Wednesday, June 16, 2010


There is a certain informality about Kashmir that is both whisper-style and soul-baring. I’m home and everytime I come, it is raining like stair rods. It was tipping it down as I pulled into the vale, green as an impressionist piece of art by Frédéric Bazille. The mise en scène was broken only by troopers’ dourly standing guard. A very few people were on roads. The strike call given by the padre of resistance, this old fellow called Syed Ali Geelani, was being observed with all conviction. A kid had been shot in the head for no apparent reason. Kashmir may be the proverbial paradise but it is a very cursed one at that.

I absolutely love rains but folks say it has been raining here for more than a couple of weeks now and the farmers are a worried lot. When it rains in Kashmir it pours. The driblets tap-dance on all the rooftops in the neighborhood making it very agreeable, especially at night. You can hear the rain. It is near songful in Kashmir. I’m however willing to suspend my romance for rain – albeit temporarily -- to the country people’s concern for their crop. There is talk of special prayers being planned to make peace with God. And propitiating heavens is no mean feat. God has gotten irascible these days.

The absence of sound at night in Kashmir appears a little extraordinary to someone used to the clamor of citified life. It is peaceful here, I must concede. There is nary a bark. Only total, complete muteness like that of a graveyard at midnight. It takes you a few days to get acclimatized to the stillness. Eventually you get on with it and begin to appreciate the simple life. Why do you need street lights or night-life? Slowly you get used to the uncomplicated lifestyle. Only that it gets a little laidback and languid.

Regular narrative in Kashmir is replete with talk of separatists and their ingenious ways. The padre of resistance was recently heard profusely thanking people for making the last strike a success. Yasin is planning court arrest over the weekend. There could be some fisticuffs and more action. Such activity is grist for the rumor mills which go into overdrive. Local news agencies lose no time in sending texts of sad tidings to people, who in turn take a perverse pleasure to read the contents aloud to whomever is around. Everyone is a citizen journalist and the ubiquitous cell phone is a harbinger – of whatever is not right with us.

Some of what we love still remains. I listened to Wanwun. Wanwun comes close to madrigals. These are melodies of mirth sung in unison, usually in marriages. Beautiful women with still beautiful voices tell the stories of love and happiness in a very sing-song fashion. Chorus. They form a human chain with arms flung over one another and swing like an ancient rhythm. Their carols curl and pop in the rainy air. The pitch rises and falls and steadies with each note. The thrumming of Tumbak-naris (small, hand-held drums) turns the atmosphere euphoric. All hurt vaporizes.

God, I was missing on the homemade opera. I am glad to be home.

© Sameer