Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Tales from the valley

When the attendance in mosques starting thinning out and people start speculating whether Ramadhan is going to be 29 or 30 days, you should safely assume that Eid is around the corner. A report in the much respected Business Standard -- the other day -- stated that an average Kashmiri household will consume six kilos of mutton on Eid. Devils shall be unlocked and immediately possess mortals. The queues outside butcheries and poultry-walas are going to be long. Bakeries will work all through the night. Suddenly everything shall be more expensive. Men will flock to Eid-gahs in new Kameez-Yazars. Only poor Mr Geelani will stay at home.

The little debate over whether Mr Geelani is free to go around or stays perpetually incarcerated in his home refuses to die. Media reports suggest that despite the Goebbelsian spin, Omar – with those cute blue eyes – is fibbing. You see it is a simple scheme: let him go attend the funeral of an old friend – to give out an impression of some democratic layout -- but don’t let him in the mosque across the road. Who knows what dangerous ideas he preaches the peaceful this Ramadhan?

Curiously when I visited Kashmir this summer and went to meet the ageing leader, he appeared quite prim even at an early hour. Mr Geelani sat on an austere sofa surrounded by books in English and Urdu. In absence of a bookmark he had turned a corner page of one book to enable him to return to it with ease. A keen listener, Mr Geelani allows you the space to talk and nods along even as you mildly criticize some of his positions. I was respectful of the gap in our age; the leader being more than five decades older. Mr Geelani’s ideas, it turns out, are both intuitive and sharp. Ofcourse the cops were there, to ensure that none of those ideas come out.

Meantime in related developments, the bickering between mainstream political parties has suddenly spiraled. Is it due to fasting or some bad omen -- in the shape of Prof Soz’s tooth-brush moustache -- could not be immediately known. Apparently Kashmir’s first family – the much venerable Abdullahs -- has unleased their motor-mouth son, Mustapha Kamal, to drown anyone from Mr Geelani to the opposition PDP in verbal-carnage of the worst manner. Mufti Sayeed, the other claimant to Kashmir’s throne, is naturally finding it hard to duck the volleys. Poor Dr Koul and Mehbooba Mufti are no match to Kamal. He is like the Usain Bolt of valley’s dirty political track.

Oh, and, there was this wooden bridge over Dal lake in the interiors of Srinagar that collapsed when some government babu and an entourage of cops and mohalla elders and a few stray dogs crossed it – all at the same time, perhaps to inspect the structure. Everyone fell into the lake, the commissioner, the cops, their guns and the party of elders. The dogs howled madly and bystanders promptly dived in to save the group. Since the chief minister has gone mum on Twitter, it would have been nice to vex him with some mid-Ramadhan ribbing.

The little wooden bridge stays broken as August 15 dawns. It may remain unusable till the next Eid, God knows. Now is the time for sharp salutes. The security grid must be antsy. Omar will salute the flag in Srinagar while someone will do the honors in Jammu. New Delhi will smile a benign smile. A rented crowd will clap. Be as it may, Kashmiris will busy themselves for Laylat al-Qadr or the Night of Value. They shall pray for freedom.

© Sameer
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