izza’h” (Why did I come? I was sleeping. The coming of aunts is such a pain) He put his one feet inside the shop, and other outside. Sitting on the edge, he hears Afzal Gani the former guerilla having an animated conversation with Gul Wasta who is a dedicated follower of National Conference.

Afzal: Gul wasta, talsa jaayi traav. (Gul wasta, can I take the bread before you?)

Gul: Kyazi traava’i jaayi, yi tcha myan wya’r (Why should I? It’s my turn)

Afzal: Asi ha tchi, ghari sirf trya be’atch, tuih tchiv khudayas sawaal dyon gharan 10 be’atch (We are only three in the family, by the grace of Allah you are 10 in two families)

Gul: Bi kyah karayi tath? (What shall I do?)

Rasool Kandur smiles, he knows the entertainment has started. His wife giggles while as the rest of the people inside the shop have all their ears towards the conversation. Charagh Baigh has put his head inside the Pheran (a long traditional Kashmiri cloak) to avoid the smoke.

Afzal: Tche kos wya’r gasi. Tche kar MLA’s phone, su ani gyavdaar tchot. Tche hayi, NC’as panun nafar tchuk. (What turn you want? You call the MLA, he will give you bread with Ghee. You are NC’s own man)

Gul: Tala kar tchopi, tche hayi Dakistan gayokh. Waapas kyazi aakh. (Shut up, you went to Dakistan (abusive form of name for Pakistan) Why did you come back?

Afzal (seethes with anger) Koal’i gadaarov, jahnam taan tchuv tohi haraam. Koali Abul Sheikh’as tchuv winti Security. (You traitors, even the fire of hell is forbidden for you. Sheikh Abdullah still has security over his grave)

Gul (gets red in the face): Tameez saan kar kath. (Talk with manners)

Afzal: Dopmay’na Di mya wear ( I did tell you to give me your turn)

Gul: Ma khaal mya tempar (Don’t raise my temper)

Afzal (grins): Adi tchi kyah karakh? (Oh, what wil you do?)

Gul: Be barath jail’as bayi, pati nimath begaari. (I will send you to prison again, and I will make you a Begaar)

Begaar was a form of punishment given to Kashmiri Muslims during the Dogra Period, he was send out to Mountains or other parts carrying loads. When the person got sick on the way, he was thrown from a gorge)

Afzal: Auzu billahi min-ash-shaitan-ir-rajim (I seek God’s protection from Satan, the accursed)

Gul: (Concentrating on the Rasul Kandur’s son taking out Lavasi a form of bread from the tandoor ) Shaytaan tchukh paani. (You are the Satan)

Everybody is waiting for the fight to happen, Charagh baigh is counting the number of people inside. Calculating when his turn will reach.

Afzal is seething with anger, his face has turned red. Gul Wasta turns his head towards him.

Gul: Doali Kyzi tchuk witchaan, be ha kadai atch. (Why are you staring at me? I will gouge your eyes out.)

Charagh Baigh seeing that it would atleast take an hour, jumps into the conversation

Charagh: Afzal Syab, yim’an kari Allah taalah nesto naabud (Afzal, Allah will destroy their ilk)

Gul Wasta: Nyari gobrah, tchu maaji hyund doadh. (Go away kid, drink your mother’s milk)

Charagh:Maaji pyath ma gas, be ha tchusai kal-kharaab. (Don’t talk about my mother, I am a hothead)

Gul Wasta: (Sarcastically) Awi, tche hayi tchukh, nyar gas Afzal’ni zanaan nish (Oh, you are somebody, go to Afzal’s wife)

Gul Wasta, had got the last of his bread. He was about to leave. When a slap landed on his face, he was dragged by his pheran out of the shop. Afzal couldn’t take anymore. He biffed him, while Gul Wasta’s hands were inside his Phiren. Gul Wasta took up the piece of firewood on the side of the street and banged it on Afzal’s head.

The girls that came from their tution classes got scared and ran faster. All the people inside the shop came out to stop the fight and some just looked on for entertainment, since the power cuts had deprived them from Television.

Charagh Baigh, the smartass he was took the bread inside. And left.

Blood was on both Afzal’s and Gul Wasta’s face.While some people were holding on to both of them, the fight broke off. As the people were leaving.

Gul Wasta: Teli tchus ni Maaji hyund nechuv, yeli ni bi Jail barath. (I am not my Mother’s son, if I didn’t put you in Jail)

Afzal Ganii: Be tchusni Jail’as khochaan. Gas kyah tchui karun. ( I am not scared of the prision, do what you want to do)

After some days of the fight, Afzal Gani was arrested in the night. He was dragged from his bed by the Police with the troops. Charagh Baigh, was beaten up on the streets. His clothes were torn apart. He was beaten black and blue. He was then detained, while his mother and father held on to the Major’s feet.

