Sunday, April 17, 2011

April showers

Let the rain sing you a lullaby
~Langston Hughes

Rain in April is an incredibly adorable thought. I often wish to be on some lone hillside, watching the rain fall on our little valley in little driblets of silver and grey. Ofcourse it would mean hawkers quickly putting inverted brown burlaps on their heads and newspaper vendors throwing tarpaulin sheets on sheaves of Urdu papers with pictures of men, with two day stubble, lined up for electing their Sarpanchs [village headmen]. Thankfully there is nothing elective about April showers.

Dreary clouds appear over the skies of Srinagar in rain. Loud thunder-caps cause mushrooms to sprout in many hidden places in the countryside. At night the poor sleep to the pitter-patter of rain songs. Those who can afford electricity sit in front of their television screens, watching cricket or related entertainment. Yesterday the local police chief told them wheat from the chaff on TV. With such efficient cops, you can keep your windows open on rainy nights, without a fear in the world.

As rains continue to fall, another planeload of thinking-heads arrives to confabulate for the millionth time to solve the vexed problem -- that Kashmir is. The ducks in Dal never care for such meaningless powwow and glide dreamily in the lake. Essentially we live in an age of maximalist stances and hardened opinion is like religion. People seldom agree with each other but they shall talk, however incoherently. And it will rain some more and the ducks will glide in the mist.

The Taj group has a new hotel up in Srinagar. They call it Vivanta. Since everything looks picture postcard, boulevard onwards, spring birds will have a new oasis, complete with boughs and branches to perch upon. I like the lovelorn sounds birds make on rain swept days. There is something glumly beautiful about those drizzling evenings. It makes you want to be animatedly existent, despite the oddities of life. Vivanta means alive, by the bye.

© Sameer

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Grammar of anarchy

Once, sometimes twice, each year we keep losing a notable. The rank and file get killed every week. This is the onrush of spring in Kashmir and the jinx continues. Whatever the season, the anarchy almost always stays.

Friday afternoon someone slayed Maulana Showkat Shah, a prominent ecclesiastic. A decade back there would be a handful of Ahli-Hadees blokes in Kashmir. Maulana’s mild manner and tireless work, it is said, swelled their ranks. He was pro-freedom (the whole of valley is), gentle and benign. Why would anyone kill him?

The answer is as much of a riddle as the question itself. You never know who kills whom in this part of the world. Never. There are only blames and counter-blames. The French have a word for it -- jeu du blame – which roughly amounts to the blame-game. The pattern is patented in Kashmir.

Cops will blame the Laskhar in a split-second. Separatists will throw it back, hollering: agents, agents -- which is like an abstract for Indian intelligence chaps in the valley. Both sides may occasionally say: vested interests, which basically means anyone and no one: Indian sleuths, militants, renegades, hired-assassins. No one comprehends the confusing voices. They are unsettling.

In the contretemps of competing narratives that we often find ourselves caught up in, the larger picture often gets blurred. It is such a tragedy that we must lose our distinguished people, like ninepins in this anarchy. Just because the Maulana chose to believe in a set of values dear to him or said something he wanted to, someone bumped him off.

There isn’t a curse more forlorn than cutting the heads of the kind.

© Sameer