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.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Old man and The New Cesspool

Afshana recounts the misery experienced by an old-timer seeing his favorite lake whither away

(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.)

Down the Lake

The wrinkled face was parched and frail like a fallen Chinar leaf in autumn, which once looked green and glorious. Behind the old visage, there was more of him to see. Struggling between past and future, verve and sloth, triumphs and letdowns, warmth and seclusion—he was coldly looking at the sophisticated and expensive Finnish machines procured to speed-up Dal Lake’s restoration measures.

This old man was sitting near the railing on the banks of Dal Lake watching the slough and silt that was being lifted from the Lake.

He recollected the days of his childhood when he alongwith his friends used to quench his thirst with the shimmering sweet waters of Dal Lake. The images of nostalgia tossed around. Like an antique montage in black and white, the screen of history flashed his every memory associated with Dal Lake.

Looking back, he saw himself playing football in Malkhah for hours together, and then rushing to Naidyar Yarbal to slake their thirst with the cool, refreshing and flowing pure water of the Dal. At times, his whole group of friends swam into the water to revitalize themselves.

The old man remembered how once one of his friends got his cycle for cleansing at Yarbal and he was not allowed to do so by a local resident, giving the reason that the water was used for cooking purposes by many families.

The unique taste of Masala Roti he used to have beneath the shade of jade trees on Soth, the bridle path passing through the middle of the Dal Lake connecting Nishat and Rainawari, remained persisting. The cold breeze that tenderly moved the crystal clear waters of the Lake was embedded with the aroma of versatile lotuses.

As the Lake was bottomless near Soth, he and his friends always feared swimming there. Watching small yachts being drawn by oars and gently passing under the arched seven viaducts of Soth, they always craved to go in swimming in the deep central waters of the Lake. They incessantly desired to spend a few days in the straggling row of majestic-looking Doongas (houseboats) that flanked the Lake at various points and were rented by people to roam around the Lake for several days.

In his youth, Dal Lake was his true companion. He relished veritable solace on its banks. Looking far to the other end of Lake, he used to weave his future plans. It was his usual to prepare for his exams on the shores of Lake. Whenever he was depressed, he went to the Lake and poured his heart out. Dal always listened calmly and transpired its tranquility to him.

Sometime later he got married. He decided to holiday in the Lake alongwith his family and a small group of friends. They hired a Donga for one week and also arranged a waza (Kashmiri cook) who would accompany them on Donga and prepare food for them during the expedition.

The reminiscences of the matchless trip were sharply ingrained in his mind. He mused over the setting of their voyage from Naidyar Yarbal. For him and his friends, it was like dream coming true. The sparkling and soft waters helped the stately progress of Doonga down the Lake. They were welcomed by the breezy milieu while sailing down the watercourse through the interiors of Rainawari. The banks of waterway were spotless. Only at few places, they could see some temporary hutments and some planted vegetables.

Within the blissful vibes, the immaculate waters of the Lake were reflecting the vivid image of splendid dome of Hazratbal Shrine, where they stopped for the night. They watched scores of people performing their ablution with the fresh waters of the Lake. Interestingly, their waza also had used the Lake water for cooking during the whole journey.

While travelling towards Nishat garden, they noticed water gushing out from the bottom of the Lake at numerous locations. During night, they saw moonlight piercing through the six meter deep clear waters of the Lake and getting reflected after striking its bottom. With a bit of edginess, they went for a dip in the deep waters of the Lake, and thus conquered their fears.

Harking back, the old man remembered that the banks of the Lake had no fencing around as Nature by its own course had fenced it with the Zabarwan hills on one side and the Hari-parbat on the other. Nature had swathed the glistening waterbody with its own aura.

However today, he is stunned, the crinkled moist eyes, the crooked forehead. He fails to think of Dal Lake as “a beautiful imagination or a romantic poetry on the surface of clean water shadowed with the groves of Chinar”.

Ironically, Dal Lake has become a cesspool. A stinking abyss. A nearing gutter. The shrinking pit that has obnoxious and murky stories buried in it. The stories of Corruption; Official Fraud; Public Apathy; and General Malice.

For the old man, the cesspit, now left as Dal, depicts a broader meaning: it is a manifestation of collective mind. The degeneration is not just ecological.
He takes small steps, away from the Lake, as if a strong wind could, at any time, whisk him up into the clouds. He leaves no footprints.

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