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.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Is Kashmiri Culture Out of Fashion?

Mukhtar examines the language and attire of Kashmiris, and concludes that Kashmiri culture is dying

Kashmiri Dies Slowly as Youth Shoulder its Coffin

Mukhtar Ahmed (Kashmir Images)

Srinagar: Unlike in the past when Kashmiri was the principal source of communication here, conversing in the mother tongue is witnessing an alarming decline in Kashmir today. What is lamentable is the way parents encourage their children to speak in Urdu and English, say experts adding that the prospects of spoken Kashmiri is heading for a disaster.

They say that lack of Kashmiri as a subject at school level and the foray of Indian movies and television serials have hampered the conversation in Kashmiri a lot. They point out that by taking a leaf from dialogues of Indian matinee idols, Kashmiris, particularly youngsters are only adding to the woes of the already struggling language.

“The way girls and boys, particularly in cities talk in Urdu or English; it looks as if they are non-Kashmiri. Owing to absence of Kashmiri in school curricula for a long time, our youth developed interest in other subjects. Besides Bollywood movies and television serials are so much liked by our youngsters, that they are repeatedly mimicking filmy dialogues and copying the dress pattern of many Bollywood celebs”, noted Kashmiri critic and writer, Mohammad Yousuf Taing told Kashmir Images

Criticizing the parents for helping their wards in getting accustomed to speaking in Urdu and English, Taing warned “Such parents are not reading the signs of disaster, they are bringing on the cultural identity of Kashmir. No doubt, they may be helping their children shying away from communicating in Kashmiri, but they hardly realize that years down the line, they will be responsible for devastation of one of the richest assets of Kashmiri culture.”

Blasting the government for its lackadaisical role in teaching Kashmiri at school level for a long time, the renowned writer pointed out that being members of “Political Class” our politicians too are responsible for the sorry state of Kashmiri language currently.

“No doubt Kashmiri has been somewhat introduced at school level, but whenever our politicians deliver speeches, they always prefer to speak in Urdu or English. They never realize that being at the helm of affairs, they have to take the lead in promoting the mother language”, he said.

Prominent poet and writer, Zareef Ahmad Zareef echoed the same reasons for the pathetic condition of Kashmiri at the moment. “Many parents phone me to know the meaning of various Kashmiri terms. When they themselves don’t properly understand the literature of Kashmiri language, how come is it possible they will encourage their children to speak in Kashmiri”, Zareef asked.

He acknowledged that even though Kashmiri has been introduced in government schools now, but it is the English medium schools, that are doing the damage as far as communicating in our mother-tongue is concerned.

“The Hindi movies and television serials have restricted our youngsters from learning values of their own culture. From speaking dialogues to copying hairstyles of Bollywood actors, our youth are talking a lead in this made race to out doing each other”, Zareef pointed out.

Meanwhile, when this reporter apprised a 57-year-old USA citizen, Michael Pollock of how Kashmiris are shying away from speaking their mother-tongue, he commented “By doing this, Kashmiris are killing their legacy and cultural identity. USA may have taken giant economic strides, but in no way, have we allowed the ladder of economic success to hamper our mother tongue and culture.”

The US based architect, while eulogizing the Kashmiri culture said “Kashmir has one of the richest cultural histories in the world. By ignoring Kashmiri at domestic and professional level, Kashmiris are doing a great disservice to their beautiful land. I have been here since weeks and I am startled that very few Kashmiris travel by wearing the traditional Pheran. It means that you are deviating from your cultural values.”

After Abandoning Language, Kashmiris Dump Traditional Attire Too!

Mukhtar Ahmed (Kashmir Images)

Srinagar: Even as wearing of traditional dresses is seen as an explicit display of love for one’s native culture, but like so many other things in Kashmir, particularly the language, people here are gradually loosing this marker of their identity too.

Some experts and exponents of Kashmiri culture say that people here, particularly the youngsters by opting for other kinds of apparels, are doing a great disservice to their civilization.

“We are gradually avoiding our traditional dresses. A huge chunk of Kashmiri boys prefer being clad in jeans and other latest imported apparels. I am not saying that we should go to markets and offices draped in traditional blankets (‘Tchadar’), but we should be wary that modernity doesn’t trample over the glory of our conventional garments,” noted writer and poet, Zareef Ahmad Zareef told ‘Kashmir Images’.

Criticizing the way Kashmiris are “madly following” the Bollywood and Hollywood stars, Zareef says, “Movie actors earn hefty amounts for wearing dresses as per the demand of the script. But for no reason, our youth copy their dress patterns. Our girls instead of traditional dresses are dressed in such bad clothing that I find it hard to call them daughters,” Zareef lamented.

Recalling the dress patterns of yore, Zareef said that women would be dressed in such a customary way that even a non-Kashmiri could easily distinguish her from others.

“Women during those days were the embodiments of ‘Kashmiriyat’ as they used to cling to embroidered ‘Pherans’, head scarves, ‘Kameez-Yazar’ everywhere. But nowadays, women, particularly college-going girls are walking with open hair pulled to their back, half-sleeve shirts and jeans. I wonder what has happened to honour of their parents; who allow them to leave homes in such a way?” rues Zareef.

He points out that Kashmiri boys instead of traditional caps - ‘Karakulis’- the ‘Kameez Shalwar’, ‘Pherans’, customary ‘Sadris’ are now seen wearing rings in their noses and ears.

“During our days traditional apparels were order of the day. Every person from blacksmith to goldsmith, from doctor to patriarchs could be distinguished by their dress codes,” he added.

Noted critic and writer Mohammad Yousuf Taing says a “Cultural Tsunami” has been triggered in Kashmir since past few years.

“What is lamentable is that instead of being torch-bearers, youth is killing the identity of our culture. From dress codes to speaking in the mother tongue, they are getting heavily influenced by Vidya Balan, Shahrukh Khan, Salman Khan and others,” Taing said.

Giving example of the Japanese people, Taing added that despite being one of the most affluent people, they always adhere to their traditional dresses.

“We also want our youth to progress, but prosperity should not come at the cost of our customary outfits,” he emphasized.

Taing also criticized media for minimally underlining the issues plaguing various assets of the Kashmiri culture.

“Barring a few organizations including ‘Kashmir Images’, I don’t know why our media is not highlighting that despite having one of the finest cultural attires why is it that Kashmiris are gradually shying away from their customary dresses,” said Taing.

President, Kashmir Hotels and Restaurant Owners Federation (KHAROF), Fayaz Ahmad Bakhshi said that tourists are immensely fascinated by Kashmir’s traditional dresses.

“I still remember when former Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi came here during 1980s, she wore the traditional ‘Pheran’ at many occasions in Kashmir. As a result, the dress became a huge hit with Indian people in those days,” Bakshi said.

“Usually tourists will not do without taking pictures in traditional Kashmiri ‘Pheran’ here. Therefore, suppose if wearing of ‘Pheran’ is encouraged among the hotel staff in Kashmir (we will support it anyhow), this will not only fascinate tourists, but will send a strong message about our (Kashmiris’) love for, and interest in preserving every rich asset of our culture.”

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