Every morning, Syed Ali Geelani sits on a white porcelain commode, probably imported from Saudi Arabia. His shit, full of anti-India sentiments, travels through pipes to the Wular Lake in his hometown Sopore, in Kashmir, and contributes, on a daily basis, to the shrinking of what used to be Asia’s largest fresh water body. Over the years, Geelani’s morning ritual has been responsible for shrinking the lake area from 202 square kilometres to 30 square kilometres. In Srinagar, meanwhile, his other colleagues, who have been on the streets to force the cancellation of land allotment to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board, citing ecological reasons among others, do the needful with the Dal lake, adding their bit to the 35 million litres of sewage, which is pumped daily into the lake. On top of it, they run houseboats, where clueless Indian families bite into succulent Goshtaba and get photos clicked in traditional Kashmiri attire.
Together with the government and a former Governor, the Geelanis of Kashmir have turned our sentiments into a Draupadi, each party gambling with a loaded dice.
Last year, it was powdered ice. On television, they showed the Governor’s men, with their boots on, inside the sanctum sanctorum, enhancing the size of Shivling as if it were a female model in dire need of a silicon implant. Then, this year, we were shown visuals of an artificial, marble Shivling being made in Udaipur, Rajasthan which, we were told, would be put inside to enable the piligrims to have a “complete darshan.”
To hell with you all! You think, people are spending money on their Kashmir travel and they have to have a “paisa vasool” through the darshan of a full-size, artificial Shivling. For you, a visit to Amarnath may be picnic. For us, it’s a way of life.
My early memories of our tryst with Shiva come from an aunt who would, every morning, sing Ateebheeshan katubhashan, Yama kinkar patli…, her eyes brimming with tears, begging Shiv to be present when the Yama took her to another world. It meant decorating Shiv as a bridegroom, with silver foil and bel patra, every Shivratri, when snow would reach till our bedroom window. It meant that dream which my father saw as a young man with a new job, in which Shiv appeared and guided him through some confusing office accounts. It means my sister trying to explain to her friends: “We are Shaivites.”
So, you see, I don’t care whether you get that land or not. I don’t care for your darshan as well. But please, leave that Shivling alone.
Yesterday, in an Indian Express photo, Rajnath Singh was caught offering a ladoo to Venkaiah Naidu. Both men could not hide their glee. In the election season, they couldn’t have asked for more. On NDTV, they are showing five men and a woman in Jammu – BJP supporters – wearing Vaishno Devi bandanas, shouting slogans for the benefit of cameras.
“Jo Hindu hit ki baat karega, wo hi desh pe raaj karega.” The woman almost looks like the one in Jammu’s Bakshi Nagar, who washed the walls of her cowshed with cheap distemper, and offered it to my uncle’s family for renting, immediately after our migration from the valley in 1990.
Of course, after almost two decades, we are welcome in Kashmir. Last year, they even allowed the Janamashtami procession. So, as long as we come for a weekend trip, stay in a hotel or a houseboat, buy carpets and shawls as souvenirs for family and friends, we are most welcome. But what about our houses? Our jobs? Our orchards? Errr… you see, Pandit ji, we cannot guarantee your safety. The Afghanis don’t spare us, either.
So, you please stay in Jammu. We will come and visit you. And, of course, you have your ration cards. Pandit ji, you must be a little optimistic. Jammu is not that bad. Now you even have replicas of Kshir Bhawani and Hari Parbat. I must leave now… for Islamabad… sorry, Anantnag.
Meanwhile, 290 kilometres away from Jammu, as those yellow Border Road Organisation milestones would tell you, a man, a free man, sits on a Kashmiri carpet, beside a hookah, tearing apart choicest pieces of lamb. His name is Farooq Ahmad Dar.
You know him very well. He is also called Bitta Karate.