In search of a leader…

In Kashmir everything is in a confused and shocked state. I live here, but I really can’t connect and look up to anyone here as a leader of Kashmiris. So what I did is run a quick google search on “Kashmiri leaders”, and as expected I see the following names:

1 – Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chairman of the Hurriyat’s moderate faction
2 – Syed Ali Shah Geelani heading Hurriyat’s hardline faction
(Hurriyat is the main Kashmiri separatist alliance, encompassing about two dozen political factions, some of them hardliners who want to merge with Pakistan.- source: BBC website)
3 – Muhammad Yaseen Malik of the JKLF
4 – Shabir Ahmad Shah of the DFP Democratic Freedom Party
5 – Omar Abdullah of National conference
6 – Gulam Nabi Azad, the current CM from Congress
7 – Muftis (father & daughter duo) of the PDP
8 – Sallahudin (leader of Hizbul Mujahideen)

I ask around and I heard some names including Tarigami, Ali Sagar, Sakina Yatto, Bhim Singh, Muzaffar Beg, but then lets just leave them alone for a while, because not even one of them stands out as a leader to me.

Leader – a person who can actually be a person people look upto, with charisma that makes people want to believe in him. Does any one of these have anything that would make them stand out as a leader?

Why dont we have leaders in kashmir… where is this leaderless crowd going? Who is heading this herd?

11 days of blogless life!

When I blogged last… it seems ages since then.. and it has been 11 days of blog-less life..

and now that life has finally moved back on track, so have I.

OK.. so where was I.. on the 12th of March I woke up to see snow in a state of confused … huh? … and what was to follow not just put me in a state of not being able to connect to the rest of the world.. but a series of events that amazed me at its unexpectedness…

What started off as a slight shower of snow that we thought would melt by day end, turned into an amazing demonstration of how God can make winter weirdly snow-less and bring spring, and just when the first blossoms are up in a bright show, clothe everything in a white sheet.

The past 11 days have been exciting, amazing, beautiful, upsetting, distressing, frustrating and patience-building.

OK I tend to get side-tracked.. I was intending to narrate the melodramatic 11 blog-less days…

ok then back to 12th March.. that day it snowed like it wasn’t going to stop.. roads got blocked.. the cars started with much coaxing..

it was rather amusing to watch the stark contrast in the confusion that the snow created and the serenity with which it watched the rest of the world..


ok. the way back home was filled with perils.. with so many “unwanted” stops that we had to make (that gave me time to take some pics, much to the annoyance of some tense people around me).. the roads were blocked.. a fallen tree… a vehicle that just stopped moving… or the military “gaed” vehicle that got stuck and the “koum kay muhafiz” who just waited for the locals to come and rescue them..

this certainly was an eye-opener for me… i mean leaving other things aside.. i didn’t expect them to expect help from the locals to get their vehicles moving.. but seems that the kashmiris are the ones who had to come to rescue…strange but true.. many thing in kashmiri life are like that!

anyways.. due to the very heavy snowfall the roads got blocked, so much so that instead of going home, i had to make way to some other more accessible location, my aunts place.

The hammam is the most welcome thought when one has been stuck in freezing cold… and it certainly was a welcome thought to me.

[Another reflection: I noticed how important mobile phones are! Had there been no mobiles, the families of everyone who was stranded in the snow would have freaked out even more than they did that day…]

anyways. the snow kept on falling on to us. and it reminds me of a statement that I had captured in my camera without much thought.. “Haaza min fadli rabbi…” This is amongst the blessings from my Lord…

so the next morning when i woke up.. it was breathtaking beautiful.. SubhanAllah!

everything was covered with snow.. the snow 1 and half feet deep, and nobody on the roads..

