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.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Uniquely Kashmiri

Kangri is an old and trusted heat source especially when electric power is intermittant


Farzana Syed (Kashmir Images)

Kashmiris have their own way of fighting the bitter cold of winter. It is a traditional fire pot called Kangri. In absence of up-to-the-mark electric supply and in the lack of comfortable supply of kereosene oil and LPG, the people here are forced to go back to Kangri that may be hazardous to their health but is the only way to protect them from the bitting winter cold.The valley of Kashmir is famous in theworld not only for its picturesque beauty but also for its rich traditions and culture.

Kangri (firepot) is one such name that forms an important part of Kashmiri culture and is a unique cultural identity of the valley. Kangri is the easiest and cheapest way to keep warm in the chilling cold of Kashmir. As the winter season has knocked at the doors, huge stocks of Kangri's can be seen in the markets and busy streets these days. In earlier period's Kangri used to be the only alternative available for the people to protect themselves from the chilling winters of Kashmir.

With the onset of winters the Kangri sellers have displayed their stocks in the markets and shops as this is the main season that fetches them bucks for earning livelihood and the people can be seen purchasing Kangris. "We are in the profession of making Kangris for decades. My grandfather used to make and sell Kangris and now the tradition has passed on to me" says a Kangri seller Nazir. Kangri is made from the dried twigs of willow trees and a round earthen pot inside which fire is put. The willow twigs are skillfully twisted around the round shaped earthen pot in such a way that it gives the appearance of a woven thing.

Kangris are also available in different varieties & designs and their price is fixed accordingly. The small, beautifully designed Kangris are also used as decorative items not only in Kashmir but also in other states and countries. "Types of Kangris also vary as per their strength and durability viz charari kangri, bandipuri kangri .These are some famous types and are always in demand," says Khursheed, a Kangri seller in Shehre Khas. "It is not every body's cup of tea to weave a special designed and strong Kangri, it takes a lot of skill and hardwork. We make specially designed Kangris on orders from our customers. These are specially used during marriages" he adds.

With the advent of other sophisticated alternatives like gas heaters, blowers etc the use of Kangri has reduced to some extent which indeed has affected its sales. "Nowadays there are many other alternatives available to keep warm in winters and these are preferred more than Kangris. This has definitely had a negative impact on our business" says Nazir. "But for a poor man like me Kangri is the only option" he says. Despite the availability of many other alternatives Kangri remains a favorite in all Kashmiri homes and has still maintained its own presence.

"I think it is not possible for a common Kashmiri to spend winters without even thinking of Kangri. It is a sort of feed for winters and it has its own charm" says Shameema, a local woman. Though there are many alternatives to survive from this chilling season enjoying the snowfall with Kangri inside the pheran holding a mug of hot tea in the hands has an incomparable charm.

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