My Right: Life or Death

You and me are alive, which means that we possess something called life. Life is all about different bio-chemical processes that maintain the working and functioning of different parts of our bodies. A person is called dead when these processes stop and there is no such activity in one’s body. Life and death are considered to be miles apart, but for me, there is not a big difference between the two. When a person is dead, only the internal bio-chemical processes cease to exist, not the external. The moment someone dies different micro-organisms, decomposers besides other organisms start to perform bio-chemical processes on the body by decomposing and degrading the body back to inorganic substituents or by feasting on it. The cycle of life goes on like this, with death of an organism comes the sustenance for the other. Death is a natural process just, like others. Why such a hue and cry? I fail to understand. Either my comprehension about the issue of death is weak or people have been overselling it. Let’s try to put forth the issue of life, death and suicide in a logical and simplified way. Let’s reason for a moment instead of being swayed away by emotions.

As pointed out by many thinkers and philosophers, “a person has the most exclusive and the foremost right over his life”. I don’t think people disagree with that, but still people have a problem with those who choose to end it the way they like. People are too busy declaring the morality of the act of suicide from their own point of view, instead of looking at it from the point of view of those people who commit suicide. There is one basic aspect to be considered while talking about suicide: whether the person believes in God or not. The scale of morality and legitimacy is somewhat different for the two cases.

If the person doesn’t believe in God, then he completely owns his life and he can end it like he wishes. Why should he wait for the arrival of death, when he doesn’t want to live longer? If he wants to die, he has the right to kill himself. You can’t deny that. Why should he, for the happiness of others, stay alive and cause enormous pain to himself, when he doesn’t want to struggle and fight anymore, and wants to end the life of misery and pain? What gives you the right to stop him from killing himself and force him to suffer in the struggle that he doesn’t want to fight anymore? Aren’t you actually forcing an unacceptable life on him and oppressing him to accept it when he has already rejected it? Aren’t you trampling his rights, and his freedom; freedom to live and to die? When people are free to live, shouldn’t they be free to die? Why not? There’s no logical explanation except for the usual babble and rhetoric. When I realize that this life is no more useful to me, and is causing only harm to me. Why shouldn’t I end it, why should I keep on living, and let myself suffer on daily basis? How’s it moral to let yourself suffer miserably, but immoral to end the sufferings? How am I even incumbent to get a moral permission from anyone, so that I may kill myself? I am a free man and I can take decision about my life on my own, to which I have the foremost right. For me, dying a natural death, dying of a disease or killing myself are one and the same thing. Because at the end I just die. And why can’t I choose when and where to die? I have every right to take control of my life and die on my own, instead of waiting for the death to arrive and kill me like a powerless and helpless creature! What if I have realized that the life is meaningless? Why should I still live on? Why should I strive for a meaningless life and help others to live the same? How’s it immoral to end a meaningless life? While people are busy deciding the morality of committing suicide, I’m already dead!

And if a person believes in God, it doesn’t give him less rights over his life. Life is a gift. And when you’re gifted anything, you’ve the right to return it back to the sender, if you don’t want it or if you don’t like it. Why shouldn’t I return a gift which brings me suffering and pain? I have the right to return the gift of life to the Creator. I’m not obliged to accept a gift which I don’t want to accept, and let myself suffer. My life may have a purpose, there may be a reason that God created me, but then why should I be forced to live this life when I don’t want to? What if I realise that, I’m harming the purpose, I was meant for. So, by killing myself, am I not actually helping the purpose, by eradicating the possibile harm which I would have brought to it? Why am I told that I can serve the purpose only when pain and sorrow is inflicted upon me? Why can’t I serve the purpose by giving the ‘most precious’ life for its sake? Dying in a Holy War has the highest reward and killing yourself for the same purpose takes you to the deepest corners of hell, why? In both the cases a life is lost for the purpose, one dies while trying to end the harm which others will bring to it and the other dies while ending the harm which his ownself would have brought to the purpose, shouldn’t then they be equal? Why not? And I didn’t ask God to bring me to life and give me a purpose to live! So, why should I live for a purpose which is enforced on me? I don’t want this life, I don’t want any of His gifts or favors. Why am I forced to live this life for some goddamn purpose? Why should I live for some purpose when I never asked Him to give me a life so that I may serve it, and why am I being forced to live for that enforced purpose? Why am I not allowed to free myself from the chains of purpose that I’ve been forced to wear and carry on, that I’ve been burdened with? Why should I be slave to a bond which I never signed? So, thus hereby, I declare that I have every right to return back this life to its Creator and its Owner, because I don’t want it, and I’ve never promised to live and die according to His terms and conditions. I don’t want to live for some purpose, I just don’t want to live. I don’t want His gift of paradise if I succeed in serving the purpose, and burn in hell for eternity if I fail to do so. Why is this life forced on me? I don’t want this life, and I don’t want any obligations and responsibilty. I have had enough of the bountiful gift of life. I want Him to take back this life, I just don’t want to exist.