Charagh Baigh came two weeks later in an Ambulance. He couldn’t walk on straight. The Troops had tortured him. He was given electric shock in his private parts. They had put a chilli iron-rod inside his anal cavity. His groin area was put on flames and then the flames were put off. He was sodomised by the Major throughout the two weeks.

Afzal Gani was killed in an encounter, a fake encounter by the troops. His mutilated body came home. His only son became an orphan, his wife turned mad. His brains were buried at the encounter site, and he came home without his head. His funeral took place midst of Pro azadi slogans. A memorial stone with water taps was placed in the chowk, nearby the Rasool Kandur’s shop.

Few months later, Charagh Baigh was found hanging in his room. Leaving his family destroyed, he was their only son.

Few years later, Gul wasta became the MLA of the area.

Afzal’s memorial stone still provides water to the thirsty. The autumn leaves still fall…

In search of the perfect leader

Who is the leader you identify with? Well, let me put the question differently – who do you think is the leader of our nation (let’s be specific about Kashmir here, though the same questions are applicable anywhere under the sun). Was there ever a leader that you thought you’d just give your trust and blindly follow – is there one now?

I read a little, hear a little and sense a lot of emotions — for and against — the men and (few) women that stand tall as leaders – who we want to believe – will pull us through this turmoil – help us get out of this situation. For example, let’s pick the figures in Kashmir’s political arena (in no particular order) – Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mir Waiz Umar Farooq, Yasin MalikMaulana Mohammad Abbas Ansari, Asiya Andrabi .. etc.

We want our leader to be the source of inspiration, of impeccable character – one who could never go wrong. One who would show us the path to the vision he laid out for us (or the vision we saw).

Many of us have found ‘the one’/’the few’ whom they have grown to love and revere as their leaders. These people would do anything the leader would ask (well, almost anything). These people would fight each other, call names and even go to extent of beat each other up lest a word of accusations is put through.

Many of us are lost and still in search of the perfect leader.

But I’d like to ask – a question to myself and to you – does the leader have to be perfect? And obviously the clear answer is NO – he doesn’t have to be – and he can’t. The only problem is that with becoming a public figure whose words and actions can have massive effects – the responsibility that lies on the shoulders of these people is far far greater than we can imagine. There will be rumours which are completely baseless. There will be truth – stark naked – which is not palatable for anyone who supports the leader.

So what should be done? What does one do? Does one just be leaderless and pretend things will take their course – or does one follow blindly and do whatever is being said and muffle the sound of anything that goes against what we’d like to hear?

I don’t know.

But I know, that there can never ever be a perfect man after our dear Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). Even the companions'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) of the Prophet  ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) – who learnt directly from him, and who were loved dearly by the Propht and continue to be loved by us even today – they were not perfect.

So perfect leader cannot be sought – its impossible even to imagine a leader today who would stand tall and have nothing to be ashamed of.

So what do we do?

We follow the guidelines laid by the companions'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). We all must remember what UmarraḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) said one becoming the caliph:

If I follow the right path, follow me. If I deviate from the right path, correct me so that we are not led astray.

So this is what we are to do – follow the leaders when they are right and correct them when they are wrong. This can only happen if we have an open communication with our leaders  – we are not deaf, dumb and blind – so stop being that. Be informed, and have your say.

Also do understand that we might in our place or our set of opinions not quite agree with a specific policy/statement made by our leaders. Disagreements are normal – you cant expect to be agreements always. But agree to disagree elegantly.

Know that your leaders are answerable to you – and know that you are answerable to the future generations for offering them the world that you created while you did NOTHING, when you should have. And of course you and our so-called leaders have our answerability in the hereafter where no excuses will avail.

The perfect leader cannot be found – nor can a perfect follower be found. But it is in the pursuit of perfection – it is in our failed attempts that we fulfill the purpose of our lives.

Certificate of no sympathy


It is hereby to award the Jammu and Kashmir police of not being militant sympathisers. I do understand that the Inspector General of Police, Kashmir said, “We don’t need anyone’s certificate.” but in reality the police gets a certificate each time a ‘militant’ is caught and killed or caught and tried for the militant actions.

But isn’t it natural to think that the JKPolice should sympathise with the ‘militants’ – for militant in Kashmir is everyone who cries for freedom, – an old man who cries for his disappeared child and screams out loud is just as much a militant as a child who runs after the army/police vehicle with a stone in his hand. And these people who have ‘turned’ militants are people who the police men have seen and interacted with in their everyday lives – the kandur’s son (baker’s son), the kid who plays with my child, the old man who used to be dad’s friend and so on.

I cannot imagine what goes in their minds while these men want to serve ‘the government’ and do their jobs while they have to deal with their own brethren. It must be difficult. Very difficult.