even now as i think of it.. it fills my heart with pleasure… for the snow…

[the snow besides the beauty meant a lot of problems for a lot of people…
– no electricity
– no water
– roads blocked
– no internet (boooohoooohooohoooo)
– phone lines cut off
– mobile phones dead (coz u cudnt charge the phone coz there was no electricity..)
– no food (well.. banihal gaye band ti souri gov band)

and then when the snow started melting.. that was another tragedy… water everywhere.. one cant speak much of the [lack of] drainage system in Kashmir.. but every place was filled with water that one had to wade through to be able to go anywhere….

and to add to the sad state of affairs.. it started raining.. and it rained and rained… and bang… we are flooded! yup Kashmir got flooded… with rivers overflowing.. bridges covered with water.. roads with water .. difficult life for those who were alive and even death for some..

and these were 11 difficult days..

and “inna maal usri yusra..” Indeed with every difficulty is ease…
and the sun is shinning today..

a welcome sight for the people of the vale…

Sheen hasa pyov! – untimely snow…

Yesterday morning was bright and sunny… someone commented its so sunny.. and yes.. i agreed…
and then as if from nowhere, the clouds descended and a few raindrops… enough to set the environment for a sleepy Sunday… and then it rained and rained and rained….

This morning when I looked outside the I saw the white glow… it had snowed!

I just stared…. not now???
Just as much as snow at its proper time would have caused smiles, I just looked and wondered… wasn’t it just a few days back when I expressed joy at the coming of spring… It was just a few days back when I was running around taking pictures of the beautiful yembarzals as they spread fragrance in the air.. I had seen a few butterflies flutter around.. and i sang to myself.. Spring is in the air

and that too after a winter which I had spent waiting for snow

and now Snow?

I said, this is the height… we have sun shining upon us in the middle of Chilay Kalaan and now snow after the initial bloom of spring?

and someone replied… “Nat kyazi wanhous Khoda?”

Truly, Allah doesnt work on our whims and fancies…
Is it just another expression of the beauty and freedom that nature enjoys?

or is it a warning… a threat…

Here are some of the photographs I took this morning… its snow in spring..
winter having a tug-of-power with spring…

Nov Sheen Mubarak!

The chilling cold seeped through the many layers of clothes I was wearing. I rubbed my hands to keep them from freezing… My nose had turned reindeer red, and I snuggled it inside my muffler. It was cold!

We all had hoped the snow would fall… the previous year had been a difficult one with no snow in the city—resulting in water problems throughout the year. We hoped that this white blanket would cover us soon – promising plenty of water for the year and a break in the harsh spell of cold.

I kept walking, stamping my feet as I walked, to keep them warm. All round the city was deserted – muddy and cold. I walked past an old man smiling cheerfully – his face red with cold and his pheran[1] hiding the kanger[2]… I wish I had brought mine with me.

* * * * * * * * * * *

“These people should have home delivery of “chot[3]”!” I mumbled … as I walked on to the Kandur[4] shop. The aroma and the warmth of the shop reminded me that I was hungry and freezing.

It was warm inside the shop… I saw the kandur shaping the dough into “chot”, putting it in the tandoor[5] and taking it out – almost simultaneously. I marveled at his ability and envied his feet right next to the tandoor.

“Manzoora…. Pack 10 for me..”

Manzoora smiled back, and kept busy with his work, passing on bags of “chot” to those who had come before me. As my order was ready, I walked out with the hot “chot” in my bag. I looked up at the sky almost involuntarily – when will it snow?

* * * * * * * * * * *

I walked past the “band[6]” watching the marvel of nature around me. The trees were naked, the soil which used to be lush and green was brown and barren, there were no birds singing and chirping….even they seemed to be upset and gloomy today … everything looked brown and dead…

And I thought.. soon after the spell of winter has broken.. it will be all green and beautiful… thoughts of future made me smile..

Just then .. I was almost about to slip and it brought me back from my musings of future to the stark naked ugly reality.

Thinking of what I would do today after going home.. I walked on… when I saw a crowd of people…

Somebody’s corpse was just thrown by the army vehicle …. People were looking around trying to ascertain who he was… some sighing, some with tears in their eyes….

