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.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Death of Pukhribal

Zahid provides a first-person account

(Mr. Zahid G. Mohammad, 60, 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.)

An Elegy on Pukhribal

It was living through an agony - more agonizing than Mahiwal watching Sohni’s unbaked pitcher dissolving in the waters of the Indus and drowning Sohni screaming and crying for help when a few days back I along with my friends visited my childhood haunt - the Pukhribal and saw it gasping for breaths, sinking and dying.

In my heart of hearts I turned an elegist in the tradition of Thomas Gray and wished to write a powerful elegy on my childhood haunts in an around the beautiful lagoon that once scintillated like the blue diamond in the sunlight and shimmered like golden necklace set with jewels on Mogul Queen’s heaving chest in the moonlit Shalimar garden. I wished to write an elegy to move the stone-hearted to save the legendry lagoon from dying.

Looking at the vanishing Pukhribal in a speeding motorboat was like writing an epitaph on my childhood. As the motorboat pierced its way through the swampy and soggy water ways the memoirs of childhood flashed before my eyes like slide show of just clicked pictures on my computer. It was not once upon a time. It was just yesterday. Yes, just yesterday, I along with my friends almost on all Fridays- then our school remained closed on Friday instead of Sunday and all other holidays in the wee hours gathered at the Khawaja Bazar crossing and chalked out our itinerary for the day. We had many favorite pastimes-cycling, boating and fishing were best of all.

We often cycled to the Chasmashahi garden and Pari Mahal through the bund that started at the Naidyar and ended at the Nishat garden. It used to be a great joy ride- with vast Dal Lake on both the side of this pedestrian mall – it was like crossing an ocean on bicycle. The dipping coots on placid waters, the lone boatman singing Rasul Mir’s love song at high pitch and the fisherman spreading net for catch of the day was full of thrill for us. There were many bridges on the mall but I don’t know why we felt excited on crossing over the hump of the Camel bridge near the Nishat garden much more than other bridges- was our excitement out of our admiration for the architectural beauty of this bridge or it was our imagination of the great desert animal whose picture we had first seen in our English primer while learning the Alphabets. The bridge has now crumbled- and its ruins are a sad commentary on our insensitivity towards our dying heritage.

In our childhood we were as free as migratory birds that visited all lakes and lagoons around my birth burg in great numbers. Those days there were no restrictions on the movement of the natives. No one stopped us from trekking in the alpine lands or hiking on the Zabarwan, none stopped us from cycling to the lost point on the Dara Road. Those days none asked us for proof of being a Kashmiri in deep woods or busy streets- our complexion and language was our identity. The idea of carrying a photo-identity card in the pocket was alien-the only card that we learnt about much later was the library identity card in college… those days we were really as free and fearless as the fish in all our springs— Varnag, Achabal or Sheerbagh.

In summers boating under the canopy of drooping willows through cool and calm water ways was our best past time. Starting our journey through lanes and by lanes amidst vast tracts of green vegetable gardens we reached Naidyar Ghat to hire a small boat- popularly known as Dumbi Nav- from a young boatwomen- we did not know her name but we called her Margret perhaps after some character in a story prescribed in our syllabus. We paid two rupees as charges for two to three hours for the boat and two heart shaped oars. The heart-shaped-oars are used by Kashmir boatman only. I have not seen boatmen in any other part of the world using heart shaped oars. It could be some carpenter with great poetic imagination who has invented this oar that slices through translucent waters like mizrab playing on the santoor. Armed with homemade fishing tackles and bait for the fish we descended into the boat. The sparkling waterway passed through many a Mohallas and of these most important was the Khaoja Yarbal for its great historical relevance to our locality Khoja Bazaar. The waters around the Ghat were the cleanest- In our childhood we were told that there were many springs in this waterway that extended healing touch to the waters near the Ghat.

I and most of my friends were non-swimmers but it was love for the sport of fishing that made us to take the risk of rowing through these water ways to the scintillating waters of Nigeen Lake—for fear of speeding motorboats turning our boat turtle we often preferred to propel our boat along the shores of the lake. Those days the lake was so crystal clear that one could see through its waters, the golden and silver hued fish feasting at weeds at its bottom- I remember we could see their vibrating gills from the surface of the water. Instead of moving into the main lake we always choose to anchor our boat under shade of Chinars near the beautiful blue lagoon of Pukhribal that abounded in fish. Sometimes we moved further towards Amda Kadal for a bigger catch- and we were never disappointed, we often returned home with a bagful of fish. I and my friends had never imagined this lagoon panting for breaths in our life time. Seeing my Pukhribal dying was as good as a lover sitting by the side of deathbed of his beloved offering nothing but tears.

I was shocked – shell shocked when I was told that the waterway from Khoja Yarbal to Naidyar had breathed last- I could do nothing but sob for the Margret – and a friend who once lived in Naidyar- sorry cannot write even an elegy for my childhood haunts.

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