Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Monday, April 7, 2008

True Nostalgia: Recalling When Badamwari Meant More Than Almond Blossoms

Zahid Mohammad takes a trip down the memory lane and remembers a time when Kashmir's beauty meant more than what meets the eye today

(Mr. Z. G. Mohammad, 59, was born and raised in Srinagar. He earned his Master's degree in English literature from the Kashmir University and has completed a course in Mass Communication from Indian Institute of Mass Communication. He is a writer and a journalist who has written for many newspapers, including the Statesman, the Sunday, and the Kashmir Times. He currently works for the Greater Kashmir.)

Badamwari has been resurrected - thanks. I did cry over its death. I sobbed, shouted, bawled and bellowed. Many times, my pen dripped scarlet for its agonizingly gasping and panting for breaths.

I wailed and wept - when I saw the Deviangan - the courtyard of Devi-Sharika, buried under cement concrete. Courtyard of this great Hindu goddess that assumed the form of a giant bird to kill the greatest villain of Kashmir Jalabdev after dropping the ‘massive pebble on him from her beak’was reminiscent of our apathy towards our own well-wisher. I looked at this goddess as a symbol of the great messiah that we have been yearning for to deliver us out of agony and trauma and Like Faiz Ahmed Faiz, and believed one day modern Jalabdev’s would also be buried under the gigantic pebble.

I pitied at the whole crop of our planners that had allowed constructing of a sprawling colony for the Tibetan refugees in the courtyard that has been part of our mythology.

I relived the period of tip-cat, hop-scotch, hide and seek whenever I strolled through the almond orchard on the foothills of Koh-i-maran. I would often feel nostalgic about the roasted water-nut sellers- who then used to be aborigines- a few school dropouts from our school days had also took this occupation at the onset of spring - when this great orchard would be rash with purple and white blossoms. I remember one school drop-out was Abdul Khaliq popularly known as Khaliqa, who lived in Sukalpora about three hundred meters away from this garden. Khaliqa could not make it beyond grade five- more so I believe he bade adieu to the school for the corporal punishment that he often got at the morning prayers from Moulvi Noor-u-Din- theology teacher. I enjoyed watching the water-nut sellers roasting nuts in ‘krasham’ a dried variety of grass. Many times, I sat alongside Khaliqa and fanned the grass with the winnower known in local language as shoup. Searching for two appropriate small stones for crushing the roasted water-nuts in an orchard littered with stones and pebbles was in itself a greater pleasure. Tearing the roasted blackened nuts with teeth and blackening the mouth with different designs would draw giggles from the girls in the garden. Many times we bunked classes to enjoy at the Badamwari festival- this festival was our own version of Basant. Many Romeos would be born in this garden and many romances would blossom along with the blossoming of almonds and majority would end up in melancholies.

I doubt if there ever was a boy who did not blacken his mouth with black-soot of roasted nuts. I would feel nostalgic about the tattoo makers who used to squat in front of the shops of the Hindu priests or on both the sides of hundred step stairs leading to the massive temple on the tail of the hillock. Many Hindu priests or purohits known as Gour had lots of shops at the foothill of the temple dedicated to the goddess Sharika. The shops of Gours had small status of wood and stone of some gods and goddesses in one corner with lit-brass-lamps filled with oil around them. The floor was covered with closely weaved mat (wagu). The would say prayers for the Hindu devotees.

Many Pathans with huge loosely tied turbans sitting on tall stools with a massive painting of wild animals in the backdrop were conspicuous by the huge crowds around them in the beautiful landscape of blossoms. These Pathans used to be quite articulate. They would make a concoction in a huge bowl out of different varieties of dry fruit, some wild herbs, butter and Ghee. Most of these Pathans would then recite a couplet of Dr. Iqbal and started praising their concoctions- they called it an elixir that could cure any diseases. They called it an admixture sent by God for people in the paradise. Then most of his talk would go over our heads- and many times when the Pathans would come to man-woman relations they drew away children from the crowd by sprinkling water on them. This admixture of dry fruits and wild herbs was sold as aphrodisiac. After having seen Pathans selling the concoctions and dry fruit, we would often ape them in schools. It was not only Pathans that put their stalls on the lawns of the Badamwari- many quacks from different parts of India would also be party of the grand spectrum. They were nicknamed as ‘sarfa-doctor’- (snake doctors).

I would be reminded of the reenactment of great royal traditions in the garden. The grand poetic recitation- that one day during an interview with me welled tears in the eyes of Mirza Ghulam Hassan Beig Aarif. I was reminded of the great musical concert. I was reminded of Jawaharlal Nehru coming to watch a variety show in the garden. I was reminded of how Ghulam Muhammad Bakshi beguiled him by introducing some long bearded contractor as Qazi-Shahar.
In its death of Badamwari I saw my childhood fading into the aether. I saw in its Alfred Noyes called, ‘sealing all fountains where the soul could slake its thirst and weariness’. It was like scratching of wounds- a portion of the garden facing the Nageen lake and dried up Pukhrabal was restores. I do not know if this almond orchard that announced arrival of spring in our childhood is ever restored to that pristine glory of yester years or not. I do not if that I do not know if the rebirth of this garden, perhaps laid down by the Moguls- our first colonizers in the recent history does not make us cry ‘April is the cruelest month’. The Naigar- Nagar city in whose bosom Badamwari was laid is undoubtedly painful reminder of our colonization by deceit and the fort atop the hillock a symbol of oppression by the tyrants but even then blossoms in this garden filled our hearts with joy enabled us to work odd our feelings.

While feeling joyous about resurrecting of the garden I do not know why this couplet by Bratcher echoed in my mind: “Why come to this place seeking the living among the dead? He is not here—he is Risen…”

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