Friday, August 12, 2011

Vigil



May 11, 2011
Somehow it didn't come as a surprise. It made sense, in a way. Yet it felt strange. This eager assimilation. Jagrata a day before Mendiraat ceremony! Jagarata may well be a common social event for most North Indian Hindus but I guess for Kashmiri Pandits it is a new way of expressing old religiosity. Cousins weren't very excited about it, even a bit disappointed.'We have seen enough Jagarata in Delhi. We came for a Kashmiri Mehendi Raat.'

The event was hosted by most political Uncle of mine, 'Stupid-Liberals-Glory-Be-Our-Culture' kind, a kind now assumed to be quite common among Kashmiri people. Back in Kashmir, this Uncle of mine was thick with guys who went on to be the local representatives of JKLF. Thickness of this relationship can be measured by the fact that he even went for business partnership with some of them. He and these guys bought a Gypsy together which they would lent out to anyone in need. It must have been a profitable venture as this partnership didn't last very long. After his partners short-changed him, relations turned so sour that his old mother had to intervene and get back his investment amount from these guys. Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims, it seems interacted based some unwritten principle of chivalry or bonhomie or whatever it may be called Kashmiriyat, Sanjha Chulha...whatever. 'Why else would they have paid back the money at all? They could have turned the woman away! They could have taken over property without having to pay a single paisa.'

But by the end of 80s, principles were put to real test and people failed.

'He had applied for Police service some years earlier. Made it to the training. It didn't work out. His nose had a bleeding problem. It wasn't meant for him.'

'Is that why his name figured in that local Hitlist? Or was it because of his interest in politics, because of his writings or because of the kind of friends he always managed to find?'

'Who knows? But he was on that bus out of Kashmir with your Veena bua when... '

'The bus met with an accident near Khooni Nala and his front teeth got chipped. I know the story. Badi Mummy, back in Kashmir made Taher to thanks Gods. I know the story.'

After spending a decade in Bangalore where he took active part in community affairs, my Uncle came back to Jammu and was soon forging new friendships and reporting on Pandit affairs in Jammu for community magazines,

Musicians called for Mehandi Raat were the same Dogra musicians, the same Jagrata crew but this time center stage was held by a woman. For a while it was interesting to watch a Dogri woman shuffle between Kashmiri songs, Punjabi songs, Sufi songs and film songs, trying earnestly to get some kind of mojo going, but after sometime it became a drag, after all this is not what one expects from a Menzraat. The woman left just before mid-night but before leaving she apologized to the host's old mother for her rendition of Kashmiri songs, 'Mataji Mujhay Kashmiri nahi aati. Try kiya.'.

The old woman blessed her,'Ahee! Ahee! Bahut Acha Kiya!'

Later in the night, Bhabhi, my uncle's old mother was on stage herself singing along with Sunny Bhaiya, a nephew of my uncle. Sunny Bhaiya sang a crowd favorite Kashmiri song about Jammu as Kashmiri Pandits first saw it. 'Ye che Jem'ich Matador.Ye che Jem'ich Matador' is a satire on Tata Matadors of Jammu, the common mode of transport in that city. Someone back in those dark found humor in crammed existence of community in Jammu. This ought to count for something. 'Very humanizing, indeed.'

Next he sang a funny song about a woman who weighs in her options on the kind of guy she can marry, 'Mummy'yay be Be Kyuthi Ghar'e Kariye'. Of course she rejects all kinds, some are fat, some are lazy, some are poor, some are lame...stuff like that...

'He is a really great guy. Great job. Good nature. Decent. He could have easily married. Only his legs condition...'

I remember Sunny Bhaiya from our Panjtarthi days in monkey infested old Jammu city. We were putting up in the Durbar Hall of some Dewan's Kothi. We divided up the hall into rooms and kitchen using bed-curtains. There were at least seven other Pandit families living in other room of the 'Palace', but all sharing one latrine. We had space. Sunny Bhaiya's family was living nearby. He was always full of life, never let his 'leg condition' dampen the spirit of something like Holi celebrations. He would come charging in, all painted red and green, ready to tear people's clothing on Holi.

'It's surprising how these ill-tuned amplifiers are in fact capable of transmitting real music. He can really sing.'

Next he sang a song about Kashmiri Pandit's and their loss of Chinar Shade, 'Ase Chu Rovmut Boonyi Shejar' or something like that. Everyone, old, was singing along, everyone was pensive.

'That's a Panun Kashmir anthem. Do you realize that?'

Next day, on the day of Baraat, I got into a light conversation with Sunny Bhaiya. I don't know how it happened but soon we were discussing massacres.

'It never happened. It's all a Muslim lie. 20000 people. Is that possible? All propaganda.'

'It did happen. It was terrible. People did die,' intervened my Uncle's Dogra neighbor who must have overheard our heated discussion.

'Our family came from the other side of LOC that time around. There was in terrible bloodshed in 1947. Who do you think ran Kashmir back then ? Take a guess. It was Dogras. We lost a lot. We were rich...'

And then he went into glorious past. I was back to wondering how in popular memory of India the golden question was 'How come Kashmir was peaceful in 1947 when the whole country was burning?' I guess Gandhi is partly to blame for this simple assumption, after all he did ask rest of the India to take lessons of brotherhood from Kashmir. And now no one cares about testaments of people who back in 1947 were moving into what is today 'Indian Held Kashmir' from what is today 'Pakistan Occupied Kashmir'. Our minds held and occupied by cosy inconsequential pneumatics of conflict

'It's all propaganda. Maybe something happened. But 20000. I know handle these lies.'

It turned out Sunny Bhaiya spends a lot of time online fighting Kashmir trolls. Think Rediff forums, comment section of newspapers and Youtube videos. I tried to explain to him how actually fighting an online troll essentially makes a troll out of you too.

'I make my bread and butter based on my ability to understand behavior of  people online. Listen. I make social games. It's a game you play. It's a game you don't want to play in real life. You are deadlocked in a game-play that doesn't have any logical out in any case.'

'You have grown up.'
'You can really sing.'

On the day of reception, other guests arrived. There was head of one section of Panun Kashmir and there was poet-writer-father-of-a-writer exilee.

'Come take a picture.' I was called to take a group photograph. Through the viewfinder I saw more than a dozen people.

'No everyone will come in the frame.'
'Go back a little more. Everyone should come.'

My uncle was with his colleagues (or should that be ex-colleague) from Kashmir. These were his old Kashmiri Muslim friends from work. And I counted a couple of women too. It seem the entire department had come. It was an open invite and all of them had come to attend the wedding of my 'Stupid-Liberals-Glory-Be-Our-Culture' Uncle's daughter, the youngest of my cousins, the last of them born in Kashmir.

Among this group, I was able to identify at least one face from my memory of Kashmir. He used to visit our house a lot to meet up with my Uncle. This was my 'Stupid-Liberals-Glory-Be-Our-Culture' Uncle's best buddy from office.

In case of Kashmir, this inverted part of the world, I think it would be better if people start preaching what they actually practice.

'Smile Please. Closer.Closer. Say Fakeer.'

-0-

2 comments:

  1. ...Vinayak...for the last three days I have been browsing your site like anything and I am amazed at your massive effort, you have poured your heart via small tales and anecdotes from past. The collection of vintage photos is fantastic....I would repeat what so many others must have told you already....you are doing a great service to the community...

    Kalhan

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for reading and for appreciation!

    ReplyDelete

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