Friday, October 23, 2009

Autumn Notes

It is the onset of autumn in Kashmir. Of all the seasons, I reminisce about fall, the most. In evenings, the Kangris [earthen pots, swathed in fine wickerwork] are out by now. We have historically been a lazy people. Kangri stands up for that tag. It warms the cockles of your heart. And keeps you glued to the carpet. Clutched inside a Pheran [another bliss cloak -- a loose, long, warm tunic], Kangri is to Kashmir what radiators and electric storage heaters are to Britain in winters. It can also be used as a projectile in case the powers-that-be show any disrespect. A million Sur-Kangris [Kangris, filled with hot, dark-teal ash] have been hurled at the army in the Kashmir edition of Jihad. Who dares call us unimaginative?

Around this time of the year in Kashmir the Oriental plane -- Chinar -- looks its best. Naked, it sheds its rusty foliage. The crisp orange leaves cover the landscape like one continuous Oriental rug. Amidst these settings envoys from New Delhi visited last week. India’s interior minister [Home minister] – the stern sounding PC, hair dyed and gaze flinty, too descended. Omar, the boarding-school educated CM played the perfect host. Many feasts and forethoughts later, the natives were informed that peace shall soon dawn upon them. After 62 long years. It is going to be unique. Sui generis. And it is going to come about quietly. Like the morning dew.

Though Farooq Abdullah [variously called gobar gas minister, an appellation that makes him mad a March hare] made some dissenting voices, by and large, the envoys from Delhi were pleased with Omar. He’s Kashmir’s prince charming. Affable, highborn, slightly condescending, tech-savvy, torch bearer. Kashmir’s Nehru. [One can’t help draw comparisons with several British commissions that used to come down to Delhi from London – pre independence India -- to declare: the native’s aren’t ready yet]. Madam Ambaki Soni enlightened us that everyone participated in the 2008 Kashmir assembly elections. Thank you, maa’m. Diplomas in French and Spanish apart [from Alliance Francaise, New Delhi and University of Havana respectively] and being friends with the High Command [read 10, Janpath; equivalent to Her Highness in imperial UK] – her understanding of the Kashmiri sentiment is quite noteworthy.

Alas there is a spoilsport too. This is an old gentleman with a grey beard who kills the joy of the ruling clique and their boot-lickers every single time. Without fail. He is a right-winger, who refuses to play ball. And he sneaks out of every possible cordon that is thrown around his home. [God knows how!] Once a favorite of Pakistan, he is now equally loathed by both India and its bête noire. With everyone – from the Mirwaiz to the rococo-like Lone – coming around, this conservative has stood his ground. Though hugely irrational at times [there are jokes about how he prefers a chicken meal in jail], Syed Ali Geelani has more credibility than all other troupers in the Kashmir theatre. He’s Kashmir’s Jinnah.

So autumn is here again. Mobile phones are going to be banned again. Omar will hold more Durbars [courts], reeking more of a medieval potentate every passing day [Can we do without the imperial, moth-eaten colonial nomenclature? How about Awami Milan [Interaction/Meeting]? Doctors and Transporters may join hands to not work. Both, effective healthcare and public transport is non-existent in Kashmir. Yet people have to be paid every second fortnight, reason why socialism never really works. On top of it Geelani has a new computation ready: The army has occupied upwards of 8 lakh Kanals [500 million sq yards] of prime Kashmir land. Vacate it now. We want to grow honeysuckle in it.

It is fall. The year's last, loveliest smile.