Monday, September 24, 2007

The Art of Sitting

Every single time I cross over to Kashmir, the first thing I always espy is the natives' Art of Sitting. I don’t know if it is a purely cultural thing but it is unique. No other place have I bumped into people hunkering down on floor to rest. Or eat. Or watch TV. Or fight. Or laze. Or prattle. I’ve figured out that there are many things exclusive only to Kashmir. Outside of the dell, it is usual for people to sit on chairs (in government offices and lower middle class homes), on ergonomic furniture (in corporate offices and media cabins), on benches (in schools, they can also make you stand up), on davenports (in British style cottages), on sofas (in well to do urban Indian homes), upon couches (in Indian film industry and fashion houses), on beanbags (every call centre executive at home), on charpoys (rural Indian homes) and so on and so forth.

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


Dr Syed Abrar A said...

Dear Sameer,

I have seen this website for the first time and am very impressed with your writing skills. I am a Kashmiri based in Mass, US and it was both refreshing and nostalgic reading someone from home, writing about home, in such nice prose.

May Allah Bless

Dr Syed Abrar Ahmed
MD, Mass, USA

Kirti, 28 said...


nice post

it was educating

Anonymous said...


John Valenti said...

amazing effort.
it is rare to have someone pick out a rather routine thing, which none else things of and put it in such humourous, witty style.

John Valenti

Leena said...

It is cool to learn about other cultures and trust me I like your blogs so much because they are so nicely written.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mr Samir!!!! I guess u have a problem.... There is no denying the fact that u write exceedingly well but the thing that doesn`t go well with me and i have noticed it from most of your posts is that you try to pin point minor things very vehemently..... Like in this one u have written that kashmiri people brag that crewel is originally kashmiri.... You are rite that it originated from central asia but just try to be a little more humble when writing about the people of your motherland.... I just feel that it will give others who are not from kashmir a feel that kashmiri`s r liars...I hope you got my point.... Take care and keep writing....

mehak said...

Whats the freedom of speech without the freedom to offend....
Kashmiri reader

Great going sam


Samir Bhat said...

Dear....???? Whoever you are,

I can understand the sentiment behind your queasiness. You've a problem because I appear harsh on my own people. Frankly, that is the first premise of good writing.

When you engage anyone -- worth his salt -- outside of the valley in an intellectual discourse, you cannot afford to gloss over these little things. True they depict our shortcomings but no one is completely perfect, flawless.

What's wrong/immoral/hypocritical has to be highlighted. Satire is intrinsic to art/culture/dialogue. In a round world, my dear, one cannot afford to take sides.

And people don't make opinions -- like Kashmiris lie -- because it is only candour and fearlessness that allows one to criticise himself and his hearth. That's no shame.

In hindsight, all criticism is welcome. It makes knowledge more exciting and participatory, something our scheming clergy has always deprived to others.