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.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Indomitable Kashmiri Spirit

At 80, smiling Mala Begum sells vegetables

A story of real woman emancipation

Baramulla: Kishore Nahid, a veteran Pakistani feminist poet once wrote – Joote Baichte, Moze Baichte – Aurat Mere Naam Nahi Hai.

She was a feminist, a strong advocate of women emancipation but couldn’t approve the vulgar exhibition of women.

She wanted women to be independent, strong and self made and Kashmir Images finds her ideal on a Baramulla street.

Will and determination can’t be cowed down by the age and that is what this 80-year-young lady from Baramulla is all out to prove.

Mala Begum, 80, sells vegetables on Baramulla streets from past 40 years. Rain and sunshine; curfew and strikes; encounters and grenade blasts – nothing has ever stopped her.

In the busy market of old town Baramulla, Malla Bagum, hardly bothers about complexity of modern life and does her business without any inhibitions and reservations.

The only thing she is concerned about – how many buyers she will get – she means business, strictly so.

Yes, she has compulsions, domestic, to get her out on street everyday but she has no regrets. “I earn for my household respectably and that is what matters at the end of the day,” she told Kashmir Images.

In comparison to the ‘semi-nude’ models being brand ambassadors of several items, Mala represents the women emancipation in real way. And at the same time her presence on the streets mocks at the diseased Talibanized ideology who want woman to be just the second fiddle shrouded in veil.

She doesn’t want to be dependent. She stands on her own feet and earns respectably to run her household.

“I have been selling vegetables from last forty years to earn my livelihood as I have a large family to feed including six daughters. I have to feed them and have no option but to work,” said Malla Begum, having no regrets because working at this age gives her a confidence that she ‘is the best.’

Malla Bagum's dedication and determination towards her work is visible from her comfy face as she gorgeously deals with every customer. Her work not only provides her satisfaction but she feels proud to be a street vendor as she had to fulfill needs of family.

“For me, work is worship,” she said, adding, “I feel proud to be an earning hand in this age. And it seems nice to work."

Like Malla Begum, there are dozens of women who are selling vegetables at different street of Baramulla market. While some women are selling vegetable out of compulsion of life to make their both ends meet, some of these women have inherited this job and have been doing it happily.

Sadri Bagum, 50, another vegetable vendor said, "My mother used to sell vegetables here, since she died I took over. My husband is a farmer. This is our ancestral job and I feel happy to do it."

(Kashmir Images)

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