Thoughts on Kashmir

 
I tend to start my day opening the paper, idly scanning the headlines, and perhaps reading in depth about various ongoing turmoils in certain pockets of the world. I usually read Yahoo news or BBC to get my daily dose, and then open local papers to ascertain what’s going on at home.

Of late the dominating news has been of Syria , the onslaught of terror, death, and misery overtaking a land seeking to realize itself. The world is aware of their struggle.

If, by some chance, Kashmir may grace the headlines, it is only because of some natural disaster that’s occurred or an avalanche, nothing beyond that. We’ve no importance aside from that. We’ve nothing to show for ourselves. We’re simply playthings in Nature’s hands. Is this how we want to be remembered?

Look, I’m not asking for us all to take up arms and hit the streets. I’m not saying we should desecrate and destroy what meager infrastructure we’ve managed to form these decades past. All I’m asking for is a little open-mindedness, a breath of fresh air in our views, an interest in our surroundings.

You tell me that it’s easy for me to say all these things, nestled away from the constant chaos that has come to depict a once serene valley. You’re right. But I’m still advocating for a massive revolt and change whenever I can, be it through words, pictures, videos, or slogans. I’m simply trying to set afire the dulling senses of my generation. So much is done to add friction to our efforts. Media, gossip, what have you– they all attempt to sway us on a daily basis.

Television and internet has taken an interesting toll on our youth. It’s given a vast majority of them exposure to the outside world without their ever having left home. But I want to impress the importance of not forgetting that many of the incidents portrayed on the silver screen are not things one should emulate. Too oft do I hear sewer-worthy swear words and curses streaming out of the mouths of children who should instead be reciting their times tables. What is it about these filthy phrases that becomes so attractive? And do those who utilize them realize their actual meanings? You’d think one could find better traits to pick up on, such as recycling, than this kind of trash.

I’ll be quite frank with you. Sometimes I wish that I wasn’t Kashmiri. Sometimes I wish that instead, I had been born in a different country, a free land, one in which I could have pride. I recall in school the level of patriotism others showed on our annual Cultural Day, the flags waved, the songs sung. I participated under the saffron and green that currently flutters above us, and struggled to get my tongue to recite the difficult lines of its national anthem. My heart broke on numerous occasions throughout that night, and for many nights following it. Why was I so unfortunate? Why could I not belong to an emancipated people?

During FIFA or cricket cups, when all have a country to root for, I’m left at a loss. For once I wish I, too, could have tears well in my eyes upon seeing my fellow countrymen accomplish great feats. I wish that I could pray with all my heart for my team to win, and truly mean it, for those on the field to be of the same soil as I. Seems kind of silly, doesn’t it? But it’s the little things that hurt the most.

I also wonder on occasion if India really wants us. Delhi street vendors treat me like a foreigner, Kolkata park services charge me as one. What has the largest democracy in the world to gain from tying down this nation? Sure, there are many others in Hindustan that are asking for a separate state of their own. Perhaps the fear of a potential spark that sets a fire from Srinagar through Punjab, across Mizoram and into the entire north east of India is why we’re tied down. But is it not selfish of India , hypocritical even, to tell of the feats and glories of its fight against the oppressive rule of a foreign hand, all the while doing one and the same to numerous innocent individuals?

A lot of people tell me that I’m wasting my time, that what I’m saying is of no use. No one’s listening, they say, these ideas of yours are not applicable to our situation. Be that as it may, I’d rather toil to broaden one person’s horizon than be subjugated to yet another ignorant mind. Small steps are all we need to get started.

I get it what you’re thinking. This little American girl thinks she can just waltz into Srinagar , point out the defects in the government, the people, the politics, and then just run away to her sheltered and privileged lifestyle abroad. I’m not going to deny that I grew up in a developed country which offered many amenities that Kashmir still lacks, but at the end of the day, I knew where I came from. As much as I tried to assimilate with the other Indian or Pakistani kids in my class, there was always a gap that would instantly be filled upon attending some Kashmiri function or another. My heart would warm on hearing the typical koshur kath-bath, getting hugged to death by seemingly frail elderly ladies, and eating around a tram crammed with my favorite foods.

I don’t want to seem like some pariah in my own land. Sure, my Kashmiri’s not flawless. Sure, my Urdu sucks too. But why does that have to get in the way of what I’m trying to say and do? I’m appealing to you, my generation, my fellow brethren. Make a difference in how we are perceived. Strive to create change.

Don’t flirt with time by putting off what you can do today. Don’t complicate your life with lies, deceit, and gossip. Just make a plan, set some goals, and go about your way to achieve them. Speak up when you see something that needs correcting. Fear not the gaze of an authority with no might beyond the gun on their shoulder, or the club in their hand.

Innumerous heads of states from great lands and even U.N. officials routinely visit India , naturally casting only a sliver of a glance towards us, the burning people with a soon to be non-existent past. But we have now in our hands the keys to our freedom. The whole world should watch the atrocities that are systematically being dealt to us. We should link arms in our battle for justice. Social networking has so much to offer us besides chatting with friends. It allows us to spread the truth, to upload pictures, to share videos. It allows us to interact with a variety of people from all corners of this Earth, to tell them of our tale of woe. We must use this all to our advantage.

Let’s take a hypothetical stance for a moment. Let us assume that the ongoing turmoil between India tugging one way, Pakistan pulling another, and our own government going in circles continues. Then what? Will we never allow our children to know of a better environment? Or, instead, why cannot we make use of our shabby surroundings by shaping up our attitude towards it. Why not, rather than waiting for political puppets to get around to doing something, bring about what we want by our own works? The cost for many of these feats will be great, no doubt. But successful lobbying and pooling of resources would help us in the end.

Imagine hospitals with state-of-the-art facilities, schools with affordable tuitions and excellent education, streets paved and litter-free. Why must we rely on others to do these things for us? India packs thousands of rupees into Jammu to develop it. We turn down such offers as a matter of pride. But what pride do we have left? Hovels can be found in many an area that was once the height of posh living. This is our ticket forward, a means of progressing towards something.

Tourism in the land is ideal for increasing cash flow. But what person in their right mind would want to honeymoon in a city of dung-filled lanes and polluted waters? Forget the nuisance of dogs, what of the cattle, sheep, and goats that leave steaming piles of excrement wherever they please? People outside of the South Asian region should come to know of Kashmir again, but as the beauty it was once hailed as, not as what it currently is. These are the things that we can change; these are the things that will wrought a difference amongst how we are perceived.

There is no hard and fast rule on the solution of Kashmir . In the end, a multitude of factors will come into play. We have to be ready for anything, and the only way we may do so is if we first build a secure foundation beneath us.

 
(The author can be contacted at www.koshur.weebly.com)