Tuesday, May 26, 2015



A Shepherd with his livestock near Ganderbal , kashmir 
( Photo Autar Mota )



 .  (Kulcha being baked in Tandoor)
                              ( The Cake)

I am talking of a period that could be before 1947 when life had its limited demands in Kashmir.

‘ Kam khyon gum na hyon ’
 ( Eat less why worry unnecessarily)
 ‘ Yemiss na garie maelli taemiss kyaa maelli parie’
 (He who can not get it in his hometown, what shall he get in faraway places? )
 These phrases were coined by Kashmiris to justify their complacency,  immobility, refusal to accept change and the strange sense of self-satisfaction that prevailed in the valley. Apart from the section of the people engaged in ordinary trade or petty jobs, all activities of the remaining locals revolved around Shaali (rice ), Kangri, Haak vegetable and of course religion.
 A Kashmiri was always indifferent to mobility and as such suffered. He moved only when driven to the wall or when all other options closed for him. Isn’t it a fact that those who moved out during devastating floods, famines, cholera epidemics or suppression, moved to a better life ultimately?
Unbelievable but true, a Kashmiri possesses enormous survival instinct that remains unseen in his native land. In his native land, he remains a victim of a clogged thought process that he may be forced to acquire.
 If we look at the Muslims who moved to Amritsar, Ludhiana, Lahore and other cities for various reasons in the 19th century and thereafter, we find that these groups gradually moved to a better life. From this group, Dr Iqbal, Sadat Hassan Manto, Nawaz Sharif, Saif ud din Kitchloo, Actor Nawab Kashmiri, Playwright Agha Hashr Kashmiri, Poet Lyricist Sufi Tabassum, wrestler Rustam e Hind Ghulam Mohammad Gama Pehlwan, Urdu Poet Meeraji ( Mohammed Sanaullah Dar) and many more names instantly come to my mind.

And If we look at the Pandits who moved to the plains of the country and settled at  Allahabad, Lucknow, Delhi and other cities, we find them moving to prosperity and better life gradually. Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, Kailas Nath Katju, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, P N Haksar, Pandit Brij Narain Chakbast, actor Jeevan, actor Sapru and so many names come to my mind immediately.
This prosperity was possible due to better avenues of modern education, access to the avenues  of employment , proximity to means of production and distribution coupled with resilience and a great survival instinct.

Due to lesser interaction with the outside world at large, we Kashmiris probably lived in our own world and developed some traits that were area-specific and environment-specific. We were a gentle and simple lot. Despite our strong religious beliefs, there was something that a Kashmiri lacked. Many Europeans who came closer to Kashmiris have observed and commented that when the action was desired of him, a Kashmiri would shy away ( ‘ Thhaav third or mey thhovuss treathh meaning’ ‘ Runaway or I sneaked out ) to such an extent that inaction, unresponsiveness and casualness became a trait of his character. ‘Vasvaas’ and "Hai hey" was our typical trait. In no language, the world over you find an exact equivalent to word Vasvaas ( originally derived from Urdu word Vasvsaasa) as it means in Kashmiri. Maybe at the back of our mind, insecurity always loomed its large shadows. There is a historical background to this settled and now DNA ingrained insecurity in us. We believe in ‘Khabar chhaa’ meaning  ‘who knows what is going to happen?’ That makes us buy in kilograms what others buy in grams. I have seen, in my own family and also in the families of some close relations,  an irresistible habit of stocking and storing rice, edible oil. spices and other provisions. They continue to do so even in plains of the country. No one will agree to a change from this ‘Khabar chhaa ’mindset.

My Australian friend, who stayed in Kashmir for some months and picked up another interesting trait of our character. I quote him :

‘ You can never expect a clear ‘No’ from a Kashmiri for something that he can not do. His okay is always casual and never means a committed ‘Yes’  .For some job that is apparently full of issues and problems, he would give a stock reply ‘ No problem sir. Why do you worry? ‘ Sometimes he would say, ‘  No worry Sir. I am still alive.’ I wish he stood by these commitments that he made to all and sundry.’

This observation was largely true. We tend to respond this way only. This could also be due to a sincere desire to help others without understanding our capacity,  limitations and freedom. I can't say much.

