I want to take Kashmir into my arms and cry.– The Imaginary Poet
Kashmiris can’t stop loving each other. Ours is a community that has experienced so much together. To begin with, we were sold by the British government to Gulab Singh, the first Dogra monarch for 7.5 million Nanakshahe Rupees (March 1846). We were enslaved. We faced discrimination on the basis of religion. And then one day, we dethroned the Dogras (1952). We had our own Prime Ministers, 5 of them (1947-1965). Things changed and we started to have Chief Ministers now (1965-2018), 9 in total.
Article 370 and 35A were in place. We lived somehow.
We saw insurgencies and emergencies. Promises were made to us and then they were broken. We saw oppression. We saw rapes and murders. Shit! We were thrashed because we did not want to support their cricket team. We saw many extremes. We saw tourism in full bloom. We saw its downfall too. We know of times when we were self-sufficient. And we saw how we were made to be dependent. We built temples and shrines. We had religious harmony and brotherhood. We had times when the muslims, pandits and sikhs would die for each other (somewhere in their hearts, they still would). Then we had the most unfortunate pandit exodus. We witnessed the painful Gawkadal Massacre and the Chattisinghpora Massacre. We have been told strange names of dreadful torture centers (Papa 2 and Cargo). We have known people who have faced torture and heard their strories. Electrocution, blow lamp, roller, penetration of knitting pins into male genitals, pulling out fingernails, hitting the bones with bamboo sticks and so on.
On the other hand, we have heard stories of Srinagar City in its glorious days, when Lalchowk used to be all lit and the shops would close at 1 am. When people would go to cinemas with their families on weekends. Everyone used to be happy and prosperous. Women used to dance (roff) and sing “Eid aayi rassè rassè Eidgah waswei”. Men used to dress up and go to work on their bicycles with those dynamo headlights.
Then everything turned upside down. People disappeared, youth were killed in custody, the oppressor faked encounters. There was extortion and there were crackdowns. The guerilla warfare started. Two powerful blocks were formed. We killed each other. We were divided and ruled upon. We took bullets to our chests. We saw countless unmarked graves. We saw daughters becoming brides and widows on the same day. The most auspicious days became the most inauspicious ones.
Among all unfortunate events, I don’t think there is anything left for us to experience. We had 370 and 35A somehow keeping our identity intact. They ripped it apart and all we could do is watch. What are we left with? Nothing but each other.
Have you ever travelled in a local bus or a sumo (pool cab) in Kashmir? Have you seen people talk to each other even though they are complete strangers! Have you seen them laugh and joke with each other? Have you seen them insist on paying each other’s bus fare? We Kashmiris offer a helping hand to everyone in need. If someone asks us for directions to some place, we accompany them to their destination and entertain them on the way. We offer passersby to come and eat with us. We are so in love with each other.
We, as a community have tasted all the bitterness and yet we choose to be kind and helping. We do a lot of self introspection. We say, “Koshur chu kharaab” (Kashmiris are bad), yet we are the people who are hospitable and cordial towards everyone we meet. We have adapted, adjusted and dealt with the most unimaginable and unfortunate situations over past 3 centuries. We have evolved so well that we are able to contain ourselves even when we are made to feel like foreigners in our own land although we treat all the foreigners as our own and make them feel at home.
What is wrong with us?
Are we emotionally challenged?
Are we psychologically broken?
Has this conflict changed our ways?
I see that we react too less as compared to what we go through and absorb. We have become patient, tolerant and resilient. We cry and we live another day. We forgive everyone before we go to sleep. We dream of a happy Kashmir but wake up to one that is sad. We Kashmiris have cried together. Lost our people together. Shown resistance together. Bled together. And we wish to heal together.
You know, my father misses his pandit friends and teachers. He happened to find one of them by chance on Facebook after 30 years. He cried when he talked to his friend, Anand Joo. He told my father about another classmate of theirs, Neerja, who has passed away recently. They cried while recollecting all their childhood memories over a phone call. We people are still longing for each other. For that love and the harmony. We are longing for peace and stability. We have lost enough and we are left with nothing but each other. I dream of a day when a muslim, a pandit and a sikh will eat together from the same “trami” and sit on the “waanè peandh” and discuss new politics, cricket and our freedom struggle.
I believe, Kashmiris will never stop loving each other. It is not just love. It is respect and trust and care and pain. I don’t say that we are in love with Kashmir, but we are in pain with Kashmir and therefore this deep connection.
“I want to take Kashmir into my arms and cry”. (The Imaginary Poet© | April 2020)
By : Faheem Abdullah