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part eccentric ... part fun .... stubborn .. but not stuck up ... very open to different views, ideas and possibilities ... varied interests ... engineer ... mba ... trying-to-be-a-good-entrepreneur ... ex-software ... ex-quality ... ex-tobacco ... ex-alcohol ... trying-to-be-ex-cancer
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Saturday, October 21, 2006

Kashmiri Diwali

With Diwali and Eid around, this is bonafide festival season in India. It's time for families to gather and spend time together. Keeping with the spirit, my family is gathering at Abbu's place in Kashmir.

Coming to Srinagar is not an easy task. Mighty Pir-Panjal ranges separate the Kashmir valley from the rest of India. There is no rail link, the only practical road connection is a very beautiful, but scary, mountain highway from Jammu. Since my boy (Shums) is 10 months old, I can't take this day long journey.I had to travel by air.

The valley is sandwiched between two very high mountain ranges. Clouds play a major spoilsport in all air travel - they can cancel your flight, force your plane to return to Delhi or get it diverted to Jammu...Our flight also had a close brush with some low flying clouds. The pilot tried a couple of times, but could not spot the runway. Finally when he did manage to get us on firm earth, we were greeted by rain and cold weather. To top it up, I came to know the that road to my home was blocked by security people for some stupid force movement..Thankfully I managed to reach home without much trouble.

The house is scenically located on a hillock, jetting out of a hill.It has farms & university below and trees & rocky peak above.It offers a good view of Dal Lake (in front) and lofty Himalayan peaks (on its right). There's a small stream that is being diverted to run thru our gardens. Overall, its a very peaceful place. The day i reached there was distant background sound of firecrackers - pat.pat .pat. patpat.pat (the sound that a "ladi" makes). This was more a Diwali-eve Delhi sound than a Srinagar sound. One does not expect pre-Diwali crackers because of Srinagar's demographics - though you find quite a few Kashmiri Sikhs (dad's driver is one),the only Hindus that i have seen are Tourists and Army walas.

The "ladi" sound(which i wrote about) got punctuated by a big "boom". The boom was slightly too big for a firecracker. I went asking Farooq, our house help. He explained the story behind the sounds. It seems two militants had entered a house right next to our university. The pat pat ..patpat was gunfire exchange between militants and security forces. The boom was the sound of security guys blowing up the house in which militants had sneaked into. I went out ...I could see smoke from across the plantation of Poplar trees. Soon i could see the flames from the house. It was just half a kilometer from my house...slightly scary huh?. Conclusion, i thought, the price of letting a militant into your house, is your house. Farooq told me - the security guys invariably blow up any house in which militant are found hiding. They do not bother to determine if the militants forced their way in (almost always). I sympathised with the house owner, he lost his house for no apparent fault of his. But even then, the militants were killed, so some good came out of blowing up a house....

My thoughts were premature, the militants were alive, the gunfire resumed,i was surprised...how could CRPF/BSF/Army miss the militants when they blew up the whole damn house...Maybe they blew up the wrong house.

The firing and grenades continued till evening, after which they stoped. Next day News-Papers told me that both the militants were killed. Three houses were burnt. One belonging to a widow, who had two daughters and a diabetic mom, she was making ends meet on a 2000 rupee pension. She would not get any compensation for her burnt house. I felt sorry for her.

The militants and the security forces are actually screwing the Kashmiris. No one can refuse entry when armed militants come knocking. Similarly, no one has the guts to refuse signature when security guys come with papers that give them permission to blow up ones home. The average Kashmiri is bound have a lot of pent-up anger and frustration.

Anyways, the other interesting feature of Srinagar is that one can watch Geo TV and other Pakistani channels and brush up ones Urdu. Besides, the Pakistani news-readers are much hotter than our desi variety.

I switched-on the TV. It had the same old news. Prime Minister informing the nation of ways to prevent Dengue. Another blast in a market, on festival eve, it killed a few and injured many. News reader said that a "foreign hand" was suspected .....Very familiar stories ..right? .....The only difference is that the PM is Shaukat Aziz of Pakistan, warning about Dengue in Karachi and the bomb blast happened in a bazaar in Peshawar. I could never figure out who the foreign hand belonged to..India or Afghanistan !!!!!

So i have seen and heard strange diwali crackers in Kashmir...god only knows what other things i get to discover...Keep watching this place

1 comment:

bluesky said...

in spite of the pat pat pat ladi, the description of your house location sounds amazing...kabhi hamey bhi bulao dost