Monday, July 7, 2014

The Big Bores


The garden dividing A and B blocks was decked up like a gaudy bride. Twinkling fairy lights, tied and twisted over potted plants and tallish trees, blinked into the cool December haze. Chairs had been laid out in a crescent shape under the jamun tree. A sprinkling of idle chatter and laughter enveloped the late evening air.
To prevent the mud from dirtying bare feet, and the ladies' high-heeled stilettos sinking in, a thick cotton rug had been laid on the ground. Smell of rose incense and aromatic foods permeated the thick winter chill.
'You call this chilly? Baap re. What would you do in Kashmir then?'

'Why don't you just put a rubber stamp on your forehead? Kedar suggested. 'Razdans, the bores from Kashmir, that way you won'y have to announce it over and over again. In Kashmir this, in Jammu that. Arabian Sea is like toilet water when you compare it to Dal lake, the air in Mumbai is like breathing poisonous gas…'

Kedar was sick of Mrs Razdan's rants. He had spend the last fifteen minutes in that corner behind the table. and in spite of his resolution not to be rude to elders, he found he couldn't help himself. He walked off with a flourish, hitching up his trousers and jabbing his fingers int he air, rapsta style. The New Year was a few weeks away, by then he would have got his act together, he promised himself. Besides wasn't it rude to be as boring as the Razdans? Actually, he decided, as he sauntered off, their boringness had been far worse than his rudeness, so all in all, it was okay.

~ Swapnalok Society: The Good News Reporter (2009) by Suchitra Krishnamoorthi, fiction for young teens about the way television news works. The story is based around happening in a Mumbai urban society where a Kashmiri Pandit family also lives.

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The new crop of Kashmir Pandit immigrants have been in living in these urban settings, away from Kashmir, for more than twenty years now. It's only natural that we ought now be part of stories coming from these urban centers. Stories which do not revolve around Kashmir and in which a Bhattni just pops up as one of the characters. (It is kind of funny that the clearest example of it should have some from the mind of someone who gave us pop-hit 'Dole Dole; in year 1995 [youtube]).

Mixed Housing societies have always been good theme for 'Indian Stories'. We find them in writings of Salman Rushdie and in cinema of Sai Paranjape. The stories often suffer from usual racial stereotype syndrome: Gujrati goes 'Kemcho', Tamil goes 'Aiyyo', old Parsi goes 'Dikra', Marathi doesn't go 'Bokmay', Punjabi doesn't go 'Pencho', Sardarji goes 'Peg lagao' and now Kashmiri goes...'Kashmir ye...Kashmir wo'...which of course is boring. 

Yes, we are big bores. Kashmir consumes us. Our world revolves around Dal Lake, Jammu is our moon and Srinagar Venus+Mars. Odd that we can write tomes about a world we no longer inhibit but barely acknowledge the ground beneath our feet. 

The new immigrant Pandits literature still revolves around Kashmir and not about characters living 'Jamna Paar'. Jaman Paar does not exist. Perhaps it would take us another decade to start writing about the 'Indian' characters as we see them. Then maybe we would have some more boring stories to tells.

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