Speaking on the account of facts, logic and reasoning, there’s no morality or immorality in killing yourself. How’s it either moral or immoral to stop the functioning of bio-chemical processes of my body? It’s my right whether I want to live or not, whether I want these bio-chemical processes to go on or not. You’re not obliged to live, whether you believe in God or not. If you want to serve some purpose and you want to live for it, or if you just want to live without serving any purpose, you have every right to do so. But if you don’t want to serve any purpose or you don’t believe that any such purpose exists, or you just don’t want to live anymore and you want to kill yourself, you have the same and equal rights to do so. I don’t have to live for someone or some purpose, if I don’t want to. I don’t have to suffer for the sake of someone or some purpose, if I don’t want to. I don’t have to strive and struggle for the sake of someone or some purpose, if I don’t want to. I don’t have to live, if I don’t want to. I have the right to live, and I have the right to die.

It’s my life, my right.
If it’s a gift, just take it back.

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The eeriness of the silence.

“The glory”, said the ‘guardians’.
When the wind blew,
They called it a breeze.
It was a storm,
The destruction of my dorm.
And then followed the eerie silence,
The silence was of death,
It was a murder.
The eeriness was of red,
It was human blood.
“Peace”, proclaimed the ‘guardians’.
The hue and cry, long ago,
Was left, high and dry.
“What’s wrong?”, I asked.
Pat, came the reply.
“Good job and goodbye”,
Said the man looking at my bloody record-book.
Deep inside, a voice cursed me,
“What have I done?”, I asked myself, with a distraught look.
‘Spat’, came the reply.
“I’m ashamed to be you”,
Said my reflection from the bloodied brook.
Out of fear came a loud scream,
I wished it was just a horrible dream.
Alas, the reality haunts:
In my body a dead soul flaunts.
A cold body and nothing more,
I’ve got a huge bloody score.
I’ve helped the butchers to massacre my own,
Put to death the seeds of resistance that were sown.
I’m a murderer, I’ve killed my own self,
Destroyed my own existence.
Betrayed my nation, I’m a renegade,
Deceived my heroes, I belong to the reporting brigade.
In the wintry thoughts of my frozen bloody darkness,
I realized that it’s me, the eeriness of the silence.

Khaandar: Marriage in Kashmir

In Kashmir, marriage has always been a ludicrous affair, as far as I know and as far as I’ve seen. The day of marriage is no less than the day of resurrection for the two families. Everyone is sent into dizzy from the very first day when the two families come to an agreement for tying the knot of marriage. They are lost in ‘pre-arrangements’ in the battle of superiority. To show to the world that their marriage ceremony has been second to none. Enormous time and money is spent for ‘the day’. After-all, you’ve to impress your relatives, friends, neighbors and acquaintances that you are a man of great means and that you are the one who loves to have the best for his/her special occasions! And that you’re the one who doesn’t bother spending lavishly to impress people even if it will cost you a fortune, and affect your economical conditions in the worst ways! You just want to hear praises for you, you just want to be known for conducting a great marriage. The status in society for Kashmiri people is dearer to them than their own lives and they don’t mind getting bankrupt for that! No matter what, people shouldn’t just say that, the marriage ceremony wasn’t ‘good’! They should be all praises for it and that matters a lot. I’m not saying that everyone in Kashmir is like that only. There are few brave people in Kashmir, who are ready to face the slurs of the society, brave enough to keep the affair simple and not to care about the comments from people around them.

