Monday, June 27, 2011

The Lull

This is the summer of gay abandon in Kashmir. Close to 100,000 holidaymakers set off for hill resorts yesterday. Each nook and cranny was filled with tourists, local papers said. Everyone clicked pictures on hummocks and horsebacks. With the urban pockets reeling under an abnormal heat spell, the closest get-away is Pahalgam for everyone south of Srinagar and Gulmarg for the northerners. The jury is still out on why the horses in Gulmarg resemble mules these days.

The peaceful summer – and there have been many such epochs before – is not because the recently elected Sarpanchs have lulled their respective villages into some sort of amity. It is not even because the police force has suddenly become efficient since Nasir Sogami – grandson to GN Wai, minister in Sheikh Abdullah’s cabinet – became the new taskperson. It is because peace is often the easiest way to wind up at the goal.

In the slow psychological warfare that Kashmiris are subject to, sloppy stories continue to appear in the Indian press about how we must be on some weed to suggest that we lost 100,000 people in the last two decades. How we are completely off the mark on the exact number of people missing in the conflict or how we blow up the figures about people languishing in jails. The compradors just miss out on a small detail: the sport of statistics is always subjacent to aspirations.

We have never been in the business of numbers. We don’t wish to wear the albatross of victimhood around our necks. At an emotional level not many people would even bother to contrast the government figures of the dead or missing to the intelligence agencies' tally (often fed to whippersnapper visiting journalists) or APDP’s number of mass graves. The sad part is this very perverse and cunning effort to make the sufferer curse himself for the throes he undergoes.

The old man could make extraneous noises from time to time. Ofcourse we won’t throw our expensive phones into river Jhelum, neither would we asunder our classrooms into male and female units but we would still admire him, for someone must have the gall to tell the emperor that he is without clothes and that no matter how many tourists mistake horses for mules and how many schemes you launch, you can’t shackle our imagination. or Nostalgia.

© Sameer

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Chiddu and Chilly grenades

PC or Chidambaram Palaniappan (yes that is the correct way to say it) is 65. None of his hairs is grey. They don’t age in Sivagangai where he comes from. The hair remains charcoal black till 90, by magic. The silk shawl that he throws on his shoulders is vintage Tamil politician style. Last night India’s home minister checked in at the Bobby guest house in Pahalgam. Kashmir is the place to be this summer.

The cub, with an iPad fitted to him, hosted an appams with chemmeen curry dinner for PC. No journalists could be found in the vicinity since the grand Mufti of Bijbehara, in a political masterstroke, had already fed them a sumptuous Wazwan. No one can really run around, let alone, write a news story, after partaking in Tabak-maaz. It hits you bang in the middle of the head, like Absolut Vodka. No Vodka was served at Mufti sahib’s feast.

So it turned out to be a private affair for PC and Omar. Like lovers they looked at each other on a mild Pahalgam evening, with the June moon smooching ebony mountain silhouettes in the distance. The police chief suppressed a half yawn when PC, known for his tough-talk, suddenly took something from of his brown bag. For a moment, Omar held his breath, jumping the gun in his thought balloon: Did he get me an Android?

Hopes were instantly dashed when a chilly grenade, Delhi’s latest gift to Kashmir, was unveiled to the CM. Soon the security grid will have trays of them and the next time the unloyal subjects, bored with Panchs and Sarpanchs, feel like to hurl a naar-Kangir or two at the occupation, cops can throw these lung burning, skin needling bombs back at them. You see, the best thing about a democracy is that it knows how to bring the people to their knees.

Early this morning PC took a chopper to Gurez, high up in the Himalyas, famed for its snow leopard. Journalists, Wazwan hangover finally receding, flocked to hear the CM, over high-tea in SKICC -- that all-expenses paid government watering-hole, which locals call Santoor. Butterflies are abound in the gardens of Srinagar. Non-political tourists amble about the Dal and the hill resorts. Life’s good.

© Sameer

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Tunes of June

June keeps us on very thin ice. Strange things have happened in the past around this time. Omar Abdullah’s hair changed color suddenly from charcoal black to silver. The police chief became more bitter. Even the usually elegant Geelani sahib, never allowed to venture too far from Hyderpora, managed to sneak out to appear in slightly venturesome places such as Sopore. This June is different. An enforcement of silence is in place.

Earlier August used to be the street-fighting month. So each year on August 14 and 15, for many many summers, a tense standoff ensued. Indian military forces planned for the days ahead on how to tackle the lock-ins and protests and black flags and free-and-easy slogans and such resistance paraphernalia. Then suddenly the focus shifted to June, as if by some random raffle. Poor CM has since thrown away his infamous GAP tee.

