Thursday, March 20, 2014

A day without shoes

By Naseer A Ganai

She was running without shoes. It was the most nervous run ever seen in the history of that locality. Never had anyone seen her in such a condition. All knew her as a decent, educated girl studying Arts in the government college for women. The boys - mostly undergraduates and graduates - of the locality would describe her as a rare beauty. And as a tribute to her beauty, they would call her as a marriageable stuff. In local lexicon of the boys, a marriageable stuff was a girl with whom one should fall in love and marry as soon as possible.

No one had any gossip about her. No one had seen her talking to strangers. For the boys this was a sign of decency.

She was from a middle class family. Her father was a teacher, and her two brothers ran grocery shops. And she was studying history. She was the only daughter of her parents. This was the only history the boys knew about her.

So it was strange sight for them to see her running like this - barefoot, covering her half-face with duppata in a hot summer of June in Kashmir of 1990s. It was an unbelievable view for the boys. They had never imagined that they would one day see her running on a dusty road of the locality and that too without her shoes on. But more shocking for them was the way she would stop people and ask them about the identity of the militant, who had been killed in the encounter in a neighbouring locality.

A militant had died about half a kilometre away from the girl’s residence after a brief encounter with the border security force personnel. People of the area including women and girls were walking in ones, twos and threes towards the encounter sight to have the last glimpse of the militant. Nothing was unusual about it. But her run was abnormal. It was a mad run. She would ask elderly people coming from the opposite side, “who was martyred?” They would say “Dapaan Maqsood gov shaheed.”

“Dapaan Maqsood gov shaheed,” she would mutter it and move on.

She kept her pace untill she saw a teenager of her locality. “Who was martyred? she blurted out again. 

“Maqsood,” said the teenager.

And with it she stopped, sat down and cried. The boys say that this lasted for a few moments. Soon she stood up, wiped out her tears with her dupptta and ran back towards her house.

Later the teenager told the boys that she and Maqsood had studied in the same school. And they were in love with each other.


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Atheist gazi

By Naseer A Ganai
I was among a few privileged friends who were invited by a self-proclaimed atheist to attend his marriage party. The groom was ready to get into a vehicle to proceed towards bride’s home, when he stopped to listen to a Kashmiri song, which women were singing in his praise. His headgear was not green but still the women were singing “sabz dastaras khuda chi raazi, pakistanuk gazi aaue.” The groom was not going to the battlefield but to get bride. But still he was gazi that too Pakistani. Since then we call him gazi.

Some four years ago, a journalist from other part of Kashmir came to see his relatives in the valley. Their family was divided in 1947 partition. He said all Kashmiris are mad. It was a big statement. I told him to be in limits set by Sir Walter Lawrence, the first settlement commissioner of Kashmir. "He has given us enough names, now please don’t exceed further," I told him and remarked that he should know that Azad Kashmir is not Barcelona and Azad Kashmiris are not Americans. But he did not budge. He had his reasons to justify the allegation of the madness.

"Yesterday, I saw my relative taking out a cigarette pack from a cupboard, kissing it and putting it back there.” He told his relative why he does so, what is so special about the pack that it is being kissed gently and then kept back in the cupboard. “I have bought it from Pakistan in 1970s. It is from Pakistan, you know, from Pakistan,” the relative told him proudly. Azad Kashmiri was dumbstruck.

The Azad Kashmirian had a great desire to see a Kashmiri marriage. He revealed his great desire to me. He wanted to see the Kashmiri bride and the groom. I told him that he was late by one day. There was a chance the previous day to see a marriage function in our area but it was over. He insisted to visit the family. The groom was a dashing young man. He was an engineer and the bride was a teacher.

Reluctantly I told the yesterday’s groom that my friend was from Azad Kashmir and he wanted to see him in the groom’s attire and that he would like to see the bride as well. The word Azad Kashmir had an immediate effect. Within half an hour the engineer came out in groom’s attire wearing long sheerwani and a yellow color headgear. The bride was in lehanga. My friend hugged the groom. The groom thanked him for seeing him. “You are from Azad Kashmir!” he said and laughed. “Good! So you are from Azad Kashmir,” he said again and hugged him to the surprise of Azad Kashmiri.

In 2006 in Poonch an aged journalist told me where are you from? I said I am from Srinagar though I don’t look like a Kashmiri. He smiled. He said some time ago a Kashmiri employee was in Poonch. He insisted to see the border. The border was far off. So the journalist as usual told him that this mountain is under Indian control and that under Pakistani control. For days together, the Kashmiri was saluting to Pakistani mountain to the amusement of the Poonchi journalist.