The Viral Fever: The Valley of Rumours

Kashmir is known for its scenic beauty and a historic culture. It has been a place where countless philosophers, poets and writers have emerged throughout its existence. The people of the valley have been known for their fertile imagination. Hence it hasn’t just carried the vivid philosophical legacy but has also been a home to humour and rumour. These two things come together, a mass hysteria emerges followed by laughter and reflection.

A few months ago, the people had to deal with a rumour that had us all out of lights. Someone had his ‘light bulb’ lit in his head that said that the latest government subsidised LED bulbs had a hidden camera embedded that spied on the people. The rumour within no time spread like a wild-fire and all the people joined in the hysteria. Until a few engineering graduates posted with illustrations on Facebook that it was not true, and everyone heaved a sigh of relief.

In my grandmother’s childhood who is in her sixties, there was a panic among women that they will be divorced due to the families’ political ideologies. It was a time when the supporters of Sheikh Abdullah were battling the supporters of Mirwaiz Maulvi Farooq for the bigger political and social standings among the people.

Now when this rumour spread and had found shelter in my grandmother’s home. She recalls that her sister-in-law started crying and running towards her husband, asking if he was to divorce her. After being clarified, she found peace. Now they are married for more than sixty years.

Another rumour that had floated during her time was that the Pakistani government had poisoned the Jhelum. The people took the rumour as gospel’s truth, stopping to drink from their tap water. Hoping that death will not visit their homes through the water pipes.

Along with the political rumours, there have been many related to religious superstition. Many decades ago, some people claimed that in a particular area of Fateh Kadal, a fountain of milk had erupted. People amazed after hearing about the unique phenomenon rushed to the place along with their glasses to collect some.

One rumour even had people believe that if you keep a copper utensil closed and covered for a few days. A piece of bread will emerge from the utensil, and one has to share it with everyone. Now imagine how happy the people would have been for a sacred loaf of bread and milk, that too straight from God.

My grandmother also tells me about the time in the 1980s when someone started a rumour that Srinagar was going to be aerially bombed. Asking people to pack their beddings and rush towards Eidgah, to spend the night there. Some people believed in the rumour, went to Eidgah and slept the night there.

From fountains of milk to collecting a bowl of rice for sons, from the falling satellites to the falling of roads. People have believed in these rumours and then lived to laugh at the tales. Things like these have been part of Kashmir’s cultural history.

And they will keep on experiencing more such rumours to all that are to come.

Here’s a challenge, ask your grandparents or the elders in your family to talk of a rumour that they have experienced. Share it in the comments section and let’s see what all we have experienced.