Jan 30, 2013

Train to Qazigund

It was Sunday and an idea of captivating the break to visit south Kashmir in the local passenger train poured into my mind. So I rolled up my sleeves, took my peers along and moved on. 

It was a fine morning although cold but sunny enough to make it pleasant. Although I have traveled by train outside Kashmir many times but it was my maiden train trip in Kashmir. Perhaps the only reason for my excitement was to travel in an environment that is colored in snowy white unlike outside Kashmir and draw the comparisons.   

While I was standing along with my peers at the Srinagar Railway station, my mind was imagining the past experiences and doodling the two scenarios that looked quite complementary.  

The Srinagar Railway platform looked quite appealing and clean as compared to the shabby ones outside the valley that are usually filled with half-naked “sadhu babas”, beggars and the waste. The announcement about the train’s arrival was made and in a while I could squinty see a short truncated train approaching closer. It was a surprise to see a small four-coach train that adjusts people manifolds its seating capacity.

Well, the train started moving after a while with its whistle blowing louder as if saying good-bye to the few people standing by and wakening up others. The train that I assumed to be unoccupied was flooded with people as passengers started getting multiplied. Although the train was filled to its fullest, the breathtaking landscape and snowy village fields outside were good enough to entertain me. Otherwise I had to plug-in my earphones in order to kill my time and facilitate a good slumber in presence of strange annoying sounds of chuckling, barking, bragging, backbiting, gabbing and fighting.

As I looked through the window, a giant striking outline of the sun in the east amidst the snowy white fields was giving the gloomy wintry flora a solid color complexion.  Enchanting villages with young lads playing hide and seek behind the outsized heap of pasturage was presenting the scenario of some old black and white Hindi movie being played on my train window as the screen.

The pleasant panorama outside the train window reminded me of the ugly scenes when I used to travel in Indian Railways. I vividly remember how I was always taken aback after looking through the window to rejoice some scenery outside. It was either some filthy fouling crap or poor people looking for a space to excrete away their last night meals. Zounds!

Moving on, as our train reached Pampore, the aroma from the saffron felids filled the air with a heavenly fragrance. Again, I recomposed my previous fouling experiences outside Kashmir. My Goodness, what a terrible smell used to fill the air at some junctions. It smelled worse than the worst thing I had ever smelled. Even more disgusting part was the scene presented by the graffiti on the walls outside and the hoardings advertising the “aphrodisiac curatives” with weird names like Dr.Bengali, Japani Teel... Yuk!! 

The last comparison was something that underlined my whole trip as out of ordinary. It was like transcending from one age to another...BANG!! Both the environments were totally opposite; the passengers, their opinions, their dressings and their behavior, it was all poles apart.  On one side the crowd in the Kashmir train consisted mainly of the riffraff Kashmiri faces; Women veiled in purdah and young village teenyboppers imitating their favorite Bollywood icons with their spiky hair flooded in hair-gel…Ha-ha. On the other hand the Indian Railway crowd was more diverse starting from the “bihari” guys, “Sophisticated” elites, the ladies who lunch, dudes carrying hi-fi gadget, potbellied uncle-jees, Sari wore women and young lads carrying the newbie love novels, the “Chetan Bhagat stuff”.

The Kashmir train was airing familiar sounds of diverse Kashmiri lingos; the south accent, the north and the city.  The Indian Trains, however, puffed my ears with Punjabi, Hindi, Haryanvi, Bihari and what not. Almost all tangled with some abusive adjectives. There were also the sounds of people trying to anglicize their English speaking accent to sound more pompous...Huh! I felt uneasy; both the times.

On the whole it was a journey full of drama, excitement, action and fun. And later when I reached back home, I rested myself in my room, staring at the ceiling while looking amazed and recollecting my experiences in order to find answers to my bewilderments that are still puzzled!!

Jan 26, 2013

Of Indian Republic Day and Kashmir

Today it’s the Republic day of India, a great zealous day for the “Largest democracy in the world”. But for Kashmir, it’s not just another holiday; it is the day of intuitive tensions, annoying frisking and no work. 

Well I, like my other peers, have grown up in the turmoil-ridden streets of Srinagar where most of childhood was shackled in concertina wires and trampled under Jackboots. I have smelled the smoke of shells and my ears are familiar with the deafening roar of guns. My poor vocabulary is well versed with terms like curfew and crackdown. Each chaotic day that I have survived has now turned more into a routine and hence habitual. But this day, the 26th of January has always been special, out of the ordinary 364 days of the year.  

As I vividly remember, as a child #26Jan was more like a D-day for me and my peers. I was a kid and any opportunity to rejoice was always welcoming for me.  I was never curious to celebrate the day as a proud Indian but I was more curious to watch the special republic day parade on TV. Although I am not a keen viewer of that pomp and show anymore but I clearly remember how the TV program presented the long-winded cavalcade of Indian pride bragging about their huge imported ammo and the rich cultural diversity(that I really appreciate).  The Arjun Tank, Bheem and other Hindi stuff sounded huge to my little mind.Huh!

