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, September 9, 2009

An Ode to Teachers

Afshana salutes teachers on the Teacher's Day

(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.)

Teachers are the architects of our future

Monotony. Mundane. Drabness. Dullness. What else could it be? I was thinking on my way to start another day of routine. I will go, shut myself in a room and read till the time to enter the classroom arrives. Besides, some boring ‘visitors’ will drop in; a few ‘compulsive talkers’ will ruin my time. And many ‘trivialities’ will drag me in. Exhausted, I will be back home like a dead log. The picture of the whole day was already encrypted in my mind.

However, this day I was proven absolutely wrong. All my ‘notions’ tossed down miserably. To start with, I received some beautiful smses that read ‘I Am Proud To Be Your Student’, followed with many more, throughout the day. Some charming thoughts and reflections crammed my day. It was a pristine joy. I was not knowing it was My day…Teachers’ Day!

I felt my class bubbling with a strange mood. Some of my students were smiling, and a few were sneering. I couldn’t help but to reciprocate equally. After a long time, I was sensing an interior bliss. I picked a strong reason to live and love life. My future was before me: a few bright brains, shining faces, dreamy eyes, hopeful wishes, happy appearances… I was taken aback by this discovery. How and why I miss it, at times—the query lurked me regretfully. I was recapitulating my own student days…

They say teachers dwell in some far-distant heaven. Even the most plain and down-to-earth, too. All their expertise and dedication captures our naïve imagination, heightening the aura of our worth. Eventually, that admiration returns as we embrace what our teachers have given us and it serves as the seed of our rebirth.

It’s like déjà vu all over again. It doesn’t seem that long ago when I was an ordinary student in my class or, going a little more back, recalling my big smile while my mother waved in delight as I boarded the bus on the first day of kindergarten. Perhaps the reason that these and so many other memories are so vivid is the positive vibes that meandered the way from playschool to university.

And as I try to mature up, I truly realize that my teachers were dedicated and hard – working professionals, but I don’t think I ever really gave them quite as much credit as they deserved. I did know that teaching was an arduous task, but I honestly can’t say I ever recognized quite how much effort was required: my teachers always made it look so ‘easy’.

I have always found teaching engrossing as well as rewarding. Nevertheless, I still yearn to be a student in a classroom, sitting on one of those benches and taking the notes attentively. Not to my surprise, I have a unknown reason to love my work, my scenic workplace and, most importantly, my solemn work object—all my dear students.
I am keyed up about the profile of my job, it’s all nuances accepted. It is a little weird rebuking my students on their non-academic things, and being labelled Ms. This and That, just as it’s kind of strange to be a “teacher” of students taller than me! But I suppose that all these things come with the new teacher territory. That I was also a student and am now teaching in the same Centre, simply adds to the beauty and uniqueness of the nostalgic situation I always cherish.

Additionally, to me the most shocking aspect of teaching is the need to accommodate and attempt to solve diverse problems over which teachers have no control. The generation I teach is youthful, fast and fragile, reeling under so many influences. They are the products of various conflicts. It is grueling to hold them up to see the right realities. They don’t like preaching. They don’t like policing. However, I am quickly convinced that one can’t be an effective teacher unless s/he truly loves and understands the meaning and essence of this job and everything that comes with it – including the oftentimes inexplicably difficult problems and dilemmas related to the students, some awful times when you’re detested by your students for nothing or your respect as a teacher is thrown to winds.

I continue to learn, from all, even from my students, and everything around me. At times, when I ‘stop’ learning, I feel I have stopped living as well. I feel I am actually in a bustling quandary, trying to discern the inner abeyance.

Of course, life is a complex matrix. A certain day kills you; a specific day gives you re-birth. Teachers Day makes us to learn the things we ought to. It makes us realize that to give as our students have given us takes a love hallowed by a special kind of grace. As they say ‘one hundred years from now it will not matter what kind of car I drove; what kind of house I lived in; how much money was in my bank account nor what my clothes looked like. But the world maybe a better place because I was someone a bit important in the life of my student.’

Of course, teachers give much more than thought and skill, unraveling in themselves their mystery, the connoisseurs of many styles, opening thought of long and difficult day’s understandings that are supple, sweet and sour.

Nestled in their thoughts of right and wrong, it is only a teacher who can shape up the attitude of students, nurture them with discipline and light. Knowledge is the least of what a teacher can teach; yet that least at least prepares their heads.

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