'Hataa ma kur vaen zyaada, votta a voth -- Pushraav khodaayuss ’ meaning ‘ Now don’t make more efforts. Pass it on to Almighty ‘ and ‘ Talaa beh chhopp karithh – vaen guvv sorooi Bagvaanus hawaala karun ’  meaning ‘ Now you sit without efforts. Entrust it to almighty God '. These phrases were a part of our day to day life in Kashmir. To analyze them carefully, we need to break each phrase into two parts. One being ‘Pushraav khodaayuss ’ and ‘Vaen Guvv sorooi Bagvanus hawaala ‘  No issue with this part. This is quite natural and acceptable . I have my issues with the other parts ‘ Hataa ma kur vaen Zyaada vottt a voth ’and ‘Talaa beh chhopp karithh.’ Were not these statements anti initiative meant to stop a person from making some efforts himself? A hint towards complacency and avoidance of initiative and effort.

We had another serious problem and complex as city dwellers. When it came to Gaamuk or a villager's issue, a city Pandit and Muslim from the city would join together to make fun of a poor villager. ‘Kolla gaameikkya’ or ‘Gaama Groos ’ was a taunt that the villager had to face should there be any argument with a city dweller. Kashmiris ( Pandits in specific ) would hesitate in marrying their daughters to a villager even if he may have been well settled or better employed. ‘ Kyaa sa kashiri gayaa kaah garaa ta khaanmaej ditchvun gaam kun’ meaning ‘What happened? Are there only eleven households in the city that you have married this darling daughter to a villager .’

We were the best gossip mongers and derived pleasure by mocking simpletons and at times even insane persons which in local parlance was known as Garmaavun. Garmaavun meant to tease or mock or laugh at a person till he breaks down. Those who lived in Rainawari shall stand by me when I say how people dealt with a poor and insane Ghulam  Mohammad. As he moved through Bazars and lanes, people would cry “Takka Addij’  or ‘Takka the bone’, a nickname given to him. The poor fellow would turn violent, pick up a stone and shower nastiest abuses. A crowd of onlookers would collect to watch all this. They would giggle, smile and entertain themselves.
 We were also masters in inventing nicknames and experts in lampooning people. As a group, we could be fine onlookers to any misfortune or tragedy should it visit others. I have personally seen many Pandits and Muslims hanging around a bridge enjoying, provoking and witnessing poor Haanjis ( boat people ) engaged in a typical verbal dual or fight. Crowds would rush to enjoy what they called 'Haanz -Ladaai 'or ‘fight of boat people ’. Together they would giggle, smile and enjoy as a group over the bridge while the poor Haanjis fought for hours below.

And This ‘Tamaashbeen ’ trait was also demonstrated during frequent fires that erupted in Kashmir in the last quarter of the 19th century or the first quarter of the 20th century. Crowds would come to a house on fire and take comfortable seats away from the heat and smoke. They were excited and would go to witness these fires as if they were going to a cinema hall for a movie. They would look to what was happening around with cries and thrill.
 I quote Tyndale Biscoe from the book ‘ Tyndale Biscoe In Kashmir - An Autobiography ’:-

‘ I was teaching in my class in the top room overhanging the river when I heard a bugle call. Looking up, I saw a figure on the roof of a house some half-mile away. I asked my boys what it meant and they replied that the policeman was warning everyone that a house was on fire. The boys not being interested went on with their writing. Within minutes I saw now flames and smoke rising from the same house. I ordered the Boys to stop writing and come with me to help at the fire, But they said that they had nothing to do with it and they wished to continue with their lessons. I then took action and drove them out of the classrooms into the street. When we arrived there, we found that scores of citizens had already taken seats at every available place to enjoy themselves at an entertainment for which they would have nothing to pay. As flames spread from one house to another, they seemed highly delighted shouting ‘ Hurrah! ’
 Thank god, Everything has changed now. This has been possible with the spread of education and revolution brought by Information Technology. The Kashmiri character has also undergone a metamorphosis towards development.
 Young Kashmiris hailing from Pandit and Muslim families are now venturing out for better education and employment. I find them going up and up the ladder in all fields. They are focused, honest and sincere and accordingly much needed by the employers globally. They are visible in the sunrise IT sector, medicine, media, cinema, sports, administration and the new business enterprises.
 A Kashmiri is an acknowledged competitor now, a fierce one in any arena across the globe.

(Avtar Mota )

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CHINAR SHADE by Autarmota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.
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