The marriage in Kashmir is stuffed to core with infinite customs. It starts from the day of looking out for a suitable bride/groom. The Manzimyoar (Middle-man/woman) is the first thing that has to be looked for. And he/she should have a reputation for getting good matches. Then starts the selection process and the time to set the eligibility criteria. Mulaazim (employee) is the first choice for bride’s parents. Not being a mulaazim is a huge disadvantage for to-be-groom in Kashmir. It decreases the chance of getting a suitable match for him. Almost every parent out there is desperate to have a mulaazim for his/her daughter. They want an assurance for economic sustenance of the couple, and what can assure that better, in Kashmir, than having a government job? When it comes to looking for a bride, no one misses to ask the question, “Battu’ chhusaa tagaan ranun? (Does she know how to cook?)”. Many a times, that suffices and other criteria get a relaxation. The question used to be enough during earlier times, but now educational qualification is also a much-sought thing. The trend of looking for a working woman is also catching up these days, but it’s yet to get a mass following.

Now, when the suitable match is found. The trail of never ending customs kick-starts and both families are found pushing the cart desperately. Both sides try to be better than their counterparts and to be precise and perfect, because they don’t want the affair to break down, else it’ll cost both sides a huge fortune. It starts with Pyaalas traavun/Kath ratin (agreement for tying the knot), then comes the Nishaaen (engagement), then it’s Saat-naam (fixing the date of marriage) and finally the D-Day, Khaandar. It looks so simple in these words, but speaking practically: it gets the hell out of the both families. Not just the above mentioned events, there are many more ‘un-official’ customs and visits, which are as tedious as the above ones. They include visits on festivals and various religious occasions, obviously, with huge exchange of gifts and presents. And these visits have protocols which are stricter and much more complicated than US President visiting another country. There is no room for any mistake. Everything has to be perfect, so much so, that, even Picasso might wonder at the intricacy and details of these affairs.

Be it an official or un-official visit, Wazwan (Kashmiri cuisine) has to be there, always. Wazwan’s presence is just unavoidable. It’s an integral part of almost all the events that run-up to the marriage. Of all the things included in this marriage affair, Wazwan is the only thing that I don’t have a problem with. I wish to criticize it for so many reasons, but my taste buds never let me do so! Still, sometimes Wazwan loses its essence when extravagance touches the heights of skies. At that time even the taste buds are left in a bitter taste.

