Sunday, November 14, 2010

Wintry tales

Only the curer whose love makes me drunk
Only that hand, if it wants can cure me!
Requirement is not a test of my tears
Eyes, not carriers of rain laden clouds!
~Shahi-Hamdan, Amir-Kabir

The Alvand mountains in the Hamdan province of Persia are lush green. One fine morning an old poet who lived nearby decided to set off for Kashmir. It was 14th century, historians agree. He rode a horse and came. And we were never ever the same. He made Sufis of us all. Despite what the likes of G Parthasarthy and Arnoub Goswami and his bald guests will have you believe, we still are a soft-touch lot, which gets quite dewy-eyed at the drop of a hat. We cried both when Sheikh Abdullah ceased breathing and Benazir was slaughtered in broad day light. Each year on Herath we seriously miss out on the wet wall-nuts that Kashmiri Pandits used to stock. We are nuts, I agree, but our heart is in the right place.

So we decided to lock horns with the ‘biggest democracy on earth’ and its military apparatus for five whole months. And boy, what engagement it was? We let the dust gather on shop fronts and government offices but we didn’t budge. Even a wee bit. With no major movement on roads we plastered king-size graffiti on highways. Armed with nothing but a moral rage our kids picked up stones from the roadside and took aim at the democracy. Ofcourse a democracy has hidden fangs and it lunged at us – again and again. A lot of young people who went out to tease the democracy are no more. They sleep forever in the apple fragrance of countryside Kashmir and beneath the bustle of Srinagar.

And as autumn gives way to the bitter chill of winter there shall be mehfils [gatherings] again and people will celebrate Eid and other associated occasions of merry-making and quite unbeknownst to all – snow shall fall. A million flakes will descend on cold nights upon forgotten graves and tall pines of Gulmarg. Skiers will slide over soft, cottony, clean snow. One of the two Abdullah’s might take a quick chopper sortie to the mountains. TV OB vans shall follow to get images for the jingoistic middle-class, which but for the lack of an expression are likely to bawl: Swarg hai Kaashmir [Kashmir is paradise]. Indeed. A jinxed one at that.

The roughhouse seems to be abating because there is a certain critical point till which eye-lids can not be batted. Eventually eyes get strained and blinker. The democracy is running worried and not without a reason because every intelligence index suggests that people might put up a fight – if only next summer. So there are efforts being made to reach out. A three member panel is wandering about with a tent which they pitch in towns and taverns. Only the already converted see them. Ideally we should have held them in a dreamless embrace but we are walking on eggs here.

Bohemian love songs reverberate in Srinagar this time of the year. At Syed Ali Hamdani’s Urs [anniversary] last night people thronged to seek blessings and peace, I am told. The bloke was neither born here, nor is he buried in Kashmir. Born in Hamdan, he died in Khatlan [modern day border of Uzbekistan and Afghanistan]. A poet, Hamdani visited briefly to help us fathom love and tolerance. We soaked up both his philosophy and message.

And now we stand accused of being intolerant. Pity.

© Sameer