What must be even more difficult is to see hatred in the eyes of your very own people – who scorn at you as the ‘pols’ewol’ – the one of their own kind who is after them.

It must be difficult – to catch 12 year olds and label them as militants. But yet, the police is doing their job – and they shall get their certificate.

Since 2008, the Government has detained dozens of children on charges of stone pelting and taking part in separatist protests. Recently the detention of 12-year old Faizan of Srinagar for taking part in anti-Government protests made headlines. A class 6 student, Faizan was charged by police with harsh accusations like ‘waging war against the State’ and ‘attempt to murder.’



Khandar – The Kashmiri Wedding – part 4

Kashmiri Wedding, Post-engagement period

What started off as a small note on the food preparation for Kashmiri Weddings has somehow got me into putting into words my experiences, perceptions, ideas on Kashmiri Wedding in a series of articles. Part 2 talked of the match-making process, while the last article – part 3 – talked of the ‘Nishayn’ or engagement, this article will go ahead on the post-engagement period of Kashmiri Wedding. [We also had another article in the series about the village wedding specifically about Kupwara]

Dating the Kashmiri way

Now once the engagement process is done, somehow the society thinks its ok for the bride to be and groom to be to go for dates officially. Yet again there has been a satirical wedding song about it “Khandaras broonthi chakras lagyo paeriye” (You can download it here from – referring to the dating process before marriage being a new custom that we Kashmiris have started.

Point to note is that some years back ‘dating’ was something considered a hush hush thing. Couples who did go out together (to watch movies, shikara rides, mughal gardens) would do so hoping nobody they know sees them. Being caught ‘red-handed’ was something to be really embarrassed about.

And going back a few decades, dating was unheard of. The bride and the groom did not meet until they were married.

Obviously things are not going in the right direction. While wanting to become ‘modern’ – our society is leaving behind the values that make us what we are… and yet we Kashmiris pride in being Kashmiris…
And the customs
The time duration of the ‘engagement period’ can be short – 6 months and can go on for years. As expected many of the engagements that continue for years do not end up in marriage. This is my personal observation and maybe this is something maybe the sociologists can study.

Anyhow, this is not the point I wish to discuss. We are talking of the customs that ‘have’ to be followed during the post-engagement period. We have things like “Roz-kushada” – which is something sent (think of money, gold, wazwan etc.) by the boy’s family to girl’s family during Ramadan to tell the girl to eat now, coz you wont get to eat later…. What? naaah. Just kidding. The Roza-Kushada is meant as a custom to sort of hope that the fasting is easy. I don’t know the actual purpose of it – but well it is there.

Then there is the Eid visits where the girl/boy get tons of eidi by the in-laws. For some it could be monetary, for others it could be in terms of gold (yes, there is a lot of gold changing hands in Kashmiri marriages)

And yes, when winter starts, the girl’s family generally sends Harrisa (made of mutton cooked into a very thick paste -*very yummy) to the boy’s family to welcome the winter.

Now, did I miss any other customs? I am sure there are many others that have been forgotten and many more that have been invented to complicate things. Reader’s please help out in comments section.

And the girl’s wardan
Throughout the engagement period, the girl’s family is set towards completing the wardan(things that the bride would take to her new home) for the girl. This wardan consists of shoes, bags, clothes, shawls, in many suitcases packed for the new house. These are usually sufficient for the girl to use for a few years at least.
And of course, then there is the purchase of gold jewellery and ‘coins’ by both sides (bride’s family and groom’s family) to be gifted during weddings. The gifts are to be given to various members of the boy’s family and to the girl by the groom’s family.

The whole extended family is rather involved in the process of selecting and approving the collections which will soon be put on display during the wedding.

We Kashmiris are people pleaser and yet please nobody – not even ourselves…


The Story of The Elephant

Yemen is a place in Arabia to the south of Makkah. A long time ago, it was ruled by people who worshipped other gods than Allâh. The ruler of those people, Dhu Nawâs, used to oppress the Christians who lived there. Once he had a big ditch or trench dug and put fire in it. Then he threw into it about 20,000 Christians. All those people died except one or two of them who ran away and came to the emperor of Syria for help.

The emperor of Syria wrote to the king of Abyssinia (Habashah), who was a Christian, and asked him to take revenge. So the Abyssinian leader (whose title was Najâshi) sent a huge army under the leadership of two commanders named Irbât and Abraha. Dhu Nawâs ran away from Yemen and later drowned, so Yemen came under the rule of the Abyssinians. After some time, an argument happened between the two commanders and a civil war broke out in which Irbât was killed and Abraha became the governor of Yemen.

