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.