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.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Saga of a Contemporary Woman Living an Imposed Lifestyle

Afshana gets personal with a story of a woman bifurcated between within and without

(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.)

Between within & without

"No! I do not understand it.
But what is more important to me is that I understand Dr. Einstein".

One cannot but appreciate this prompt reply of Mrs. Albert Einstein as someone asked her if she understood her husband's theory of relativity. Actually, the woman behind the scientific genius like Einstein was what she was: creative in her own very valuable way. For her it wasn't imperative to decipher the dimensions of sci-logistics, as was the urge to read the mind of a man who was more a precious life-partner to her than a renowned scientist.

It happens that many common people are often more sensitive and understanding than others. Possessing a low-profile, they may not be famous but they are incredibly creative. And this naturally simple fact has been substantiated even by various research studies. A. H. Maslow, Professor of Psychology and a researcher of note in the field of creativity, admits that when he first began to study the subject, he had unconsciously confined creativeness to painters, poets and certain scientists and inventors. Then Maslow met a woman who was uneducated, quite poor, and a full-time housewife and mother. She did not write fiction or dash off new scientific theories. Maslow says that yet she was a marvelous cook, mother, wife and homemaker. With little money, her home was somehow always beautiful. She was a perfect hostess. Her meals were banquets. In all these areas, she was original, novel, ingenious, unexpected, and inventive. And Maslow just had to call her creative.

As far as the grain of creativity is concerned, it is hard to believe that some decades back a knowledgeable critic would have cried out: 'We are in danger of developing a cult of the Common Man, which means a cult of mediocrity'. However, today we seem to be in a jeopardy of nurturing a cult of "Extraordinary Man, or for that matter, Woman" who have a tendency to overdo things in the rush of getting noticed or recognized. This has rendered the concept of creativity crackpot.

In relation to woman, her creativity is linked quite closely to her mind than any external agencies. The more her mind is trained, the more creative she turns out to be. Education, of course, is the best training. But the people who are concerned with the formation and stimulation of women's minds have a recurrent nightmare. They envisage one of their graduates suddenly confronting herself in a mirror at some point of her age.

In college, she had been a first class student. Teachers had praised her prose style, her insights into modern history, her keen grasp of economics and social problems. The question arises as to what she has done with her intellectual skills or, to say, her creativity. The grim answer is: nothing. She has either become a wife or a working woman. Why, she may be asking herself, did she go to college if this was the ultimate object or aim?

This may again smack of a dilemma as inner contradictions are not a new thing for women. On the home front, a woman had to be able to manage children and home. The attempt to play these roles, and at once remain 'feminine' produced its share of conflicts and anxieties. Nonetheless, it wasn't that painful. She had no part to play outside. Today, she is bifurcated between within and without. Consequently, her creative output suffers on both fronts. And this is happening despite the much talked about social, economic and technological changes now in process. The growing mechanization and automation of home can hardly help a woman to live an actively creative outside life. Too many promising professional careers on the part of women wither away at present before their high points have been reached. The woman, who enters a profession and then marries and has children, has to 'interrupt' her career which, in majority of cases, is rarely caught up later. She does not retire, but she resumes in 'piecemeal style'. This obviously tells upon consistent productivity and efficiency in her career.

The moot point, as such, is that if dual responsibilities will face her in the home and in her career (she is already facing them badly), what kind of education will prepare her to lead this 'double life' efficiently? What are the ways that will succour in the fuller exploration of her creative resources with ever-increasing fervour?

It is sad but unarguable fact that most human beings go through life partially aware of the full range of their abilities. In our society, we could do much more than we now do to encourage self-development. We could drop the increasingly silly absurdities dominating our education (this can be done by any educator/teacher on individual level), and devise arrangements for lifelong fruitful learning. Of course, we cannot question the credibility of anything that has been made to stay as infallible and unchallengeable. But if the 'dual-role' of women is now being accepted as something inevitable in our society, we have to chalk out and display alternatives for refuting its logic. And this can be easily done by those engaged in women's education. If the target group is itself addressed, it can be a result-oriented exercise. Educating women properly and then letting them decide for themselves their course of action, is far better than thrusting dictates on them. Compulsion works but only transiently.

Women's minds are one of the major resources for any nation. We should be determined to help them achieve the success they—and, of course, their community—need to make the pursuit of happiness and intellectual satisfaction a realistic goal. Creativity in them ought to be recognized and nurtured through healthy means.

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