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, January 13, 2010

Turning Wheels of the Mind to Recall Memories of a Bygone Era

Zahid recalls his first bicycle and a lot more

(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.)

My Tryst with Motor

It was called ‘MOTOR’. My grandmother called it ‘Motor’- everyone else in the locality called ‘the road vehicle with an engine, four wheels, steering and seats for five to six people’ by the same name. I don’t remember when words ‘car’ or ‘motorcar’ entered our vocabulary.

It was a transition from single horse driven chariot (tonga) to four wheel auto driven vehicle. It was a big change - that change wording of prayers of my grandmother. Before the arrival of “Motor” she would often pray for his sons and grandchildren in chaste Kashmiri, ( Guch Tohi Khaswun Gur Te Waswven Naav) ‘May Allah bless you with a horse to ride upon and a boat to travel through’ and then change to (Khuda Souznavie Panas Motor Te Shurean Jeep) “May Allah send you a motor to travel and jeep for your children’. All big changes often become part of folklore and find a mention in folk literature. There were some rhymes in my mother tongue also on the ‘Motor’-

I remember many childhood rhymes- some of them I can parrot even today with same verve and ease as I used to do during my childhood along with my brother and cousin full throat during long winter months. There were lots of rhymes from ‘Bishta-Bishta Byaro Khutekho Wann” to Kotu Gachak Kokroa’ in one childhood even the idiots amongst us remembered many- I no more hear those melodic rhymes even in my birth burg that still retains some wonderful traditions of the yore. The cultural invasion that we have suffered has not only snatched from us our folklore but even those beautiful rhymes full of prosody, cadence and rhyme have died- perhaps never to be revived.

Many years back may be couple of decades; I saw some published compilations of our childhood rhymes by Naji Munawar and Autar Krishan Rehbar- but found something missing in them. They perhaps suffered the dialectical variations. I also heard some that were put to music by Radio Kashmir during its hey days but I have not seen any ‘childhood rhyme’ on ‘Motor’ in their compilations. There were some ‘rhymes’ on ‘Motor’- in my mother tongue and Urdu, second language that majority speaks in our lane.

It however has ‘etherized’ from my memory- when I saw first car plying on the main road- that was then known as highway of swallows. I feel nostalgic about racing with swallows on the traffic free roads- I admired swallows- then I had not heard about their place in our sacred scriptures, I admired them for their fastness and often imagined flying fast but low like them.

The story of Maharaja and his cavalry with all their pomposity passing through our Mohalla on way to the temple on the foothills of Kohimaran were fresh with many people ahead of our generation. Besides stories about the cavalry of our ‘feudal lord’, I would often hear the stories about the first ‘Motor’ that plied through the streets in our locality and the chaotic situation it had created. The road was first swept then watered much before the car moved through this street. It belonged to one ‘Salam Peer’- an important functionary of Maharaja Hari Singh, the last autocratic ruler of the state. He was living less than a thousand meters from our home on the Mar Canal- near the beautiful ‘Brara Namabal’ lagoon. There were lots of stories about his lavishness and profligacy. The house was known for its majesty and royalty. The man had lost his fortune. And as we grew the traces of feudal rule were vanishing- and I remember during our school days some government office had been housed in this majestic house, then a school and then it was converted into a carpet factory.

True, I don’t remember when I saw first ‘Motor’ but I do remember the excitement on seeing the first moped passing through our street. I vividly remember a turbaned man wearing a long close buttoned coat (Achkan) sitting on a moped driving in wee hours through our street. I remembered the time and without fail every morning waited outside my home to see the moped passing through our street. He was some Hakim, somewhere from Zadibal practicing in Dalgate- I do remember his nickname name but not his real name. There was story in children that the moped had been gifted to him some British whom he treated well. I often dreamt of enjoying a drive on this moped but my dream never materialized. It was many years later that the first scooter- that was known by its brand name lambreta arrived in our Mohalla along with a family that lived many years outside the state.

The scooter did not thrill me as much as moped. It was lousy looking like a duck. Moped its small size and pedals made me believe that it was a small bicycle- a higher version of tricycle that would save me from drill and mill of learning cycling. I along with my friends believed it much repeated saying that ‘Gene lives in the tubes of bicycle’ as gospel truth. And one cannot learn cycling unless he falls seven times and gets injured. I feared falling seven times and breaking my tibia and fibula, moped of Hakim Sahib, I believed was safer.

Learning cycling was really an arduous job. I started learning cycling in class 4th and completed in class seven or eight. Learning cycling as I remember today had three major phases, ‘zangetaar’ (Cross legging), Danda (driving on crossbar and Kahtah ( driving sitting on seat).

The most difficult phase of learning cycling was zangetaar. I think I stumbled more than proverbial seven times in completing this phase. This phase also had two phase’s half-pedal and full-pedal. I remember starting learning zangetaar on a traffic free road about two hundred yards from my home on a descending road near the house of headmaster our school Jalil-u-Din Sahib. And when I graduated from cross-leg-peddling to peddling from the seat- I felt more elated than Armstrong might have felt on landing on the moon.

My rendezvous with cycling has more beautiful stories than my tryst with seeing the first car plying on the main road and chasing the long black car of the tall leader in 1958.

1 comment:

basim amin said...

Apart from many other things, I think Zahid`s writings are strikingly HONEST. While writing, you can easily distort the ideas that strike your mind at the first go. You can edit the inflow yes. You can coat the stories you conjure up with whatever flavor you want. But indeed the only coating that leaves a telling impression is the coating of honesty.

Once again proven: honesty is the best policy.

Dear Zahid, May Allah shower you with greater writing skills and more stories to tell. Your honest writing just takes the breath away!