These affairs of Khaandar are so tedious that both the families are left high and dry after the commencement of marriage. Kath-ratin is not all about coming to an agreement, there’s a huge exchange of gifts and presents between the families. And that’s just the beginning. Nishaaen is not all about being engaged in a relationship. It’s about shower of money and of expenses from both sides. The gifts and presents aren’t only for the bride or the groom, they have to be for the whole family- a huge list of people which even includes some distant relatives, from both sides. Then is the Saat-naam. It’s not an easy job to fix a date for marriage in Kashmir. There has to be advice from Peer-Soab (Muslim saint), then both the families have to look for a date which doesn’t clash with any of the relative’s unavoidable work. Else he/she will think that marriage date has been deliberately fixed on that day so that he/she won’t be able to attend it! The marriage affair in Kashmir is like a spiders web, very delicate. A blow of wind and everything is mere dust. It needs to delicately handled and protected with iron shields. Both the families have to buy clothes for their relatives before the day of marriage else they won’t attend the marriage ceremony! Choosing clothes for so many people is not an easy job when you know that if it’s not-so-good to their tastes it’ll be rejected without any hesitation or shame! Now, comes the Maaenz-Raat (the day of applying Henna on bride’s/groom’s hands). That’s the night of learning from owls! Applying henna, which could have been done in an hour takes the whole night. The henna is applied with some strange and peculiar ‘pre-customs’, which I know nothing about except for hearing it from others as I’ve never been able to stay awake to witness that e.g. keeping coins in the henna paste and then let the insomniacs find them. And then finally comes the much-awaited day of Khaandar, which ought to be a day of happiness and merry, brings nothing except tension and frustration to both the families, and to all the sleep-deprived people! Especially to the one who had to empty his/her pockets for all this i.e. parent or the guardian. He seems to be more worried about the incoming wartaav (a reciprocative gift- a sum of rupees to greet on the auspicious occasion): the only thing that eases his frustration. Now the groom/bride or anyone else from the family takes up the role of an accountant and receives the wartaav from friends and family members while checking, whether it is equal to the amount that they had given to them earlier, from the Wartaav copy (Wartaav record book). And refuses to accept the amount less than that, just like a strict and honest accountant! Then the Dawat-e-Walima (feast of reception), ironically given a day before reception in Kashmir but still called the same, is enjoyed by the people. And the saying that there’s nothing like free lunch stands true as all those people who enjoyed the feast had to pay for it in the form of wartaav. The Baraat (Marriage procession from groom’s home) is the most complicated issues of the all things. Suddenly and in a very abrupt manner, the bridegroom goes super-slow. I don’t know whether these Baraats are cursed which makes grooms go slow or grooms are just too afraid to get married! When it’s time to go for Baraat the groom moves so slowly, that it feels like he’s suffering from some serious disease. Not just that, he’s held by two of his close friends from both the sides, lest he should collapse! And I wonder that must be the pressure of getting married; after all it’s a big day for him! Then he’s served milk and all those drinks, so that he may regain some energy and start moving fast. But no, he still remains to be the same slow moving creature. Finally when the Baraat reaches bride’s home, he’s so weak by then that he can’t even remove his own shoes and that he can’t even sit on his own. Those two friends remove his shoes, help him sit down and even help him recline! And when I look at the groom in such a condition, my heart cries out: Poor Mahraaz (bridegroom), please take him to the hospital! I also keep cursing the groom for being slow, as everyone prefers to go to Maharaaz Saal (feast at bride’s place) with empty stomachs. You just can’t like things going slow when you’re hungry and desperate for wazwan. But no, people around don’t feel like that so you have to assume that everything is normal. As if groom’s slow speed wasn’t enough that the whole family of the bride comes with garlands and gifts, elderly members kissing and hugging the groom, and the hungry people left there to lurch for their hunger. When all that gifting, hugging and kissing is done, the Nikaah (Marriage contract) ceremony is held, then comes the wazwan and finally the beasts get to feast! Now, suddenly all the happy and smiling faces at bride’s home turn sad and melancholic. And everyone is crying for their daughter, who’s leaving her home and the comfort and luxury of her parents. But the slow-motion phase still continues, even the sobs of the bride come after brief pauses! I don’t know whether it’s just me, but I’ve always felt embarrassed at such times while trying to control my laughter. I would have laughed heartily during such situations but then I don’t want to break their slow-motion streak and instead give them a reason to go all-out and vent their whole frustration and sadness on me. Finally, Baraatis (people in a Baraat) are headed back home, and everything is supposed to go on smoothly, except if some lady from bride’s side doesn’t hide groom’s shoes and then ask for money to return it back or one of groom’s noble and faithful friends doesn’t ask for Kadluh taar (tip given to the driver as per the custom to cross a bridge). It just doesn’t end here! Even after marriage, bride’s parent are incumbent to call the couple for Phir saal (lunch/dinner at bride’s home) on regular intervals, lest the in-laws of bride start believing that her parents have forgotten her, and then she will have to face the brunt of their mocking and abuses.

