Saturday, 30 June 2012

Thank God for Little Pleasures - IV

Coffee. Be thankful for it. 

There are traditions and myths all over the world about it. However, the first credible source of coffee drinking comes from the Sufi shrines in Yemen. (Weinberg, Bennett Alan; Bealer, Bonnie K (2001) )Just one of the many things the Muslims popularised in the world. 

Monday, 25 June 2012

A Glow of Faith

Today the news came in at breakfast that the shrine of Hazrat Ghous-ul-Azam has caught fire. Immediately I checked Facebook and Twitter to confirm, because that is the fastest any news travels. And it was true.

The green and white building with large ornate windows was burning. Flames erupting from its wooden jalis and consuming it. Not in bits, but whole. The extremely beautiful inner prayer halls of the aasthan with its carpeted floor. Papier-mache walls. The chandeliers. The wood work. The tiered roof. The small wooden steps.  All turning down to ash.

The shrine in Kashmir was erected many years after the saint had left for heavenly abode. But for his followers in this valley of ours, it was a meeting point. A melting point. Here they came in flocks, everyday. Men, women and children. Weeping and wailing. Telling their Dastgeer of all their pains. And their Dastgeer listened. They prayed, and he prayed along with them. He prayed for them.

The prayers were answered.

The ancient mosque where the sacred relics were stored can now be seen in 3D through the lens of two travellers to Kashmir here and here.

Photo from
We remember the saint and his shrine. It's etched in our memory and our hearts. For even when the four walls have been torn down by fire, faith keeps the lamps alive in Srinagar. We are not letting go, and so is he. That's the promise of the peer. A Sufi points you towards the Almighty. Takes you closer to the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him). And elevates your stature spiritually. Ghaus-ul-Azam is our waseelah to God.

Dastgeer Saheb never visted Kashmir. But just like other parts of the world, the peer has his mureeds here too. The candle emits the shine, it is not shined upon. The case of candle and the moth as is the general proverb in Urdu. The moths are attracted to the light, the light not to them. 11th of Rabi-us-Saani is commemorated with reverence just as in other parts of the world. There devotees sit from one end of the road to another (because the shrine was not large enough to accommodate everyone) and pray to the Almighty, just as the peer has taught them to.

And so even when the fire ravaged the building and burnt the knotted threads there, we knew that our bond with Dastgeer Saheb is just the same as it was, even if not stronger.

Allama Iqbal

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

You're Invited.

I once saw a wedding card which announced "Khandar Saal" on its cover. Personally, I found that offensive. Cards need to be decent, methinks, at least as decent as the wedding you are inviting to is going to be. Another card I once saw repeated a line from a then-popular TV commercial. Seriously! But mostly, circulating in Kashmir are cards which have nothing noticeable in them. The same old thick paper, the paper envelopes, may be some raised letters or a little bling bling. Oh, and yes, there was a card too which had so many compartments and flaps, that it was hard to find where to read. Then, once, came a wedding invitation card that was as thick as a notebook, with three different invitations inside for the same wedding. Sure, here - where I live, people do get fancy with cards.

But then most recently I came by this one. A wedding card written in Kashmiri. The first time I had seen such a thing. We do have cards written in Urdu, but Kashmiri? Why no one thought of doing it before, I wonder? I was so excited by this that I brought it from my uncle's house (where I saw it) and decided to type it here - in a purely philanthropic pursuit, of course. 

If you find it hard to read, you are not the only one. I too found it incredibly difficult to read. And even harder to type in Inpage. But even then, I think its an exceptional effort by the writer to put forth the native language, which, unfortunately has now a very restricted readership. This card announces the marriage of a son and daughter. What I find classy is that they don't mention the daughter's name, but refer to her with an appellation.  

PS: I did not write this card, as mentioned above. 

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Small Things

Social networking throws a lot of people in your path. By the collar, because they have no choice. On Twitter, I came to know a guy from the other side of Kashmir. That was my first rendezvous with anyone who has actually lived on the other side of LoC. Azad Kashmir. Pakistan Administered Kashmir. Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. Whatever. From Muzaffarad of Kashmir.

I wonder what that part of Kashmir looks like. Not that I have travelled and seen everything on this side. How the people there live? Do they come across army-men as often as we do? Its surprising how little news of everyday affairs travels onto this side of the LoC, which is not even a border. There is a concept that a lot of people from the towns which went with Pakistan administered Kashmir have settled in the West. I wonder how true is that?

Do you have the Kangri for when its cold?
The pheran? Isfand?
Do you hang the czaalan from a thread at the back?
Tell me about your food?
Do you have the wazwaan and the waza to cook it?
Is it same to ours?
Is your meal, too, incomplete without rice?
What about Nun-chai and its company of girda?
In a samovar?
Our bagel, czachwour?
In winters, do you too have harissa?
Do you dry vegetables for winters?
In threads under the roofs?
Do you tell children of our history - together and apart?
Do we appear in your History? Are you a part of ours?
Do you speak the languages we do?
Are you a part of our great Sufi tradition?
Do mothers there tie threads on the Aasthaan doors?
Are your hopes fulfilled? Do you hope for the same things as we do?

Generations ago, we were the same. How different could we be now?

‘The failure of the subconscious was the border. The line of control did not run through 576 kilometeres of militarised mountains. It ran through our souls, our hearts, and our minds. It ran though everything a Kashmiri, an Indian, and a Pakistani said, wrote, and did. It ran through the fingers of editors writing newspaper and magazine editorials, it ran through the eyes of reporters, it ran through the reels of Bollywood coming to life in dark theatres, it ran through conversations in coffee shops and TV screens showing cricket matches, it ran through families and dinner talk, it ran through the whispers of lovers. And it ran through our grief, our anger, our tears, and our silences.’
-          Basharat Peer, Curfewed Night.