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

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Look who is here

Zardari is a hard and nailed man with a slightly off-color outlook. Apart from leading a local polo team known as the Zardari Four and owning a cinema called Bambino in Karachi, his only claim to fame has been his marriage with the daughter of the east. That graceful Ms Bhutto, who was sadly assassinated by some loser many years back. Over the years Zardari has made institutional corruption a byword in the Pakistan political lexicon. Not that others are saints in the land of the pure but with a president as smug as him, everything else dwarfs. And now Zardari is visiting Ajmer.

How this latest religious urge emanated in Zardari cannot be deduced. In any case there is little religious about these mausoleum trips. They are at best a cultural affair. Something that is more traditional than theological. Although it is difficult to winkle truth out of Zardari, one would like to hazard a guess. The TV chaps in India are going to go on an overdrive over the next 24 hours: There you go, as you can see only four buttons in Zardari’s Gala-band are visible. One hole, a gaping crevice, is buttonless. Is that a hidden message to Manmohan Singh? That kind of poppycock.

On my way to office this morning, I browsed through the Times of India App. The first news, expectedly, was the carte du jour for Zardari. The spread includes, India’s best newspaper informed, jaitooni murg seekh, kareli dal gosht, tori bhujia, sarson ke phool, makai palak, paneer jalfrezi, avail, vegetarian shami, murg kofta makhni and sikandari khusk raan. Desserts will comprise gur ka sandesh, phirni and blueberry mousse. And we thought Zardari recently got a heart attack.

There are other necessary tidbits likely to submerge the subcontinent over the next day or so. Jawaharlal Nehru’s great grandson, a certain prince charming waiting to be India’s prime minister (sometime soon) shall meet Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s grandson, currently being groomed at Oxford to be Pakistan’s prime minister (when he comes of age). Comparisons will be drawn. Rajiv and Benazir. Indira Gandhi and ZA Bhutto et al. The fine pedigrees. Firang girl friends. Caviar with pals, in foreign lands, away from the toiling masses. High office. The dynasty curse shall continue.

Some right noises about Kashmir made in a hurry and a threat or two to Sharif brothers invoked, Zardari, aleck smart and hair gelled back for hours, lands in New Delhi. To break bread with the gentle sardar, who hasn’t slept for a week now after some newspaper spooked him with a nightmare report about a Pakistan style coup in 7 RCR, since rubbished by everyone and their uncle.

Zardari, as supreme commander of his country's armed forces, should have been in Siachen where more than a hundred of Pakistan's soldiers lie buried in ice, due to the screwed up policies of leaders, tucking into blueberry mousse, a thousand leagues away.


© Sameer