Like my Kashmiri brethren, I too was confined to my home only to watch that special TV program followed by a reel of patriotic Bollywood movies that programmed my tender brain and fed it with an engineered affection towards the Indian Nation and definitely hate towards neighboring Pakistan.

Following the cavalcade of the different Indian States, I always glued myself to the TV set, desperate enough to get a glimpse of my home, Kashmir. I am not really sure if the actors dressed in pheran and dancing on the Kashmiri tunes were Kashmiris in real. But the way they imitated the various Kashmiri activities seemed amusing. It was always about the pashmina shawls, dancing damsels and houseboats. But Kashmir is lot more promising I believe.

Period! Time has changed and hence “their” policies. I am a grown up now and so have “their” ways of confining me and other Kashmiris to their homes. Now they welcome our 26th Jan morning by blocking our mobile phone and internet signals in the name of "National security". I reason they fear the tweets that bombard their image and devastate their reputation. They fear the black banners that flood the social networking sites eating up their pride. 

Although the new policies have been engineered wisely but some old ones still persist. The Republic day parade and “Desh-Bhakti” movies still flood the Indian TV world the whole day only to add to the boredom of a common Kashmiri, myself included.

Now if I wish to move out and rejoice the holiday with my peers, I am asked for my Identity and frisked to such a level that surpasses the highest level of annoyance.  The frisking and other “security” measures are beefed-up a week ago heralding the coming of an unwelcoming day in Kashmir. As such the streets look null and void except a pack of streets dogs and Indian Soldiers patrolling the deserted nowhere.  

The same episode follows on and on and iterates every year on 26th of January. At the end of the day when the celebrations in India are over and people start moving back happily to their homes, Kashmir is let free to speak, mourn, shout, cry and tweet. And now when I am sharing all this I feel as if a curfew relaxation has been declared in Kashmir only to make my mobile phone breathe again and my brethren take a sigh of relief until the next R’ day arrives. Till then I am suggested to keep bombarding my tweets!!

By the way #HappyRepublicDay to my Indian folks.

Jan 21, 2013

Gaw Kadal Massacre : A deafening silence!!!

Snowy Streets bruised white and grey
Muddy houses smelling too aged

As the walkers beat the beaten path
A rusty board speaks the pain

The board is illegible for the blind at heart 
Only few can see what the cipher means

Pause a while, It heralds a sign
#GawKadalMassacre is what it reads

21st January One Nine Nine Zero
A bloody holocaust casts its shadow

The vale was in peace and the people smiling 
Alas! A boss came in, to rule the inmates

An army was built overnight
Reddening the snow that once was white

Men, Young and old, bruised blue while women shrouded alive.
Streets were packed with anger and cries.

Angry men took to streets and spoke for the right
Dared the bullets that filled the skies

Machine guns showered the deafening rain
Silencing all the voices that reverberate

A young man came like a Godsend brave
Jumped over the gun that roared the most

Digesting all the bullets, the unsung hero
Saved his brethren from the killing ammo 

Bang! All ran for survival and 52 dead
Trucks loaded martyrs, Jhelum engulfing the rest

The aftermath was ugly as it changed the maps
People were dead but the rebellion born

Behold! This is no cock and bull story
It is an episode that needs an ear

Lo! Time changes and so do we
As nothing in the sphere is stationary

People come and go and least remembered
Inscribing and exploiting, to earn a name

I dream and write but to no avail
A lame duck in the land of stool pigeons, that’s what I am

Illustration Of Gow Kadal Massacre by Abdul Basit.


Sometime back I visited a friend in Gow Kadal, one of the archaic parts of old Srinagar. The place is more famous for another reason, the bloody episode called as #GawKadalMassacre that took place on 21st Jan, 1990.

As I walked through the intricate busy streets of Basant bagh, across Gow Kadal Bridge towards Habba Kadal, an old rusty board hung at one of the wooden poles in memory of GawKadal Martyrs attracted my attention. It read some urdu text that was hardly legible because of the rust and deformation. And once I inquired from my friend who lives nearby, I was acquainted that the board was a placeholder to the memories of GowKadal Massacre. The text was old as were the memories of the gruesome day.

The small board although barely visible left an indelible mark on my heart, growing my curiosity. I explored about the massacre that consumed more than 50 innocent lives.

I munched down over a dozen important pieces previously written on the same subject. Believe me it is not an easy task to read something again and again that makes you feel not only sad but discomforts your soul to screech out the deafening wail. Reading the disheartening compilations about the massacre, I couldn’t stop myself to pen-down my sadness or should I say my anger, that was boiling to vent out since I started to read the first piece. It seemed as if an ugly gulp of bloody imaginations was stuck at my throat, hard to swallow and even more hard to digest. I couldn’t, so I vomited out my feelings on paper.

#GawKadalMassacre is believed to be the first massacre following the rebellious uprisings in Indian Administered Kashmir that consumed more than 50 innocent lives.

I cannot narrate in anyway the real pain of my brethren about how they were massacred on the fateful day. My poor perspective can never have that mountainous courage to carry the sufferings of #GowKaddalMassacre and what followed. I could only lament over my past and my present helplessness. In the least terms, I could only weave the gloomy imaginations into the form of this poem.