Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Kashmir witnessed the season’s first sprinkling of snow. Clean as Geelani’s Khan-dress. Since I don’t get to be in the valley for most parts, I feel quite nostalgic about getting into a Pheran in Harud [Fall]. There is something quite timeless about being home around this time. I might be missing an exact expression for it but it is a very mixed feeling. Harplike. It hits you bang in the brow, mostly on autumn dawns.

And you want to steal apples. Suddenly.

Harud itself means loads of work. Farmers get real busy this time of the year. The grangers of our destinies [read our leadership] too get over-worked around the same time. So here is a quick stack up of what is making news in Kashmir at the onset of this autumn~ the year's last, loveliest smile.

Geelani: At 82, this man is to Kashmir what Omar Mukhtar was to Libya at 69. Ofcourse the latter was executed by Italian fascists in 1931 making him a Muslim resistance icon. India might never want to make an icon of Geelani but the old fellow – singularly -- gives the second largest growing economy in the world, and their kissing cousins in Kashmir, sleepless nights. Minus his calendars, he totally rocks. Unselfish and uncompromising. Most Kashmiris do not read his pro-Pakistan booklets but unanimously adore his oh-so-grand-fatherly demeanor.

TV: Kashmiris do not read. Urdu newspapers are skimmed through by the 40+ crowd and the retired gentry. In absence of any major source of entertainment and sans a book culture, people turn to the idiot box. Every single TV journalist, belonging to, reporting in or speaking on Kashmir – articulation is no criteria -- is a huge hit. Journalists are alternately dubbed as pro-India, anti-Kashmir, pro-Omar, anti-Tehreek and so on. On TV everyone loves Sajad Lone’s speechcraft. And all Kashmiris unanimously hate Arnoub Goswami. Personally I reckon he totally sucks – oily hair and all. Greasy loser. Who uses oil these days?

Deal: Deal means a different thing in Kashmir. It is not like closing a deal. You ‘get’ a deal in our neck of the woods. And deals are as rare as nuns in bikinis. Curfew and Hartal -- both competing weapons in the ‘longest conflict in south-Asia’ come with a set of deal periods. It can stretch from a few hours to a few days at one point in time. You learn to respect the deal by stocking things up, meeting friends, visiting a sick relative in the hospital, buying vegetables before any one of the two pronouncements is made: Thou shall not move. Halt, the oxygen taps are shut. Consequently everyone awaits their slice of deal.

FaceBook: When you are confined indoors for longish spells and the world looks like a big Kokur [chicken] coop, the best thing to do is to open a FaceBook account and lord over the world. Kashmiri youth is doing exactly that. Everyone and his uncle is clued in to all things Kashmir and beyond, thanks to the power of FaceBook. From the confines of baithakis (drawing rooms) they engage in political debates (sometimes constructive), post pictures (sometimes disturbing), make pro and anti pages and put links up (sometimes eye-opening) while the curfew continues. A lot of gossip mongering and mediocre stuff too happens but that is just the dross. FaceBook is one good indoor addiction amidst the outdoor fury.

Interlocutors: No one thinks they can make a difference. The set of three have their task cut out: Engage with Kashmiris. And not just the separatists or the already converted (read the NC and PDP chaps). One dialogist I know asked for a suggestion a night before she flew into the valley. I recommended a warm coat. Kashmir is a very complicated puzzle and though I earnestly wish that ordinary people help them solve it, I fear it is still sometime before that might happen. Given the Kashmiri argumentative nature I thought we could have completely overwhelmed the interlocutors with our list of arrogates and aspirations. Shut mouths rarely get heard.

The Valley upshot:

What's cool: Early snowfall in the hills, Danyi-thaepri [rice crop artistically thatched away in small chalet like formations], Eid anticipation, Kashmir Pandit Sangarsh Committee, Chinar leaves, Arundhati Roy.

What's not: Traffic jams, Masarat Alam, Three-week long curfews in countryside, Text ban, Roots in Kashmir.

© Sameer