Monday, August 23, 2010


Yes, I'm back to blogging. What have I been up to during these 3 months of hiding? Well, mostly procrastinating, among other things. But I thought it was about time to get cracking with my blog again. Lots of things to talk about. Today, let me tell you about Kashmir.

The family and I visited Kashmir in June to attend a wedding. This was my second trip there and I was so looking forward to be steam-rolled by hugs and kisses from the family, as well as by the overwhelming beauty of the place, people and culture. The first time I visited the valley, last year, I was highly apprehensive, being completely aware of the extent to which I would be scrutinized. You see, a girl from Goa visiting her Kashmiri sasural is a big deal. Aunts, uncles, grannies, distant cousins, neighbours and probably even long lost relatives flocked to see the spectacle of a ‘South-Indian bahu’ in their midst. I do believe they were half expecting me to show up slightly intoxicated, in beach shorts, sporting tattoos and a phoren accent. But I disappointed big time by showing up as plain old me; someone who easily blended into the Kashmiri background, except for my complexion and inability to speak the local language. I like to believe I warmed up to them and vice versa. And I truly enjoyed the entire experience. I soon realised that all the descriptions I had heard of Kashmir, from hubby, in-laws, friends who had visited, travel shows, websites, and books, did not do a shred of justice to the place. Their traditional houses, their rich food, their over-the-top hospitality, their elaborate handicrafts, their immense pride in their culure and roots... everything about them is wonderful and unique. I tried my best to not let the 'daughter-in-law visiting her sasural' factor colour my obsevations. That helped me completely appreciate the depth of culture I was experiencing.

This time round, the Goan bahu was familiar with the drill. So I was going there minus the anxiousness and without a fear of the unknown. I was merely going to visit family and get drowned in the splendour that is Kashmir. Anyone who has visited Kashmir will know that it is not just the natural scenery that makes the place special. Kashmir resides in a world of its own. It belongs to another time. It is a place that has been blessed by many many wonderful things. Except peace.

The situation in Kashmir took a turn for the worse while we were there. Due to which we didn’t get to see much of Kashmir, but we thoroughly enjoyed the elaborate and expensive Kashmiri wedding. Unfortunately, Z got a raging fever bang in the middle of the merry making. Once she was a little stronger, curfews kept us indoors. We heard of several lathi charges on the stone pelters, and even on innocent residents trying desperately to get along with their lives in the midst of a crippling situation. If we had stayed longer than we had, we probably would have been witness to full-fledged protests and clashes, for shortly after arriving in Mumbai, we heard that more and more people were braving the bullets and the beatings to protest against the way they have been treated and continue to be treated in their own land.

I am not going to discuss right and wrong here, nor am I inviting debate. All I know is what I’ve seen and heard from the Kashmiris themselves, and I pray with and for them for peace. For freedoms that we take for granted every day. For freedom of expression, for freedom from fear, for freedom that allows their children to play in the streets without fear. For development, for jobs, for opportunities, for growth. For the things that have been denied to the youth and thus forces talented, educated and bright individuals to search for opportunities elsewhere. After years of being ignored, I see subtle signs of progress. This 15th August, when my daughter was waving the tri-colour she brought home from play school, I caught myself instinctively thinking about her cousins in Kashmir, a generation that was born into turmoil. Freedom. A word that will come to mean so much to Z a few years from now, as she grapples with what it means to be a Kashmiri.