Prague, Czech Republic
“Tu mera noor he
Tu mera he fakhar
Zakhmi he thoda, thoda ziddi
Kashmir, yeh lahu luhaan pal tu thode or seh le,
Majboor hun kayar nahi, magar sach se mein bekhabar nahi”
Tonight, it’ll be 53 days since I departed from the most soulful place, I’ve been to.
Before we begin, I want you to play this small and honest game. I’m going to name few places and comment what comes to your mind when you hear the name:
If the last place had your neurons associated with words such as Fear, Violence, Terrorism or Nationalism, I think this post is especially for you.
I’ve been travelling for past 4 years mainly in the Indian subcontinent with recent exposure to European lands. I was (or maybe still am) at a very delicate and confused state in life as most of you, when I had my first calling. If you’ve had it, you would know it’s inexplicable, so am not even going to try. But I’ll attempt to reveal to you the contemporary Kashmiris perspective and condition, through the following article and photographs.
Before Leh, Goa, Mcleod, Shillong there were Srinagar, Dal Lake, Pahalgam, Sonamarg, Lal Chowk Market, the places you had to visit for the society to accept you as a “traveller” or in modern terms #wanderlust.
How did Kashmir lag behind or was it always one league above to participate?
How did it turn from a benchmark for honeymoon location to a bloodied land, for which you need to gather a hundred validations before you even consider visiting?
When did the photographs of Srinagar from behind the postcards transform to newspaper front pages with blood stained headings?
History Lesson: The year 2014 saw floods, followed by another one in 2015 totally disrupting the life, displacing everyone to higher lands, and leaving their house, cars and shops soaking, only to come back and repair what was not washed away.
Now comes the infamous year, 2016, where Wani was killed, again leading to protests and city shutting down in curfews extending to over 2 months at a stretch.
What does 3 years of no business, no money, no smiles only hatred, only politics, only lies from media, and only choosing sides, do?
That’s right. The streets of Srinagar reek of timidness, afraid of the rains, of the rumors of protest, of the curfew.
But the humility of Kashmiris is incomparable, they will go to any extent to win your heart with hospitality by welcoming you with unlimited Kahwah (Kashmiri tea), breakfasts, and free rides in Dal. They don’t want your money but only you to go back home smiling and spread the news that it’s perfectly alright to visit Kashmir.
Like every crippled Gotham has it’s Batman, Kashmir luckily has several, who have given up their luxuries in the foreign lands and returned home just in time. Ruman, Faysal, Amir and Javid Parsa are some of the super heroes Kashmir desperately needs. They’re fighting the propaganda spread by the media and politics, by giving glimpses to the rest of the world what Kashmir truly stands for. And an insight into the suffering Kashmiris life. They believe in going full throttle on the social media, in an attempt to bring back the lost paradise. Giving up their ‘better and promising’ lives outside to crawl back to Kashmir and their sheer talent makes every one of their posts stirring, stirring enough to at least call up your best friend and plan the possibility of visiting Kashmir.
As a final note, I ask of you only what this place truly deserves, a single visit. And a sincere attempt to empathise, with the land which is politically ours but still unknown, and to let Kashmiris know that they were not and never will be abandoned.
May the best things of your past be the worst of your future, Kashmir.
“Kabhi aao jo Kashmir
Toh dikhayenge tum ko
Ki barood ke dhuein mein bhi
Hum apni jannat basate he.
Andhera hai magar aaj bhi
Aankhon mein khwab sajaate hain
Sitaare Kashmir ke kuch dhundhla se gye toh he lekin
Chandni raaton mein aaj bhi
mohabbat karne walon ke kasme waade hain.”
You shall see when you come,
How amidst the ruins
our heaven still blooms,
I am aware of the darkness,
Yet, our eyes carry hope and dreams,
In our skies the stars have faded,
But the promises of lovers
still linger in the moonlight nights.
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