Tuesday, August 28, 2012

SRK and other familiar charms in Srinagar

Kashmir has been hot as a thousand devils this year. Yasin Malik, with his trademark grim grin, thinks that it is due to our sins and the unresolved ‘Maslay Kashmir’. In absence of any metrological connection between sin and the sun, many would say that it could be about the ‘core issue’ only. As both parties – India and Pakistan – get busy with other non-essential stuff, where is the time to follow through on Kashmir? Alas Manmohan Singh, that clean fellow, always spotted in spotless white cotton Kurta Pajamas, turned out to be a coal dealer. Coal, of all the things. No class. Any which way, in Pakistan, the Supreme Court continues to play a game of dumb charades with prime minister’s office and the presidency. Ergo, the stalemate on Kashmir and the unseasonal heat-wave.

Into the sinning little valley of ours, strides the 46-year old heartthrob of India and baadshah of Bollywood, Shah Rukh Khan. Local papers are totally g-spaced. ‘The King is here’, the biggest English daily in Kashmir screams in a somewhat excitified headline. Since he can play a college kid no more, SRK is playing the next best option, an armyman. So our superstar takes a chopper and all, rappels down in Pahalgam, by the Lidder, gives one of his politically correct quotes (my grandmom is Kashmiri; eh, explains the looks) and lo presto. Peace returns. The Kashmir of Raj Kapoor and Nargis in Barsaat reappears. Where peaches hang on low-lying boughs in orchards and Shammi Kapoor runs furiously in meadows (no, no dogs chasing him). The romance is back in our lives. Everyone should clap.

Since this is the season of returns, there is another ‘Return of the Jedi’. The interlocutors, too, are back: Radha, not a day older than last year with her hair nimbly argentate along with Padgoankar, French in his tastes and Indian by temperament. Since the government of India has decided not to implement anything that the interlocutors painstakingly suggested in their high-profile report ‘A new compact with the people of Kashmir’, another talk-shop will be opened. Only the duo understands the futility of this new exercise. Everyone else has moved on. Chidambaram has since given way to Shinde in the North block. Omar’s Twitter handle has been taken over by his uncle who perhaps forgot the password. Kamal is currently in viva voce mode.

Back in Pahalgam, Yash Chopra is busy filming. A crew of 100 has turned the woods into an extended outdoor film set. Everyone is twinkle-toed. Security is reportedly fool-proof, leaving loads of SRK fanboys, in scores of Tata Sumos, very heart-broken. It is, sort of, tragic that a middle-aged Muslim star with a local grandmom should not be allowed to meet his well-wishers. There might be a secret agency hand involved in this step-motherly treatment meted out to the valleyites. Not everyday do people get to climb on top of a bus in Kashmir to catch fleeting glimpse of a star who plays an armyman (whether or not the character enjoys immunity under AFSPA being wholly immaterial here).

In related news, an eleven-year-old student was arrested -- and subsequently let off on bail -- in Srinagar for indulging in violence against cops on the eve of Eid. By law anyone under 18 is a minor. One thing is sure: 11 is the first number which cannot be counted with a human's ten fingers. Why the spectacle? India’s own Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act states that publication of a child’s name or picture in any newspaper, magazine, news-sheet or visual media that may lead to the identification of the juvenile is not allowed. Clearly someone is not following the law.

Law is for the lawless, the Bible says. For the time being hoteliers and hawkers near Dal lake are planning to get their act together and write to Yashji to film on the famed Boulevard with SRK for a few minutes, atleast.

Everyone deserves a chunk of the peace pie.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Sick notes

I am a little unwell. Nothing much, just going through the throes, I guess. Happens from time to time. And then it goes away. Lets say one is in no mood to be mischievous, for a change. 

I eavesdropped on someone saying no expectations, perhaps in a dream. I know the words. I recall the exacting meaning they convey. There seems to be a dash of restrain, some amount of agony and a delicate sprinkling of logic to them. It provides the person a perfect get-away. A clean-chit. You can’t blame. You can’t complain. You can’t look askance. Period.

In hindsight it is perhaps not a bad idea not to expect. Unnecessarily you lose sleep. You begin to dream half dreams. You begin to care. You tend to be protective. Quick reveries occur to you. Suddenly you feel tasked. You start liking daffy things. That is what darned expectations can do to you.

Dale Carnegie, one of the biggest thinking heads of his times, once told a massive audience: When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion. Somewhere Carnegie attempts – and probably manages to – put his finger on the exact mash. That is because all instances of sharing, every act of laughter, whenever we shout, when we canoodle -- unknowingly we are forking out a slice of that sacred sentiment, called emotion. Logic comes in much much later.

Then there is a soft globule in most of us. Plebeians call it heart. It is forever inexperienced. We may attempt to grow. Grow up. Grow rich. Grow wise. Grow smart but the heart always remains naive. It stays captive to memories. 

In reality life is hard. Mean. Unpredictable. The unreal is often more powerful than the real, because reality is not always real. Without meaning to sound philosophical, it would be safe to assume that all perceptions of reality are just opinions.

You look for support, camaraderie, comfort, love. There are times when you aren’t looking for anything in particular and suddenly you have it. Such sudden, magnificent relations often offer you the confidence to walk on the defenses of your own heart. The matchless moments you think you might spend playing pranks. The circumlocutory silly philosophizing that you would like to spray each other with. The unmooned darkness you reckon – foolishly –can be deciphered together. But people move on, wittingly and unwittingly. Remembrance grows on yew trees.

Bernard Shaw was an influential thinker of his times and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925. He wrote to his friend:

I hope you have lost your good looks, for while they last any fool can adore you, and the adoration of fools is bad for the soul. No, give me a ruined complexion and a lost figure and sixteen chins on a farmyard of crow's feet and an obvious wig. Then you shall see me coming out strong.

I dreamt last night that your heart was my piñata. I am sure vocabs aren't always good. You might have to look up for Piñata!


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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