The last leaf has fallen and the chill has set in, it is winter in Kashmir. No doubt every season in Kashmir has its own charm, still winter stands apart from the rest of the seasons for the local households for a number of reasons (one among being its aptness for bitching & story telling).
With movement and other activities restricted due to weather and other reasons, people (especially old) tend to stick around homes so that when the emergency comes (water/ snow enters one’s shoes or when Kangri needs a refill) the sanctuary is nearby. This creates a unique atmosphere, people with nothing to do, hands tucked inside a pheran holding a Kangri and discussing about everything under the sun to keep their mouth warm (as if Kashmiri’s need a reason to wag their tongue).
During an unwilling walk in the heatless Sun of November, came across a couple of elderly men, they were discussing the recent appointment of the new Pakistani army chief. The newspapers had made a point to highlight the ‘Kashmiri’ link of the General and how could have these gentlemen missed it. Now that both the PM and army chief of Pakistan are ‘Kashmiris” still it was unable to infuse any hope in these old souls with regards to the resolution of the Kashmir dispute. They went on to discuss how Kashmir has produced many towering figures and yet Kashmir is a leaderless nation. Tempted by the possibilities of the directions the discussion could go in, I quietly sat among them. The names from the who’s who list that featured in the discussion, some were the usual ones like Alama Iqbal (National poet of Pakistan), Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru (1st PM of Independent India), Syed Mostafavi Musavi Khomeini (1st Supreme Leader of Iran), Maulana Anwar Shah Kashmiri(highly respected Islamic Scholar, Shaykh al-Hadith) and there were some which surprised me like Tipu Sultan (also known as Tiger of Mysore), Hakim Mumin Khan Mumin ( The court poet & Teacher of the last Mughal emperor) , Charaka (father of medicine, Ayurveda). As I showed my surprise when some of these names were mentioned their eyes became pointed and “you people don’t read any more, you waste your time with these satan toys (pointing towards mobile in my hands), you don’t read poetry or history but being able to use these gadgets you feel like you know everything and the world is at your finger tips”, came the reply and apart from being silent and hope for the resumption of narration, I didn’t know what to do or say. When I asked where exactly from Kashmir Mumin Khan Mumin was, I was told he belonged to a village called Pinglen in Pulwama district of South Kashmir, elated that I know something, I Kind of boosted that I know the village & have been there couple of times as one of my friend lives there. Before the old guard could question my friends knowledge about his own village, I interjected saying that my friend would know of it. All this conversation was punctuated by couplets from Urdu , Persian & Kashmiri poetry, but the one that lingered on with me the whole day was Persian couplet written by Alama Iqbal on his Kashmir visit;
Ba’ resham Kaba Khaja az mehnate oo
Nasibie tanash Jamie tar tare
His labor adorns his master in fine silk
A tattered robe is all he gets on his frail frame
This couplet was written by Iqbal to depict the condition of the silk workers of Kashmir, but now when seen in the context of the above conversation it seems to convey that Kashmir has produced leaders for the world yet none for self!
After we finished discussing the leaders Kashmir has produced, came up the topic of Iqbal’s Sopore visit! I was very surprised to know about it, why I didn’t know about it surprised me more. While on his Kashmir visit Alama Iqbal was invited to Jamia Qadeem Sopore by Hakeem Ghulam Mohammad Lal( maam’ kol) and was accompanied by Choudry Hashmatullah and Mohammad Din Foq. The host arranged for a joy ride in Wular lake (besides other things) for his guests, to keep the guests entertained a Shikara with musicians accompanied them. One can only imagine how the guests would had felt with the great expanse of Wular soothing their eyes and the poetry of Rahim Sahib Sopori in the voice of Abdul Aziz Shagoo (Aziz Thal’le) reaching their ears. It is said that most of the poetry was Kashmiri except for some words in Persian, the only words Iqbal would have understood were ‘Cheezie na daaram gairi dil‘. Despite Iqbal being unable to understand the lyrics, he so much liked the way Aziz Thal’le sang that as a token of appreciation he gave him a 1Rupee coin.
As the 1 rupee coin was being handed my Satan’s Toy rang summoning me back to the world of deadlines, pretenses and Bitcoin.