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.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Kanger

Manzoor says there is more to "Kanger" (traditional Kashmiri fire pot) than meets the eye

(Mr. Manzoor Akash, 25, was born in Rafiabad, Baramulla district. He completed his schooling locally, and earned degrees in B. Litt (comparative Literature) and M.A. in English from Barkatullah Vishwavidhyalaya, Bhopal. A very articulate writer, he has published numerous articles in various journals. He is also a budding poet, having published his first book of poems, "Verses of Heart," in 2006. Some of his poems have been reviewed by prominent literary critics in India. He has taught English at high school level, and hopes to teach in a university some day.)

KANGER: Warming our Identity

Kanger, that we use in the winter months, is an important element of Kashmiri culture. It is the cheapest and potable item that Kashmiris keep to warm themselves. Among all the winter preparations it ranks atop. It is carried wherever we like it to. It is a mobile heater that we go near wherever it is felt chilly or it rains and snows. No sooner the weather turns cold than people in entire valley start buying it, no matter what the price. People, across valley, find it most convenient to save themselves against the biting cold. No doubt there are numerous Bukharies, Room Heaters and Mobile Gas Heaters being sold in the market yet this traditional firepot has not lost its importance. From a layman to an aristocrat , everybody likes it, in one way or the other. However, the charm is more unique when it is taken under Pheran.

Kanger that we purchase in rupees hundred or two is not woven in just one hour or two but it undergoes along process before being used. It comes from where and reaches where. It simply has a story to say.

There are several thousands people in our valley that earn their livelihood through this craft. This needs a great skill and mastery before being thrown to public. It demands patience and hard work.

Almost from all parts of Kashmir, firepots start pouring into the markets as soon as the mercury level dips down. Kangri weavers (Kanyel) from the commencement of autumn, remain busy in making Kangris. Though these weavers in the valley differ in their skill yet the raw material, the craft requires is everywhere the same. Kundal (firepot) and Kanye (sticks) like posh kanye, geer kanye and khech kanye are some of the most frequently used ingredients that Kangris are often made of. These weavers get sticks from forests which are peeled off by women. In some families women also help in making Kangris but men are mostly seen doing this work.

In the earlier days Kangri vendors used to go from village to village to sell their stock but now this village to village campaign is abandoned. Except money, people, in rural areas, would buy Kangris by giving goods like Cereals, rice, Maize etcetera to the sellers. But now only money can buy you a Kanger . Parents nowadays don’t even let their wards touch firepots. They care that they’ll get burnt. But our time was quite different. Without any fear we’d keep Kangris with us, even while playing some outdoor game.

Wahab Kak, the Kangri weaver’s popularity is yet the same in my area. My mother used to buy a small fire pot for me from him. Though I was not born in a rich family. I was loved by my parents so much. My every demand was fulfilled. My memories have not faded; I remember, every year my mum would tell Wahab Kak to bring a small fire pot for me. I was fond of it. It indeed used to be fun those days.

This traditional fire pot is now purchased every year not because it comes in verities but because of cultural advancement of the people. Kangri weavers change its looks and style every now and then. They decorate it to catch the attention of more and more People. It is one important item in Idd Bogh and Wand Bogh that Kashmirs carry to the bride’s home before wedding. Apart from J&K where it is mostly manufactured, it has spread its wings to other states also. It has reached Himachal, Punjab, Haryana and Ludhiana where people love to use it in cold weather. They are surprised to see it. They admire this craft. I remember last year when I was traveling from Srinagar to Jammu, one of my fellow passengers happened to buy Kanger from Islamabad (Maraaz) market. He was taking it to Ludhiana where he was selling carpets. He told me that instead of warming during morning and evening time, it (Kanger) reminds me my own culture.

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