He had been shot.. shot many times… “and then in the news they will say, he died in an encounter”, I thought, disgusted and sickened.

The dead body lay there… abandoned and pitiful. There was blood all over the pheran.. his face seemed smashed.. I couldn’t keep my eyes on it… It was too gruesome… a shiver ran through my spine…

It was a normal occurrence.. something that I shouldn’t react too emotionally at…. I couldn’t afford to get worried by this.. there were many things that I had to do today… and I have seen the whole drama repeat so many times… I shook my head in disgust, wondering who would be next…

And just when I took the last glance at the scene… making my mind to move on… move on with my life… the first flakes of snow fell…. I was hypnotized… I couldn’t move… I watched…. Watched how the snow was covering all of us… our pain and our misery in a white shroud.

* * * * * * * * * * *

[1] Long overall worn in winter

[2] Kanger: a pot full of coal used in winter to keep warm

[3] Kashmiri bread

[4] Baker (specifically makes traditional bread)

[5] oven

[6] river bank

The Love Story

Tuitions are a part and parcel of every student’s life in Srinagar and so were they a part of mine. Life was full of the same old things – tuitions, firings, crackdowns, exams, movies and more tuitions. It was during this monotonous schedule of going to tuitions that I first saw her… Continue reading

Hum Kya Chahtay — Azadi!

The slogan that has fuelled the Kashmiri struggle for ‘freedom’ – continues to elude us even after years of bloodshed, agony and pain. We – ‘hum’ refers to all who happen to live in Kashmir and cry out for… ‘Azadi’ – Freedom.

As ironical as it sounds each person who lives in Kashmir or identifies himself to this concept of Azadi continues to live on thinking that we want Azadi not knowing what exactly this means to them as a nation, as a people.

This need for freedom goes from individual level to the level of a nation – and at each level taking different meanings – remaining elusive, abstract, and unattainable.

As a nation, politically speaking – Kashmir wants freedom from Indian occupation. The reason is an amalgam of many reasons that not necessarily all the Kashmiris would agree upon. The reason ranges from the facts that are burried in the historical documents and events, to nationalistic reasons of seperation on basis of language, skin colour and a distinct culture, moving to immense hatred for India and its policies, to reasons which seem to be having a semblance to ‘need of a separate state based on ideology and religion.’ In reality nobody is quite sure of the reason(s).

The only thing we are sure of as a nation is that we have clung fast to this slogan from its very inception and have used it as a binding force, as a fuel to the so called freedom struggle. Today it loses much of its meaning, it loses the fervour it used to cause, it loses all the passion and emotion that it used to generate. The slogan is lost, just as the hope to achieve freedom is lost somewhere.

There have been politically master planned attempts to have people Kashmiris get rid of this slogan and take another… for e.g. I remember Mehbooba Mufti’s attempt to change to slogan to “Hum kya chahtay – shanti” (shanti for peace), and more recently I saw photographs of a “jaloos” with a placard with “Hum kya chahtay – insaaf” (insaaf for justice). Ironically, none of these is going to stay as an identity to the Kashmiri struggle. … and paradoxically, there cant be any semblance of peace and justice without freedom.

And freedom not just at the political front, but freedom of the nation — politically, economically, socially, religiously – and the freedom at the national level trickling down to the individual level.

Freedom from poverty, freedom from fear of going out of home after 6.00 p.m., freedom from the lies, freedom of expression, freedom from helplessness, freedom from that lump that rises in the throat and sends down tears…freedom to live life…

Truly we need freedom…
… for we are trapped
Trapped in our own desires…
…. unfulfilled, unaccounted for
Taunted by the fences…
… our freedom waits with
Tears in its eyes…
… for the hope
That is lost…


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Poz cha apuz?