At that time, all the Arabs used to make Hajj to the Ka’bah in Makkah. Even though they worshipped other gods than Allâh and did many wrong things, Allah kept His House a place which people always visited. Abraha saw them doing this and wanted to turn them away from it, so he built a huge cathedral in a city in Yemen called San’â. This church was so big that its roof could not be seen from the ground. It was decorated with gold, silver and pearls. Abraha announced that nobody should travel to the Ka’bah anymore. Rather, they should all come to this cathedral to perform worship.

Even though they were idolaters, the Arabs had great respect for the Ka’bah. So when Abraha made his announcement, they were very angry. Some of the Quraysh of Makkah went to the cathedral in secret and threw dirty stuff all over the floors and walls of it. Some also lit fire to it. When Abraha found out that these things were done by the Quraysh, he swore that he would take apart every brick of the Ka’bah and destroy it.

Abraha began gathering a big army. He asked permission from the Najâshi, who sent his personal elephant, Mahmûd, and eight other elephants with Abraha’s army. When the news of Abraha’s plan reached the Arabs, they prepared to oppose the attack. Abraha defeated the armies of several Arab tribes along the way to Makkah, and he took one of their leaders, Nufail bin Habeeb, as a prisoner and used him for a guide. As he approached Makkah, the people of Tâ’if decided that instead of trying to fight Abraha, they will help him out, so that he would not destroy their own temple. So they sent with him one of their leaders named Abû Righâl.

Abraha reached with his army up to Mughammas, a place close to Makkah. There were some camels feeding there, and the army overcame the herdsmen and captured these camels. Of these camels, 200 belonged to Abdul Muttalib, the grandfather of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)), who was at that time the leader of the Quraysh. Abraha then sent a messenger to tell the people of Makka that he only wanted to destroy the Ka’bah and did not come to kill any people if they left him alone.

Abdul Muttalib came back with the messenger to meet Abraha. Abdul Muttalib, being the grandfather of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)), who was the best of creation, was himself a very handsome and striking personality. So, when Abraha saw him, he came down from his throne to sit next to Abdul Muttalib, even though this was not what the kings commonly did. He asked Abdul Muttalib what he had to say. Abdul Muttalib said that he wanted his camels back.

Abraha was very surprised. He said, “When I first saw you, I thought you were a very respectable and honorable man, but the first thing you have said has made me change my mind. I have come to destroy your Ka’bah and all you are worried about is your camels?!”

Abdul Muttalib replied, “I am the owner of the camels and they are my concern; while Allâh is the owner of the Ka’bah and He will defend it.”

Abraha replied, “Your Lord cannot defend it from me.”

Abdul Muttalib said, “Then do as you wish.” So Abraha gave back the camels and Abdul Muttalib returned to Makkah.

In Makkah, Abdul Muttalib went first to the Ka’bah and made a prayer to Allâh to protect the Ka’bah. Then all the people in Makkah left the city and went to the mountains around Makkah to see what would happen.

In the morning Abraha prepared to enter the city. He put Mahmûd, the elephant, in the front of the army. However, Nufail bin Habeeb, the captured Arab, secretly whispered into the elephant’s ear, “Kneel down! – Return safely from where you have come, for you are in the Secure Land (Balad Amîn).” After this, the elephant sat down and would not go forward. Abraha’s men tried to poke it and push it but it would not move. If they turned it around to face Syria or Yemen then it would start walking, but as soon as they faced it towards the Ka’bah it would sit down again. This was the sign of Allâh’s Power.

Suddenly, while this was happening, came the punishment which is mentioned in Sûrah Fîl of the Qur’an (Sûrah 105). Hundreds of birds which had never been seen before flew towards Makkah from the ocean. Each bird had 3 little stones- one in the beak and one in each foot. They flew over Abraha’s army and dropped the pebbles. Each pebble went straight through the bodies of the men. The elephants started running like crazy and the people were running back and forth getting killed. Some people, like Abraha, did not die right away. Instead they became extremely sick and died later on.

The result of this happening was that the Quraysh became very famous and respected among the other Arabs. No one else would dare to attack them or their caravans which they would send on business trips to Syria and Yemen. These trips are mentioned in the following sûrah (Sûrah 106) of the Qur’an, where Allâh says they should be worshipping and thanking Allâh Who gave them so many blessings of food, wealth and safety.

This amazing event was not a coincidence. The year in which this happened was the same blessed year in which the Prophet (ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)) was born, in the month of Rabî’-ul-Awwal. This event was one of many things which happened around the time of the birth of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)), which proved to the world that a wonderful person had been born, the last of the prophets, who would bring the message of Islâm which will last now until the Day of Judgment. When we study the life story of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)) we find proof and evidence beyond doubt of his being the Messenger of Allah and the Last Prophet. May Allâh give us all the strength of imân to learn all about the life of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)) and use it as our example in our lives.

(This story is recorded in one of the most authentic books of commentary on the Qur’an called Tafsîr Ibn Kathîr.)