Thank God For Little Pleasures – XIX

Walking hand in hand like old friends.
Sitting together when one gets tired.
Returning when one can’t walk any longer.
At home, together again.
Looking out for each other.
Timetables. Food times.
Medicines.
And making a joke about it all.
But most of all, hearing stories.
From long ago to the last moment.
The wisdom never ends.
No one wants it to.
And then, one is gone.
The stories are left behind.
Like fragrance of flowers.

Grandmothers.
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Trying WordPress

A lot of thinking goes over the WordPress vs. Blogger debate. I have been blogging on Blogger for a little more than a year now. So, now, I think I can check out WordPress, one post at a time. Blogger is infinitely customizable. And there are free widgets and all. WordPress on the other hands offers you a limited number of free widgets.

 

But that is not important as well. What is more important that I come across some excellent Blogger blogs every now and then and that makes me stay there and stop looking around. But lets try this bit out here!

The Fourth Bridge

“Srinagar : The Fourth Bridge, Hari Parbat, and in the distance Kotwal and Harmuk.”

Zaina Kadal, The fourth (of seven) bridges of Srinagar.

Photo from, A Woman’s Life for Kashmir – Irene Petrie (1903)

Zaina Kadal was (in)famous for rumours. The Kashmiri saying “Zaen Kadalich khabar”, (literally, the news of Zaina Kadal) means ‘a rumour’.

The Zaina-kadal, or fourth bridge of the city, used to be the place where false rumours were hatched, but now the news makers have moved to the first bridge, the Amiran-kadal. Though the wise knew that Khabar-i-Zaina-kadal  was false, the majority are not wise, and much misery is caused to the villagers by the reports which emanate from the city.

Walter E. Lawrence – The Valley of Kashmir (1895)

Your Face Booked in Kashmir

Zuckerberg will surely not be happy with the lords of Kashmir. The part-time crusaders of Free Speech will choose to remain quiet on this one. Of course, they will say, Facebook is the main reason why Kashmiris want independence from India. And yes, in case you missed, this splurge in demand for freedom is a recent phenomenon which has caught popular attention only since 2004. (Facebook was launched in 2004, dumb wit).  Till then these Kashmiris were mostly tillers, or even better, living on government salaries under the blessed protection of Indian forces. But the full-time crusaders of free speech will not agree. They might argue, as they have done on previous occasions, that people have (and even if they don’t have – they should have) a right to eat what they want, and wear what they want, and hence by deduction speak what they want to. (It’s elementary, Watson!)
But Facebook is a tricky wall to climb. Here  people don’t dress the way they should. Call themselves by names which are not theirs, and then these little wicked masters, even go on to use proxy servers.Thereby giving out fake web addresses. All this is, of course, against the general spirit of public good. And more importantly goes against all the present, proposed, and future amendments to the Indian Constitution. For as strong as it may appear to be, nationalism is actually a very fragile concept. Just like a certain  kachchi kasam, it breaks with a snap. But some people will not listen. They have a way of imposing in the Indian patriotic utopia which the media and its various puppeteering agencies would like to believe in.
But is it all about free speech in Kashmir? No, its not. People have accepted a censored version of daily communication. There are things which are openly said, like abuses – for example when bus drivers scuffle in Nowhatta Chowk. But, other times even the graffiti is censored. Much like the Interlocutors’ report. But all is well when the English-speaking news-reporters say so. 2011 was written in their books as a peaceful year, as the curfew was not imposed for weeks. Notwithstanding anything that happened in 2010.

On Facebook, under masked faces, they found vent to their aspirations. But it wasn’t all that harmful in the beginning. At first they just filled in random pages with their angst. The administrators were college students or somewhat around. And when the summer of our discontent came, the page owners became lethal. They took up cyber-guns, and launched an online-army against the sovereignty of India. With their Facebook updates they not only endangered public property, but also the  lives of other vocal online activists. They committed such other crimes as telling people in Srinagar what was happening in Sopore, and telling the people of Bandipore about the protests in Baramulla. They were posting pictures of other peoples actions and that was infuriating. They were telling of the murders happening everywhere. The telling was inciting to violence, you see, in a way committing the murder wasn’t. Of course, all murder isn’t violence, especially if you call it national security and cover it under AFSPA. Then it’s national interest. The hawks on English news channels and the crows on Hindi ones retreat into their lairs and look for some issues other than silly human rights ones, leaving some idle people sitting online and a handful of journalists very hoarse. 


Dissent flows like a river, and overflows like a drain. One dangerous, and the other full of trouble. Its foolishness to assume that if you silenced people for long they will never speak. Perhaps, you have not been listening, but people have been speaking all along. And Facebook, was another figure in speech. It only gave vent, it didn’t create the sentiment. Sure, it is an odd way to fight imperialism but who is fighting whom on Facebook? The people against the government – as some would like to suppose, or people against the people – as the comments on any article on Kashmir would show?  Some had hoped that people will lose the plot after the SMS service were banned, but the story continued ever after that. Now after repeated crackdowns on Facebook, the narration is only changing, not dying. What they said on Facebook wasn’t new, it was just hard to ignore.