Marriage, a union of two souls has been made an affair of great economic concern! But I wonder, why economists haven’t commented over the losses, suffered because of enormous extravagance in marriages, yet? Never-ending customs and traditions have made marriage such a difficult affair that many people find it unaffordable and are caught in a melee with their economic conditions. Marriages should have been simple and it shouldn’t have mattered whether you can afford to observe the customs and traditions or not. But in a society like Kashmir, it’s difficult to sideline these ridiculous and silly customs. One can’t afford to miss the issue of dowry while talking about marriages. It has already cost many lives and many beautiful relationships. A lot of women are unable to get married because they don’t have enough money to fulfill the greed of dowry-hungry people. The greed for money and the lust for ‘status in society’ is highly reflected in marriages. It’s usually for keeping their ‘status in society’ intact and ever-glorified that people complicate the affair of marriage and make it impossible for poor people to do it the simple way. I know few people who were caught heavily in debt because they were unable to conduct the marriage of their daughters/sons in a simple way. I have seen them regretting their decisions, but they were forced by circumstances and the standards and customs of our society to take the much-expensive and the hard way. Why do we like to see more and more money wasted in such affairs? We need to ask ourselves, why we like to see extravagance and lavishness? Why don’t we like things to go the simple way when they can? Materialism has destroyed our intellect and thinking power. We think the more the money spent, more the extravagance, better is the affair. We give no value to human emotions, love and respect for each other, if money is not involved in it. Our lust and infatuation for money seems to be ever-increasing and our love for emotions, ever-decreasing. As can be apparently seen from the way we handle the affair of marriage, from the way we want to be involved in Khaandar. We don’t care about the unnecessary burden that we directly put on ourselves and indirectly on others. When anyone starts an expensive and glamorous trend, others are dragged either by circumstances and the society or by mere jealousy to follow it. Thus, over some period of time, it changes into a standard which everyone is forced to follow. We involuntarily and unknowingly turn pests for society, who degrade the very fabric of simplicity and peace, by our irresponsible and uncaring nature. It’s the need of hour that, our customs and traditions, which are followed with zeal and enthusiasm by most of the people, be reconsidered and critically analyzed, for our own benefit and for the sake of sanity.

Zindah hoon, mujhe tum kehne do…

Azad meri Awaaz hai,
Udti huwi hai Rooh meri.
Zindah hoon, mujhe tum kehne do.
Hai haq mera, mujhe jeene do.
Jab lab yeh mere bolenge,
Tab alfaaz yeh mere goonjenge.
Zindah hoon, mujhe chillaane do.
Hai haq mera, mujhe jeene do.

Is zulm-o-sitam ke aalam mein,
Yeh awaaz meri jo goonji hai.
Ik mazloom ki is aah ko,
Logoon ko zara tum sunne do.
Aaj mere labb bol uthe hain,
Mein Azad hoon, mujhe jeene do.

Yeh ghulaami ki zanjeerein,
In Azad fizaaoon ko kya rokegi.
Ab toofaan dehal utha hai,
Kuch Azadi ke baadal barsaane do.

Yeh zubaan meri hai, haq bole gi,
Isay bas tum batlaane do.
Yeh qalam mera hai, yeh haath mere.
Kuch alfaaz mile hai, likhne do.

The Idea of Veil

We are mostly bothered about how world looks at the veiled people and the way world presumes them to be. With least concern upon the way they look at the world, we still have the audacity to comment indiscriminately on their ‘rights’ and talk about them, terming them as the ‘oppressed people’. We think that they are some moving-wrapped-up-entities who lack emotions and feelings. We fail to see the human being behind the veil. They veil themselves so that they are not objectified. But we objectify them, and look at them as objects of irony and misery, objects of oppression and suppression. Our views about them are irrational and completely out of line with logic. We feel as if they are just moving-veils and nothing more- some automated beings moving at the command and behest of some oppressor.

We may fail to look beyond the veil, but the veiled person can see us clearly. Our vision is blocked by the veil, not theirs. We fail to understand that it’s just their body which is veiled not their personality. There personality is as charming and as brilliant as any other person. No veil can stop us from seeing that if we just open our eyes beyond the prejudices and the bias regarding the veiled persons.

They may veil themselves to be protected from evil eyes or to follow the commandment of God. But if looked from another perspective, a veil is like a power-suit. A veil imparts super-powers to the veiled. In a world where women are often exploited because of objectification of their bodies. It gives her the power of being identified for her distinct and unique personality instead of being generalized as a sex-object. The veil is feminine in nature and stands for the rights of women and their dignity. A veil can truly help to eradicate sexism if we open our eyes enough to look beyond the piece of cloth. And if we are ready to embrace the facts instead of being drowned in prejudices. Veil has enough power to say loudly that the veiled isn’t just a body, she’s a person and has a personality! Veil is powerful enough to declare the individuality of a woman by putting a veil on the presumptions and assumptions about women being someone’s someone or someone’s property. Veil doesn’t just conceal, it reveals the distinct and unique identity of the veiled by concealing the stereotypes and presumptions associated with women. It reveals the true identity of the veiled person by putting-off the societal constructions in one’s mind about them. Veil does block our vision. But it only blocks our hackneyed vision about the women. Veil helps in changing perceptions about women from being mere bodies to women being amazing personalities.

