Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Kashmir is gay

Before the knives come out, let us come clean. Gay used to be the same thing as happy and carefree before Englishmen sexualized the term in the early 20th century. Be as it may, many a commentators on Kashmir these days, in their bouts of journalgasm (happens by the Dal and also in Potato farms) think that there is some embargo on ‘being happy’ in the tiny little vale of ours. Pray, we never stopped lining up for mutton, even in times of daily gun-battles!

Now that the barrel of gun has fallen silent, weak sequels have begun. It is a very familiar curse. Basically Delhi based K-experts and journos from mainland India turn up in Kashmir like early summer mushrooms. They are NEVER sent back from the Srinagar airport. Well, to cut the crap, anyone eulogizing Bollywood and KFC is welcome these days. Kehwa will be served free along with a clutch of intelligence reports. Go, paint it rosy.

An evening stroll on the Boulevard, followed by a sugar-free latte in one of Srinagar’s new-age café’s, has its desired effects. The feeling is often happy high. Who needs liqueur? Suddenly Kashmir appears littered with yellow flowers, butterflies and all, someone playing Santoor in the backdrop (long silver hair blowing in mild breeze) and gentle natives sowing potatoes in a distance. The happy Kashmir of Yash Raj films.

Meadows full of yellow flowers sometimes hide mass graves in them. Besides the bustle of everyday life and hawkers selling their wares and kids going to schools in clean uniforms, there is a deep lament, not necessarily obvious to K-experts on early summer visits. And this loss is not physical alone – bodybags, graves, tortures, arbitrary imprisonments, orphans -- it is profoundly emotional. We have missed a step in the staircase of our memories. It is okay, perhaps, to want to look for it.

Surprisingly you have a horde of extraordinary gentlemen from the plains talking down to you in a patronizing manner. Like Andersen’s The Princess and the Pea, most of them terribly uncomfortable with the thought of an indigenous Kashmiri expression, young men and women, who grew up in the conflict, telling their own stories to the world. So suddenly having a memory is like dropping a condom in front of your dad.  

Truth be told there is nothing wrong in ‘Moving on with their lives’ kind of pontification. End of it all -- the last credit in the cell phone used, the final group of tourists ferried to their Houseboat, some concluding quote from an IAS-walla, the closing coffee downed at Coffea Arabica with the same creatures you met at café Robusta, the question lurks. Does KFC preclude the desire for the right to self determination?

© Sameer