Winds!

The howling started suddenly. That was the evening of 19thMarch. The light bulbs zipped and were out. As is the norm. Electricity is the first martyr of any weather change in Kashmir.
As at that time it didn’t seem that serious, I hoped the electricity would be restored by 11am next morning. But morning was a long way off. It was the night that was exciting. And since I spent most of it awake, I can tell you something about it.
The wind hadn’t risen till late in the evening. After that it was all about the wind, and nothing else. In our beds we heard the leaves rustle violently in giant gusts of wind. The branches creak and crack. The unsettled birds chirping in displeasure. The gravel being rubbed against the window panes.
 The bucket being banged against the walls.


Next morning wore the look of a violated village. Leaves, twigs and tree branches lay strewn all over. A newspaper had flown in from somewhere. A polythene bag was hanging. A piece of cloth.

By afternoon, someone who had predicted that the wind will stop by 1pm of that day was being told that the wind kept no clocks. The people kept away from the streets. The wind hadn’t died down. People were afraid of falling objects, tree branches and roofs.
The electricity hadn’t still been restored. The wind was still howling. A tree collapsed in the neighbourhood. It must have made a creaking sound when it fell, but of course, no one heard. The wind wouldn’t let us. Nothing rose over the gale. People were already worrying about this newly born qahar.
By evening of next day (March 20th), the wind had reduced in its intensity. But there was no electricity, and with it getting darker no hope of it either. The wind reminded of the snow. Only that this time the Highway was open and we weren’t wrapped up in blankets.

In some other parts of Kashmir the wind blew down houses. It uprooted trees, and created a blank. Those who saw the structures being torn down will tell you that’s what winds do. The blow things out of order. Some people will now be mending their walls. Re-constructing their little forts, their seats of assumed power, to keep any future winds out. But that won’t happen. Nothing stops a pack of cards from crumbling, except, of course, Time. Even the powerful take some time to realise their power.

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Like the Haley’s Comet

February 29 is a good day. Anything may be good if it is to happen only once in 4 years.

As a kid, I used to think how do people born on this day celebrate their birthdays. I know of  people born yesterday, and tomorrow. But none today. It surely sets you apart that your birth anniversary comes only once in four years. Like a smaller version of Haley’s comet, which is seen only once in 75 years. Had I been a mini-Haley’s comet, I would have made a big deal out of it, I am sure. February 29 is in a way a New Year’s eve. It comes to start off a period of four years where we won’t have any 29 Februarys. It’s a beginning of four ‘normal’ years, as distinguished from the one leap year in which it occurs. So shouldn’t people celebrate this? Isn’t this a bigger celebration than January 1st? That will happen every year – this won’t.
Srinagar had a very pleasant day. More so for school kids whose school vacations have been extended. Great going! And also for the boba (old woman),who seemed to have understood the celebratory streak in February 29 and had hence repaired to the roof her houseboat, to enjoy the winter sun. The parting days of wintry sunshine.
Even though there is a prediction for snow on 4thand 5th of March, the winter is now officially over. The two chillas Chillae Kalaan, the major, and Chillae Bachh, the minor – are over. The cold siblings, rest in peace. You were thoroughly enjoyable this year.

For this day, there is only one regret in my heart. I did not have may camera with me (else, I would have surely clicked one of boba) – so there are no pictures to show you of the beautiful sunshine today. You may have to check back on the last post for similar pictures. But when the sky changed hues, in the evening, I was ready to click these. Ah, the bad (and unapologetic) photographer I am!

The sunshine never lasts beyond dusk, but the clouds are more faithful. They stay, in dark and light. Darkening the light, and lightening the dark. Like a patchwork quilt – each patch brings out the hue adjacent to it. Each emphasising the other. Telling us of its importance – that the good and the bad together complete a cycle. February 29, completed itself with all three shades – white, black and the grey. Nature, too, has its own philosophy. It sings its own song.

There are two things especially today of which I am really happy. One is that, and I say it with no less pride, that my driving has improved. A few days ago, I almost, almost killed a puppy. But, of course, it was not my fault. It was his (and frankly, with the canine endemic in Srinagar, most Srinagarites wouldn’t even have minded a dog less in the city – there are just too many of them – but that’s a separate story. I am glad the dog lived). Today I killed none. Far from it. Yay!
The second and more important thing is that being on Twitter finally paid. I found this. It’s an organisation working for spreading literacy. You can read their story here. The Read Aloud Day on March 7 is a brilliant idea. I’d encourage all of you, readers of this blog, to participate. (Perhaps you can start by reading out my blog aloud to all the family, relatives, friends, families of relatives and friends. That would be a good thing to do.) I am participating, and have chosen a wonderful ‘book to read aloud’. A perfect choice, if I may say so myself. So, keep watching this space to stay updated on the book (and dead dogs, if any!).

Also, take some time, to tell me what you are planning to read – if at all anything.