A veil is much more than a piece of cloth. Veil represents a super-woman, far above the imbecile generalizations about women. The power of veil gets integrated with the power of women. And when these powers are combined, they reflect themselves in the form of freedom. But, only if it’s done by choice and not by coercion or by force. Veil is an idea, and you cannot impose an idea over someone. And if you do so, you are actually affecting the psychological and mental facets of the person in an adverse manner. An idea which the host considers to be hostile, is attacked on all fronts by host’s mental and psychological processes. And finally they are found at a serious and never-ending war, in which both the idea and the host suffers. At the end of such hostility, the idea gets tainted and the host disturbed. And instead of imparting any powers or distinct identity to the person, it destroys the individual and her identity. An idea shouldn’t be hostile, it should be host-friendly so that the host and the idea can integrate instead of disintegrating each other. So, imposing the concept of veil on someone has nothing good in it but destruction, both for the idea of the veil and for the person.

We ought to know the difference between the veil and the veiled. Some people often confuse the two to be the same! Veil is an idea, a covering, a source of power. Veiled person is one who has accepted the idea of veil. Veiled person is also a human being! No less than anyone else. She is neither oppressed nor suppressed, she is  follower of the idea she found worth following, she is a free-woman, who has chosen the path of veil. The only difference between a veiled and an unveiled woman is that the former has accepted and embraced the idea of veil and the latter hasn’t. An idea when accepted on your own, out of your own will doesn’t reflect being oppressed or suppressed. An idea takes the form of oppression only when it’s forcibly imposed on someone.

Those women who have embraced the idea of veil are as free as anyone else and much more powerful and independent. They deserve to be respected and accepted just like others. They have accepted an idea, they deserve to be appreciated for that. You may not like the idea of veil, but that doesn’t give you the right to babble about the veiled person. If you have got a better idea, you can propose it in a humble and respectful way. Just like intelligent people propose ideas. Freaking out on veiled people doesn’t help at all. It just reflects your frustration about the idea. And when you are frustrated by a simple idea, don’t expect any veiled/unveiled person to take you seriously. Ideas are meant to have proponents as well as opponents. But, an idea can be countered only with an idea, a better one. If you’re serious and sincere about countering the idea of veil for good. Come up with an idea, not with your babble or your frustration.

The veil exists in various forms, it may be Burqa, Niqab, Abaya, Jilbab, Khimar, Chador besides others. The idea of veil cuts across all such forms and represents itself as a unique and novel idea of liberation and freedom!

From the mustard fields…

It’s harvesting time in Kashmir! Harvesting Mustard seeds.

The day at the field starts with a brief chat and a discussion between the brothers:

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Now, it’s time to have a look at the heap of dried mustard plants:

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Then, the plants are laid on a tarpaulin and threshed to get the mustard seeds:
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Now the kaand (hay) and the husk is to be put aside:

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And now it’s lunch time:

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While they are busy having lunch, let’s have a look around:

Marijuana plants found everywhere in Kashmir. A free gift of nature:

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Strawberry fruit enveloped by pollen grains from Poplar trees:

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Cows too are having lunch:

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That’s how empty mustard fields look like in Kashmir:

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View of an overcrowded bus from the fields:

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As they get back to work the kid enjoys lunch in the shade of another thatch of mustard plants:

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Not to forget the dear soil that produces it all- Desh ki dharti:

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Back to work, and now the seeds have to be winnowed to remove the remaining husk:

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Now it’s time to sieve the seeds and remove the still-remaining husk:

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And finally you get the Mustard seeds, ready to be packed and extracted:

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Now let’s take the seeds home:

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On a bike? Yes!

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No, the job is not done yet! The remaining husk and the thatches of hay are to be burned:

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And this is how the fields looked like when we were leaving the place:

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You might think that they can rest now. Hey, who’s gonna take care of the paddy fields? Not just harvesting time in Kashmir, it’s sowing time too.

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P.S. If they’ll get to know that I have posted their pics on my blog, they’re gonna kill me. By the way, I don’t mind being killed!

