Saturday, January 14, 2012

Leave and Arrive

Habba Kadal, 2008
'Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again; and then in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open, and show riches
Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked 
I cried to dream again.'

This blog is now definitely floating in some strange waters. A couple of weeks ago my sister went to Jim Corbett National Park with her colleagues for an 'Office Picnic. The place she works for, an IT firm based around Noida, has quite a lot Kashmiri Muslims on its payroll. In fact, the firm has a mini-branch of a sort operating from Srinagar.  It was simple, they hired a Kashmiri in Delhi who good at what he did and they got him to hire some more. Because the work involves technology, the firm was just as happy having them work from Srinagar. For the Picnic these outstation employees were also invited. So at Jim Corbett my sister got to interact with some Kashimiri Muslims. Her impression of them was of the usual type: one a bright beautiful girl but head ever covered and other a decent, honest, zealous boy who asks questions like, 'So, why did you leave?'

On that infamous January night in 1990, my mother and sister were at my Massi's place in Chanpora while I was at home with my Grandmother in Chattabal.

'Your sister, who must have been 6 at the time, was quite a screamer as a kid ( in fact still is), master in the art of Baakh. When the loudspeakers from the mosques started their death songs about creating a new paradise on earth, your devil little sister, probably disapproving, or perhaps afraid or just hungry, or just for the fun of it, started crying at the top of her lungs. Your mother and I tried to console her as we were terrified that the sounds emanating  from her loudspeaker were going to attract the attention of whoever was singing the hit number  'Death to Kafirs' from the mosque. After all our attempts to reason with her failed, we did the only thing we could think of: we stuffed her mouth with Parle-G biscuits, chunks and chunks of it. Megha chup ho Ja! Megha Dam Kar! Please shut up! That shut her up good and we again focused back our attention to the long-winding sermon from the mosque.The sermon stopped a few hours before dawn, it stopped just as suddenly as it had started. It was only next morning that we realized that it was all probably audio-taped sermons imported from Pakistan. No one could have stayed up that late into the night just to sit in front of a microphone and talk about killing. Most of it was in Urdu, in any case. Next morning, I asked a neighbour about happenings of the last night, but only to be greeted by silence. Not a word was spoken. As if he didn't hear anything.'

At this point my Massi's narrative as broken by her Bahu who added:

'Yes, I too remember the night. When the sermon started, my mother shut me and my younger sister in a storeroom under a staircase.'

'Where did you used to live?'

'Jawahar Nagar. The night was same all over the city.'

I don't remember what happened that night in Chattabal. I have no recollection of it. All those nights are the same to me now. All I remember is that just around that time we stopped sleeping in Naya Kambra, the room closer to the outer wall and started spending nights in the Thokur Kuth, the main God Room, all eight of us. Those days, there were stories of people getting killed in sleep, in their beds. We stopped sleeping. I slept.

Given the nature of this blog, one would expect that I have a lot of Kashmiri Muslim friends or that at least I interact a lot with them or that I interact a lot with Muslims. That  definitely is not the case. As a Kid, growing up in Jammu, I did have a lot of Kashmiri Muslim 'Cricket' friends who taught me reverse swing. I had a Muslim friend in college who regaled me with stories like the one about Muslim men planning to melt all of American Gold at Fort Knox by crashing mercury filled plane into it. Given my 'Muslim Parast' concerns, one would think I must be hanging out with Muslims all the time. That  definitely is not the case. In fact, I became conscious of this fact only last year when hoping to join my family for a holiday on 2nd October, I reached my mother's place only to realize that she along with my sister had gone to the wedding of a U.P. Muslim friend of my sister somewhere deep in Ghaziabad. It occurred to me that even though I have read a bunch of books on Islam and Muslims, and even though my sister has read none, it was she who can now say that she has been to a Muslim wedding and not I. In fact, I am sure she doesn't even think of it as a big deal. 'You live there, We live here.' is how she simply answered the question, 'Why did you leave?'

I am writing all this after running into a Kashmiri Muslim from Baramulla last night at a Lohri 'Party' thrown by a bunch of couples from Ranchi and Kota living in Dwarka. It was a 'beganay ki shaadi may Abdullah deewana' kind of scene for me as I just knew onlt one of the guys and that too only because we briefly worked together. On realizing that I am a Kashmiri, one of the hosts pointed to a guy in the room, a college buddy of his, and said, 'He too is a Kashmiri.' Indians are generally ignorant about complexities of 'Masla-e-Kashmir', this ignorance is often a cause of heartburn for Kashmiris but in this particular case, it somehow gave me pleasure that these simple working guys knew nothing about our history and didn't care about its complexities. To them, we both were just Kashmirirs. Just when you put people in cozy, comfortable definitions, people break out of them. And so I met a fellow Kashmiri and we started a brief conversation with the usual questions, 'So, where do you live?' 'Where I used to live! Well, you know Chatchbal.'


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3 comments:

  1. Seen that, been there. In fact it brings a smile on my face now when some Kashmiri Muslim asks me 'Why did u leave.'

    And yes regarding your blog about Til ( pronounced Tyel) my childhood budy who is in Tashkent Uzbekistan and has spent last 9 years in the central Asia pointed out there is a similar custom in those countries on the birth of a MALE child. Thought it might interest you given our many cultural similarities with the region. Hope i'm not becoming a pest. Dinesh Labroo

    ReplyDelete
  2. I read they also burn Izband to ward-off evil spirits. And it's always a pleasure to hear for you.

    ReplyDelete
  3. As always, lovely post. Your blog[s] are possibly my favourites. IN THE WORLD. Kabhi miliyega, Vinayak Sb. I will bring poshmaal and dry fruit thaal for you. :)

    ReplyDelete

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