Strict instructions went left, right and centre this June. Nary a soul should say anything that cannot be retracted later. Surprisingly even Geelani sahib is mum, which is very unlike him. Newly acquired carbonated batons, sackfuls of them, in anticipation of the annual June exercise, lie about in police store-rooms, unused. They might be now distributed to the elderly, under the Sheri-Kashmir Buzurugwar scheme

There was a little faux paus in between. ML Fotedar, an old crony of Madam Indira Gandhi, descended on Srinagar like a familiar curse. These Congress fogies, I tell you. They come to tease their local cousins, whom they perceive weak and temptingly out on a limb. Fotedar winked and someone quietly dropped the R-bomb, greatly discomfiting Omar. Rotational CM. Does that not unjustly take away the privilege of Tweeting about chopper rides, that makes Omar's followers sear in pure envy?
It can’t be rotational. It simply can’t be.

Not entirely satisfied with his R-bomb, Fotedar decided to drop the A-bomb. That always has the desired effect. Assured. Sheri-Kashmir apparently accepted the constitution of India, Fotedar harped, and Kashmir’s accession with India is full and final. Lo and behold soon both fission and fusion happened. Mustafa Kamal, the Digvijay Singh of Kashmir politics, called ML an old conspirator while his party likened him to a snake who hisses and added that accession was only conditional. Not the one to let it pass quietly, ML retorted: Why sleep with the serpent then?

All this might be a trifle confounding and while the last act in this drama is yet to take place, the dénouement is rather uncomplicated. It is a bunch of players basically discussing the famous causality dilemma commonly referred to as "which came first, the chicken or the egg?" It is the middle of June and last I know of, despite the panchs and sarpanchs, Omar’s incessant Tweets and Farooq’s honeyed voice, Fotedar’s ancient machinations and Soz’s little moustache, we still demand our right to self determination.

© Sameer

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Happy Birthday

You were in my heart when I first took wing
silently floating on my mind
like a butterfly in the sky
Fiesta of sunrays at daybreak
upon distant misty mountains
still reminds me of you
When we sauntered across
around our comforts
criss-crossing the peripheries
of pure joy and kinship
Thy laughter and floundering
gathers in my soul
like a robed wizard’s charm
Old times whereupon
I held your finger
to turn new leaves
My soleprints on the shore
look lonely this evening


Sunday, June 05, 2011

The pamphlet

The word pamphlet has Greek origins. Originally called Pamphilus, it roughly translates to friend of everyone. Ever since Abdullah-I’s time pamphlets have been extensively used in our neck of woods. Partly because the then democratic state won't take a book by some poor publisher too kindly and partly because pamphlets were easier to read and circulate. Geelani sahib, as usual, authored a lot of them in his trademark wolfish Urdu.

Curiously during Abdullah-II’s brief and erratic reign Mr G didn’t find it worthwhile to be quite the pamphleteer, choosing instead to drown the fat king in his [G’s] genteel but firebrand Urdu. He speaks it with a minor twitch of mouth and a mild wink, which many don’t notice. The inhabitants of Gupkar road have forever hated the nonchalance.

If you thought the belles lettres in him was dead, you are entirely mistaken. He is back with another pamphlet, this time to bother Abdullah-III. Dubbed ‘For Tourists and Pilgrims’ the one page bulletin comes in three languages and is entirely downloadable on Ipad2. It is asteriated for the benefit of Twitter-baba-log since longish pieces tend to be slightly out of focus in an age of 140-character communication.

Everyone must rack up a few hundred of the fliers and just as you bump into a Sadhu with a chilam or a happy family from Madras [sorry Chennai] gadding about the Dal lake in the evening, quickly slip them a pamphlet which basically talks about friendly info. Do’s and don’ts. About not to sleep walk if you are staying in a house-boat, else you find yourself tangled in the weeds of Dal. Basic stuff.

Since some of the Sadus can’t read and write [not Ramdev types, I mean the lesser mortals] they can well ask fellow pilgrims to read out the Hindi version, although it was quite an effort to translate Mr G’s dense Urdu in the first place. Again nothing rebellious, just simple details. How the grandson goes outbacking to woods near Srinagar and clicks himself near boulders where late Mrs Gandhi once spilled her tea.

It notes other little bits. About how Abdullah-II attends all weddings in the city's elite circle where everyone and their uncles call him doctor saab, doctor saab, giving him an impression that Kashmir is sunny this summer. And how the grandson, wearing democratic shades, just won’t let an elderly person step out of his gateway.

As it were, the pamphlet awaits readers. There is a small rider though:

Ink may be injurious to health in Srinagar.

© Sameer