 

Gaam-Shahar: The Urban-Rural Divide in Kashmir

Being a Kashmiri who has lived initial period of his life in an urban setup and then shifted to rural area (my native place), I have a feeling for both the places. I have both Shahr’uk (urbanite) as well as Gaam’uk (villager) in me. This identity of being Gaam’uk or Shahr’uk was immaterial for me, until I started feeling the Gaam-Shahar (Urban-Rural) divide in Kashmir. And then came the time when I would identify myself either as Shahr’uk or as Gaam’uk according to the situation. I would call myself a Gaam’uk when the city-dweller in front of me has averse feelings for villagers, and I would call myself a Shahr’uk when the villager in front of me has the same averse feelings for city-dwellers. I try to act as a bridge between the two places, between two parts of my life. This role sometimes makes me laugh, and sometimes it makes me sad. I don’t like to play such a role but the situation always calls for such, because I don’t like people creating divisions just on the basis of place of dwelling. I would debate both as a Shahr’uk as well as a Gaam’uk to make people realize that such divisions are unworthy and totally immaterial. It’s good to have an identity but if that identity makes you averse to other identities, it becomes pure evil!

I realized the existence of Urban-Rural divide when I joined a boarding school in Shopian. I’m actually a Gaam’uk (villager), but our dialect and speaking style is somewhat close to that of city-people. Thus my classmates, mostly from villages were deceived into belief that I’m Shahr’uk. So, they started speaking against me-the Shahr’uk. I was told a lot of times that, “Shahr’ken chi tagaan bass nakhru’ haawin (City-dwellers only know how to show attitude)”, “Shahr’ik chi aasaan lazy (City dwellers are lazy people)”. That’s the time when I started playing the above defined role. I would try to defend myself as Shahr’uk and try to make it clear that we’re not like they presume us to be. The divide becomes quite evident at picnic spots where dwellers of that particular area show possessiveness and resentment against Shahr’uk or Gaam’uk accordingly, whether the spot lies in a rural or urban area. These Gaam-Shahar brawls at picnic spots are well known among youngsters. Once a friend of mine told me, “Akih duah aasee Shahr’ik aamit Islamabad picnic, timav laagee tatih nakhru’ haawin tu’ asih daeg timm. Mea chhee Shahr’ik saheeh kharaan (One day urbanites had come to Islamabad (Anantnag) on a picnic. They tried to show attitude, and we did beat them up. I damn hate city-folks)”. And they would mock city-dwellers by saying, “Shahrken chi baasaan kih aes chi kamtaam balaai (City-dwellers think that they are some great folks)”. Being surrounded by villagers who shared such ‘ideology’, I tried to keep the debates as cool as possible. I faced numerous such incidents where hatred for city-dwellers was evidently shown. And when I left the place, I found myself  highly sensitive to the issue. Afterwards, I would take the issue seriously and  try to instil some sense into such people.

I’ve spent quite a time among the city-dwellers. Again, deceived by the way I speak Kashmiri. They would often make comments like, “Yim chi yim Gaam’ik aasaan shikaslad… (These villagers, they are just paupers…)”, “Yim gaam’ik chi aasaan beshoar…(These villagers are mannerless)”. And when I revealed that I am a villager, they would be embarrassed to death. While in a school in Srinagar, my classmates from Srinagar region started talking about, rather disparaging villages and villagers. They said that villages are dirty places, there is cow-dung in villages, there are cow-sheds in villages. They said that villagers lack manners, they lack etiquettes, and so on. And then a debate started between rural and urban students of our class, both sides trying to prove their supremacy. And at such times I just like to be an audience. I once came across a person in Delhi, who happened to be from the city. While commenting about villagers, he said that he didn’t like villagers, he said, “Yim chi coaching center tih Pheran laagith yiwaan (They come to coaching centers wearing Pheran (Kashmiri gown) )”. And when I revealed that I too am a villager, he turned into an apologist and said, “You’re from one few villagers that I like”. And I wondered, what’s so wrong in wearing a Pheran?

