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, January 19, 2009

Reinventing Character amd Ethics in a Modern Age

Afshana uses the parody of a make-believe princess to drive home a point

(Ms. Syeda Afshana, 35, was born in Srinagar. She attended the Vishwa Bharti High School in Rainawari, Srinagar, and the Government Women's College in Srinagar where she received a B.Sc. degree. She completed her Master's degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the Kashmir University in 1999 and was the Gold Medallist (first position holder) in her graduating class. She is currently a Lecturer in the Media Education Research Centre (MERC) of the Kashmir University and pursuing her doctorate on the role of internet after 9/11.)

Cinderella and Beauty unravel the world of crude realities

Next morning bright
and early as always I awoke.
I saw my parent sleeping.
I thought it was a joke.
Wakeup, wake up! I shouted!
You've slept enough, I'd say.
What year is it? asked Mother.
Same year as yesterday.
We didn't sleep
a hundred years?
The Witch did us no harm?
She couldn't, I said proudly,
'Cause I set the alarm.
Sleepless Beauty
(Viking, 1996)

Cinderella is simpleton. An unlucky girl with disregarded merit and
beauty. She is despised because she is not cunning. She is maltreated
because she is not pretentious. Her step-sisters give her hell and
even get their eyes pecked out by doves out of malice. But Cinderella
endures everything silently until fairies come to her succour and
magic turns wind in her favour. More precisely, it's a magical
windfall and the fairy tale ends. Cinderella lives happily ever after.
Even today fairy tales end on happy notes. One of the most successful
contemporary revisions is Frances Minter's light-hearted Sleepless
Beauty. Written in verse and exquisitely illustrated, it stars a
resourceful Beauty who saves herself and also gets her prince.
This Beauty grows up in a swank Manhattan apartment. After she pricks
her finger on the needle attached to an old time vinyl record player
brought by a witch who crashes her 14th birthday party, she falls
asleep. However, in this tale, Beauty calls the shots.

Beauty writes a thank-you note to the comely rocker whose music helped
her fool the wicked stranger. They meet, and the rest is a fairy-tale

Sleepless Beauty has an interesting crunch in it: the witch is creepy,
the threat is real, and Beauty triumphs romantically in the end. The
whole tale reworks just one popular rendering of Sleepless Beauty – a
sage of many incarnations. Unlike a passive heroine Cinderella, there
is a progressive twist in the character of Beauty who is a 'doer',
subverting traditional scenarios in order to skewer the values that
Cinderella reinforced sometimes back.

This paradigm shift, even in fairy tales, implies many a point. The
foremost is that the world is not same. And it won't be ever. Change
is something inevitable. Cinderella has not died. The fact is that she
is no more wanted. An embodiment of virtues, a paragon of
truthfulness, and a byword of nobility—Cinderella is confined to
archives. Beauty has stolen the march. She is on the stage, glittering
under the flash-bulbs, swaying the world with her bold persona. Yes,
she's bold!! Rather bold and beautiful. No hang-ups, no hesitations;
striking the iron when it's hottest, unmindful about burning of
fingers and carrying the day impudently. This is the quintessence of
Beauty. Witches won't stop her and world she won't leave. Pain she
cannot endure but prince she can entice.

The character of Beauty is all-alluring. Don't think she is 'Revamped
Cinderella'. She is Beauty out and out. No white dress, no long hair,
no golden wings, no magic wand: Beauty is bereft of all such frippery.
She is more or less a playboy. She thinks not of bees and butterflies,
but burgers and burgundy. She dreams not of flowers and fragrances,
but of fads and fans. Reason is her anathema; ardour her manna. Love
is her pet dog; lust her pet toy. She is the fast worker for she knows
the art of fast-talk. Relations matter only when they suffice her
interest. She is faintly amused to see emotions fluttering aimlessly
in the dust. Time is her slave, she rides it like a queen and whips it
like a sturdy horse woman.

Cinderella is antipathic. She is everything save Beauty. Her image
evokes no razzle-dazzle. She has gathered an anachronistic halo. She
is no oil painting but she symbolizes something living, pulsating and
seeing. Small wonder, Cinderella today seems unhappy even as her tale
has been rolled up, long back. She is witness to the pitiful
devaluation of her character. Every aspect belonging to her has met a
steep down slide. Something really seems jinxing Cinderella. Her
spoiled rival Beauty has rendered her a cockshy. People disdain her.
She fails to appeal their ogling eyes and appease their sentimental
loitering. More pathetic is the way she feels sorry about her
generation that has morphed into sheer "also-ran generation."
Perhaps, Cinderella epitomizes something that is never ancient
history. Some characters remain as ever. They don't just represent any
airy-fairy thinking but there is a complete ideology behind them. Mr.
Man Friday of Robinson Crusoe is still a password of loyalty. Dr.
Jekyll and Mr. Hyde still depict the duality inhuman nature. Lucy of
Wordsworth still resonates selfless love. Characters are not mere
contrived creations, they are connatural conceptions. They are born
because they exist somewhere around, and keep existing endlessly with
several changing add-ons.

So, no pink elephants around. Cinderella sans a fairy touch is a jolly
decent girl existing in our tangible, real world in a miniscule
proportion. She is anguished and concerned about us: the one of her
ilk. The truth is that we aren't like Cinderella. We've changed our
roles and we've come a long way since Sleepless Beauty. Even though we
hold on to smiles and songs, dreams and desires, we actually make lots
of hard choices and cry fewer tears. Stolidly oriented, we see nothing
beyond mirrors. We don't deserve Cinderella's concern. She needs not
to feel pity for us. She should value and preserve her tears for some
good cause.

Please Cinderella, don't cry for us!

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