Sunday, March 21, 2010

Our street-fighting years

This has been a wrestling week of sorts. After years of fake bonhomie the swords were finally out. Yasin Malik’s little entourage was attacked in Sopore, purportedly by Syed Ali Geelani’s men, perhaps stoned with the one jungle/one lion theory. In a spirit of quick animus, JKLF workers promptly attacked Tehrek-Hurriyet office in Srinagar. Before things could go out of hand, in stepped the druid-like Geelani with a green olive branch. Yasin, always wise as a monk -- albeit in black – raised white flag. With the absence of an alibi for this sudden end-winter spite, an old fish story emerged: handiwork of Indian spooks.

How can the separatists hog all the limelight, all the time? Madame Mufti made her usual random wild accusations against Omar and his fellow clubbers. Since Omar is almost always politically correct and manages to make the opposition look plain silly, Madame has – by now -- perfected the art of instigating the young Chief Minister. And lo and behold: Omar was enraged as a Spanish matador in the state assembly. He spoke blazingly in clipped Urdu and bits of English, while Madame continued to give him that ‘wait-till-I-have-a-real-issue’ look. The mainstream in Kashmir has an uber-aversion of each other.

Angels of death never fail to descent in our neck of woods. Clad in dark, merciless cloaks. In Sopore and Srinagar. Both places there was a volley of tea-colored bullets followed by ugly body bags. Both places poor people got caught up in a mad frenzy. I’m sure justice is a concubine. The poor are like nutmeg. They are always crushed. One such boy, as he was being wheeled to the hospital, had this soupcon red in his eyes, like wanting to hold onto dear life. Moments later he shut them for ever. I cannot stop thinking about the little mole beneath his handsome brow.

In a matter of few minutes those boys became the latest statistics in Kashmir's murky tale. Both were poor: a vendor and a store assistant. The poor always die. Rich get away. Rich boys ski. They drink coffee in plush cafés. They wear au-de-perfume. They blog. They debate on intellectual constructs. They eat caviar. And Harisa. In Kashmir people are filthy rich [at least the ones I know are]. The concentration of wealth, like elsewhere, is so inequitable. And the less privileged, almost always, get killed. That is a given.

The separatist camp burns a lot of gas in trying to out-do each other to reach the families of those who get killed. The dead are often hailed as martyrs in presence of their un-dead folks, in a certain reassuring way so that their loss looks acceptable. It is strangely tragic that no one wants to die and yet when you get blown up, you become an instant martyr like Saint Sebastian. Redemption is attained in death at least, if not in life in the valley.

I often think of Kashmir as this distant Arcadia – inhabited by shepherds and antlered hanguls. Intrigued that I am with its pastoral simplicity, I dream of her virgin wilderness.

As if on a cue, I cut the blood part.