Monday, April 30, 2012

There will come soft rains

"When everything is going good, one should be a little worried," he had said. "and also watch out. You never know where and when things go out of balance..."
 True, true. How I miss such timely words of wisdom--- Zennish, Taoist, Mystical! And those friends in whose company and togetherness these words were soaked up....

  I was on a short vacation, off to the northern tip of India with family and friends. We toured through kashmir, visited quite a number of places within 5 days and came back loaded with memories and wonderful experiences. Capturing all of it, at least the essence, will be the subject of another long post.

 Visiting that part of the country was kinda cathartic, because the place was a cauldron until a few years back. It has a recent history of separatism, with the majority muslim population allegedly(?) wanting to secede from India and become Independent. There's a further history dating back to centuries ago where Islamic invaders from Central Asia overran this sacred place, destroyed many places of worship and gradually became a majority, pushing back the spiritual tradition that thrived here. India has gone to war with Pakistan thrice over this territory. A heavy army presence weighs across the state. Just two decades ago, a mass exodus happened where millions of Hindus fled Kashmir when militancy started and many Hindus were shot dead. They left everything behind, relocated to other parts of the country, and literally started life all over again, from scratch. Their plight was forgotten, even by the human rights activists who raise a hue and cry every time there's an encounter in Kashmir involving the army. For the intellectuals who support 'independence for Kashmir' the Kashmiri pundits simply don't exist, or have no say in this 'aazadi' business. Good.

My wife and her parents, their relatives and friends were among those who fled Kashmir in that period and never returned. In the two decades since then, militancy has peaked and now waned off. Things are limping back to normal, they say. Tourism is the bread and butter of Kashmir, so if the tourists are to return, things gotta be normal. There are fewer bombings, killings and atrocities--by the fundamentalists and the army. People are fed up of shit, it appears.

 So, when we decided to visit Kashmir, see a few places and also checkout the abandoned home which archana's people left behind, there wasn't much resistance. We flew there. Went to archana's ancestral home which was in ruins and met the neighbors who had dared to stay back, 'in the lion's den', so to say. It was an emotional reunion for her, so difficult to capture in words. We drove through different places. Meditated at sacred sites. Inhaled the beauty of the valley within the few days that were given to us.

 Kashmir isn't just another place on the tourist's map. This was the promised land where Moses arrived, millenia ago ( his tomb is in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir). This is also the land which disputedly contains the tomb of Jesus Christ ( yeah, we visited Rozabal ). The valley is not just a scenic bombshell but also a spiritual powerhouse, with many energy centres and millenia old tradition of Kashmiri Shaivism. Now, you'll find the army at every step, enough to make a visitor feel secure and comfortable. The radicals seem to have vanished, Pakistan is in its own hell-fire-- too weak and drained to support any cross-border militancy. The common man on the ground seems busy with his own life, un-bothered about 'aazaadi', which drives a few people mad. So, it appears as if this is paradise regained.

 But that's on the surface, me thinks. Underneath all the show of bonhomie, there's a soft undercurrent of tension. You get dirty looks and intense glares from a few who recognize which religion you're from. The scars are too deep and raw to be healed so soon, both for the Hindus who fled Kashmir and the Muslims who got caught in the crossfire between the militants and the army. It might take decades, maybe a generation or two more for this fire to smother, for people to stop hating one another in the name of religion, in the name of nationalism.

 It'll take time, but there will come soft rains which heal all wounds. Like in any other place, this rain shall wash the dirt of centuries and herald peace. Things will not go from good to worse, as the old Zen master above said, but from good to better and the best. The age of cynicism is over, so better wake up.


  1. Looking forward to photos of the area taken by someone who really understands it. I no longer affiliate my self with any religion, but that does not mean I am safe from zealots. They are cruel and fearful people. Such an interesting and painful history this area holds. I would love to travel there someday.

  2. vishu,your blog is well written..take care.