Thursday, February 08, 2007 at 12:53 PM IST

I dont know how many of you have actually had people ask you… “Poz cha apuz?” (true or false) when you didnt even know what they were asking about, expecting an answer from you…

This is the koshur way of guessing.. like flipping a coin.. or plucking the petals of a flower out..and depending on the answer the other person makes some conclusions.. that put the heart at ease…

And such a blatant question to ask in a society where “apuz” is unfortunately the norm…brings so many question marks in my mind..

And again when I say “apuz” is the norm in our society.. it is not necssarily the big fat lies that poeple speak — it is the small and seemingly useless lies that form part of the way we converse.. It is strange how easily we are willing to lie about things that dont matter at all…

I mean… lying is never justifiable — but it certainly makes no sense when people lie without any gain.. for the sake of that hollow “self-esteem” at times, and a lot of times.. for no reason other than the fact that it is the accepted norm..

“Bate Khyothe?….. ” [Hav u eaten?]
“aa..mye chu khyomet”…. [Yes]
[never ending zaarpaar follows.. including series of “balai lagai..ratchip lagai…myeni dreee..humsind dree….myoni marun… bla bla bla…”]
“acha… chani mujib khemai….” [fine.. i’ll eat …]

And if you actually do not conform to this setup of zaarpaaring you are inhospitable…

if we can lie about something as mundane and so much a part of kashir life — batte — we can lie abt anything…

and then..
when I say apuz is the norm of our society, i put forth a question to you:

Poz cha apuz?

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When the lights go off…

It is a phenomenon most uncommon in a large part of the world and yet something that is not just common, but the norm in Kashmir.. You happen to be among the fortunate group of people who get electricity supplied right to your home.. and you tend to think you among those elite class (oh no. i am making this up, what could be elite about having electricity at home? )… anyways..
but the electricity would go off.. no warnings..(what is the point of having warnings… it just takes away all the adventure from the event(s))..
what happens when the electricity goes off?

.. well .. lets think its night..
you would be sitting in the hammam.. and “poof”,.. light goes off..
the first reponse..

and someone (if you happen to be the lucky ones).. starts searching for your mobile phone .. (now.. did the manufacturers of mobile technology ever fathom this important need of a mobile phone? )
anyways,.. with the mobile phone on.. in the tiny light that comes from that.. you start your journey amongst the perils.. (the perils could include a hot kanger, syun toor or anything depending on what your activities were at the moment…)

And then you rush towards the inverter to switch it on. To speak of inverters I thnk they are one of teh most amazing inventions for Kashmiri life style… When I came back to live in Kashmir after a gap of 10 years I realised what a novel innovation this is… how different life without electricity then and now is…

back then.. years back… the first thing you’d try to get your hands on when the electricity went was the matchstick.. most houses would have their stock of matchsticks, candlesticks, gas-lamps, laal-tayn or any other such light source….

I remember that white net like thing we used to buy to use with the gas lamps…it used to be a very fascinating process adn something that would require utmost skill to put that net stuff (called “mantal” for some weird reason) and burn it so that there is no hole in it and it glows bright.. some complex mechanism.. 🙂

and then came those batteries tht most houses ended up having.. with new wire connections in few most used rooms… many people brought new Black-White telivsion sets to be used with the battery… I remember we also brought one..

and we used to watch that “Krudd Singh’s” Chandrakaanta…

oh! the days without electricity…
sometimes i think of the good old days with electricity cuts and no inverters…. i get nostalgic….
those were the times when teh whole family would generally be forced to sit together without the idiotic box on…. and that used to be really some family time… all snuggled under the “kambal” and my mother narrating some story of the Prophet or his companions… or my Dad telling his ultimate one story.. “Phattu the Weaver…” or we all singing together.. “Lab pay aati hay dua…, or there was this song… “Aay maalik teray banday hum…” or my mother teaching us those… “Agar do Khuda hotay sansaar may”… and “Salaam uspar ki jis nay zakhm kha kar bhi duaayayn di..”

and then to think of it.. life used to be good when the lights went off…..

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