Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all. ~ Stanley Horowitz
Kashmir looks stunning in fall. I pity that Delhi knows nothing of Autumn. I noticed everything looked russet from the tiny window of my plane as we neared the solider-infested Srinagar airport. The fields appeared like large chocolates with little dried apricots thrown in from crease to crease. Only later did I learn that the apricots were actually rice crop artistically thatched away in small chalet like formations. It was so Kashmir. So beautiful.
Two days to Eid [That is what Diwali means in Delhi and Christmas in London]. Everything was sepia toned with faith clearly up on everyone’s right sleeve. Since my chums traveled with me, I had to stop over at a Srinagar mosque for mandatory Friday prayers. The mosque was stunning. It had wooden panels, intricate patterns on its roof and a very repetitive Imam [preacher], whom was extolling upon believers to believe more and warning the fickle-minded with hellfire. I was more interested in the masjid patterning than his hybrid Kashmiri-Urdu sermon. Wonder why people feel this compelling need to be bi-lingual in a place where people perfectly understand Kashmiri.
Everyone wanted the Eid on Saturday. The mood was overwhelmingly festive. Alas the crescent didn’t show up. That is a pre-condition to every major Islamic festival. So it was postponed to Sunday. Most were dandered up. My kid sis was a shade dejected, I thought. Earlier that day the repetitive Imam had actually congratulated people for the Saturday Eid. I was impishly contemplating his distemper at this divine delay.
On the D-day I walked to the Eid-mass with my gang. Must have been about 7000 people for the open air Namaz. Clad in crisp Pathani dresses, good-looking people with sharp features, lined up in endless rows. It had a certain religious discipline to it that is often not prevalent in Kashmir. Post-Namaz [which takes all of five minutes], people greet each other with their broadest smiles. They don’t hug canonically three times like their co-religionists in other parts of India. Kashmiris don't even don skull-caps frequently, which are so common elsewhere in India. I forgot to add that most of them actually consider themselves quite distinct from Indian Muslims.
A small group of boys [7-8 of them] shouted slogans atop a moving mini-bus on the way home. Not many people agree on the distinction betwixt church and polity. Azadi [Freedom]. A lone cop looked away. The ubiquitous war-cry. Inspiring but inane. Empty of any purpose. The minibus guys were carefully bending over at places where the electricity cables hung low. Lest their irrational exuberance electrocutes them instantly and cuts short the march to freedom.
The mornings and evenings remained dreary and cold throughout my stay. The chill confuses you. It is warm in the afternoons though. I lunched with folks. It was not only delectable but satiating. Peaceful.
More posts to follow. Watch this space.