Thursday, June 04, 2015

Yeh Kashmir Hain

The Assamese blockbuster film ‘Pita Putra’ (1987). A happy family of parents with three children, two boys and a girl. The elder, a bookworm, wants to go to Kashmir for the summer vacation because he has read about it in his Geography book that it the Heaven on Earth (you know, the ‘ami asto’ line and all…). The honest father cannot afford the trip. Instead, they choose the next best option, a trip to the neighbouring Shillong, with the promise that they would go to Kashmir the next time. They sing a song in Shillong (‘Look at the snow falling, look at the dusk falling…’) and once they are home, in Guwahati, I guess, the boy is diagnosed with a terminal disease, and he dies, still talking about his dream to visit Kashmir. The poor, honest father, who could not afford his son’s treatment, goes bonkers and joins hand with the mafia, to be a mafia don himself, leading to the major conflict of the film, his showdown with his idealistic surviving son…

Since I saw the movie during its theatrical release, like the dead boy, I had this one dream, to visit Kashmir. The plan never came to fruition in all those years (the ongoing stories about the militancy was least of the problem), and I sort of moved on. And then, I got this chance, all of a sudden, to spend a day on the road between Jammu and Srinagar, and one-and-a-half day in Srinagar. It was a whirlwind trip, I did not even get to do most of the touristy stuff, but, I must confess, the trip was worth the trouble. And, what they say about the place, its idyllic beauty, is all true.

Today, in Srinagar, militancy is a distant memory. However, what still haunts the average Srinagar resident is the flood in September 2014. In two weeks, the rushing water did more harm to the city than the militancy did in years. Yet, as resilient as the Kashmiri people are, they have fought back and have rebuilt the city, from the mud left by the flood, as it were, with very little government help…

Everywhere I went, the willing local residents recounted the tales of the devastating flood that took place in September 2014. It was like visiting a battlefield after the war was over. Everywhere I went, people will show me the spots where the flood caused havoc. “The water was up to the window,” one would say. “The water near Jhelum was until this point during the flood,” another would add.

Yet, the local residents have clearly moved on. While counting the loss, they are looking forward to the future, where they can thrive. The militancy in the valley is just a nightmare. The worse is over. And, the local residents have achieved this without must of an outside help.

When it came to help, they were critical of the government, who they claimed never helped the local people. There was almost no compensation after the flood, in which the city suffered a major loss. Whenever there was compensation, it was meager.

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