The regular rule only deviates in Kashmir, like so many other things. From civil service guys (there is no corporate or private counterpart – only Sarkari Naukri matters) to your neighborhood sweeper, everyone hunkers down on haunches (Sits on his/her lion) upon the floor. That is standard. It is romance wrapped in novel nostalgia. It’s also the first feel you get that I’m home.
I reckon the ‘Sitting thing’ came from nowhere in particular. Since world over -- I beg your pardon, I know that is an exaggeration but that’s what the locals believe -- Kashmir is the best mother Nature has to proffer, Kashmiris consider being closer to nature is a blessing. Squatting on floor makes you feel nearer to ground, hence closer to the elements. Water. Fire. Earth. The heaven is like a playground with nice homes, castles, trees laden with fruits but no chairs. How do you think the chair addicts can adjust? Someone suggested after a deep thought. Instantly I was tongue tied. You don’t reason innocence, daftness, romance.
Kashmiri homes have the most exquisite flooring you will come across anywhere in India. Beautiful carpets, woven with an old world expertise over many wintry days and endless cups of pink salty tea, adorn most houses. The flooring is complimented with similar pillows. These throw pillows have pillow slips usually matching the room sheeting. The floor plan in most homes is aesthetic. The area rugs often go well with the drapes, which are tradionally crewel. The crewel is another key import into Kashmir from central Asia – like Islam -- but in their characteristic bravado, the natives will make you believe that it is authentically Kashmiri. Crewel is at least a thousand years old. It was first used in the Bayeux Tapestry in Europe but don’t even attempt to explain it to the folks.
Sitting is folk magic. Legend has it that sitting is a magical act that connects the person who sits, with other persons, states or places where he sat. So every major event in Kashmir is celebrated while sitting. Births. Marriages. The groom sits on the floor, so does the bride. Children will mostly pore over their books at home while sitting. Vegetables are cut whilst sitting. Sweaters are knitted in the same fashion. Many elders never get up from the floor, as if fastened. You eat while sitting. Naturally you pee like that. Everyone and his neighbor sit cross-legged. Tailor-style. Since all matters are discussed – threadbare – sitting, most policy decisions are taken from the soil. While sitting.
I was browsing through an online Kashmiri daily today. A visiting European Union delegation calling on the separatist leader Malik Yasin was hunkered down on the floor along with him in a picture.
True to its reputation, I smirked.
A Kashmiri offers Namaz by the Dal lake, in Ramadhan