The Valley of Kashmir appears in the popular media forever – for the power it wields in politics, for nature lovers for its beauty, in cinema for its picturesque locations – terror and love both coexisting.
To me it has come to mean something very different altogether. It is a couldron of a simple mans hope to see his home town return to its past glory, of pride.
And now, I try to understand beyond what media presents. In the news, Kashmir is a place where common man does not exist. The only means of livelihood would probably be tourism, or maybe not even that. All that there would be is terrorism, the army, and no life.
The movies make us see its beauty and realize it’s untold potential. Often described as the “Switzerland” of India, it is the place where most people from our parents generation went for their honeymoon!
And amidst all this terror and romance, there are small towns I had heard of only in the news, never stopping for a second to think of life in them. The people there – relationships – Ammi and abbujaan, brothers and sisters, ama and aba, uncles and aunts, cousins.
Today, I am blessed to be able to look at Kashmir not as a list of towns which appear on the news for army-terrorist activity, but also for the families in them. And it’s beautiful, yet it’s sad.
I enjoy reading stories of what life is like there. And it’s a stark contrast from what I found when I googled ‘Sopore’, ‘Baramullah’… And other countless non-descript towns.
An article in The Hindu referred to Sopore as ‘chhota‘ London. A name hard to fix to a town whose images when googled are piles of dead bodies, of army, bloodshed, people with firearms and YouTube videos of raging fires in the city centre, army, cinema shut-down. Same goes for Anantnag or Pahalgam to an extent.
And yet I can feel that past glory in the way the eyes of my friends light up with the voice jumping around taking pride in their walnut trees, in the strawberries, in their memories. I love being there listening to them. The excitement. Happiness. For those are things never seen by me. Never heard. The narratives talk of the vegetables growing in the lawn, mutth daal growing by kilos, and the pudhina growing from the cracks and crevices. And then there was the lawn and the Wular and Lidder flowing behind the house in Pahalgam.
I can now imagine a father tending to those plants, or maybe reading the paper with radio in the background. The promise of a simple life – Family life.
And I am glad to be a part of the other side of the narratives too. Of the army, the terror and the hatred. Of the stone pelters. Of a worried mother ready to hit her little boy for being away from home for so long. The pain of it all and the falsified hopes.
Question – can the two people coexist in one person?
Unfortunately it does in Kashmiris.
And it is but respect for all those who grew up there. For a long long time, I had a lot of issues with God. Now I don’t (except at times maybe). Now it all seems to have come easy to me. I grew up in a city which presented us with opportunities. Means to utilize them and support to finally achieve!
I, and most of us didn’t see what kashmiris saw. I dont know what fear is or what hate means. And I definitely wouldn’t know how to hope if I was there struggling, seeing fear in the Eye everyday.
But then, each one of us is a unique outcome of the experience, circumstances, upbringing, genetics, reactions – and what not. Maybe pain when given in small doses makes us immune to it. We could either emerge stronger; or battered.
We in the cities loose one person and it changes us forever. It affects our approach to life and our reaction to situations.
In Kashmir, people have had so many people so close taken away so many times. Beaten to pulp for sharing their name with a militant supposed to be in the village. Punished for no crime. Didn’t that change them?
The stone pelters are often portrayed as having been misled by Pakistan in the media. But this war is not just about two countries and a piece of land.
There are children and families living there. Youngsters who might not even know what it is like to have a good night sleep.
Why can’t we make this also about them? About people like you and me? Whose only fault is probably that they were born in Kashmir!
This post is for million others like me who never imagined civilan life in the heart of all that violence.
“May there be peace and happiness. May our future be golden and our past be forgotten!”