I observed one thing in this Urban-Rural divide that, villagers associate Nakhru’ (attitude) with urban people, and city-dwellers associate Shikas (pauperism) with rural people. While both of them are wrong, and Kashmiri society has equal dose of these characteristics in both rural as well as urban people. Most of the people won’t acknowledge it. While writing this piece, my brother told me, “Natkya yimm Shahr’ik chi aasaanuee nakhral (These urbanites do have a lot of attitude)”. He went on to say, “Asih chi coaching center duhaye yiman shahar’ken sit ladaaye gasaan (We have a daily brawl with these urbanites at our coaching center)”.

We might think that there is no need to worry about the Urban-Rural divide. But the fact is that the Urban-Rural divide is one such issue that has been pestering our society for long. It has developed a hatred in our hearts for each other. The hatred is mostly kept hidden, and people try to act as if they don’t care about the dwelling-place of other person. But when they are among their ‘own’ people, they would always lament like, “Yih chhee aamut Shahar peth mea Nakhru haawnih! (That urbanite, just came here all the way to show his attitude!)” or “Yiman chhaa paye yiman Gaam’ken shikasladan kaam karin kath chi wanaan! (These village paupers don’t even know how a job/work is done!)”.

And there would be people who’d say that the Urban-Rural divide is found only among illiterate and uneducated people. But regretfully that’s not true. Even literate, ‘educated’ people are into this, as much as the former. I have seen enough Gaam-Shahar brawls on twitter, facebook. People disrespecting each other, fighting over who has contributed more to the Kashmir freedom movement, accusing each other of cheating the nation, blaming each other for being responsible for the mess and so on. One peculiar thing about few rural people is that, they have associated an inferiority complex with themselves for being villagers and they always try to run away from their identity. Comments like, “Chu chhukh/chhakh gaamuk/gaamich” gets the hell out of them for reasons only known to them. I don’t understand what’s so good or bad about being from a city or from a village respectively! I think both are humans, do we need to be anything more? You realize the ridiculousness of Gaam-Shahar divide when you ponder over the way a Shahr’ich Zanaan (city-woman) and a Gaamich Zanaan (village-woman) is perceived and the way people talk about her in a village and in a city, respectively.

The need of hour is to change our perceptions about each other. And believe only in firsthand experience. One of the reasons that the urban-rural divide exists in Kashmir is that most of the people accept the impression about each other, which is imposed on them by others. Gaam-Shahar divide plays a foul in our lives only when we let it do so. Barring those incidents when people seemed to be ‘identity-hungry’, I vividly remember being loved in villages and being cared for in the city. It’s just that we need to give air to each other and respect each others space. We need to understand that having enormous diversity even in a small place like Kashmir, is what beautifies humanity and makes Kashmir a wonderful place. And respecting that diversity is what defines Kashmir, defines us-the Kashmiris and the Kashmiriyat.

No desire, no longings…Freedom!

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I am polite to my own misery,
I can’t judge what ails me.
Lest I die misnomered:
“Ah, my identity!
Blessed be the blessing, bless me.”
Bring me a cup of wine.
No, I don’t long for a drink!
I yearn to occupy it.
I wish to amass the power.
The power of intoxication!
Intoxicated by my power,
Let the world believe: “I’m their master.
…yes, you’re right.
I ain’t their master.
How can I be?
For I’m slave to the desire of power!
How can I be slave to a desire?
Don’t I call myself a master?
O my desire, I command thee:
“Be blind to what I can’t see.
Stop and cease, lest I desire for the tree.”
The world prohibits, the instinct inhibits.
Why can’t I be a free soul?
No, I don’t desire for freedom.
I’m not slave to desires anymore.
I’m a free man. Yes, I’m freed.
No desire, no longing.
Just a man who keeps walking.
…destination? What evil is that?
I’m not bound by any source or by any past.
I walk for the sake of path.
Isn’t a path meant to be trodden?
My rag is my suit, my vision is my abode.
My words are my truth, my ears don’t hear anymore.
No, not slave to standards.
For I too can change the scales!
Neither I’m rooted, nor do I fly high.
Earth is my dwelling place,
Not the core or the sky.
No longings, no desire.
No water, not even burning fire.
Neither a truthful, nor a liar,
Can make me long for a desire.
I am a free man, and I repeat:
“I am the freedom!”