It used to be that whenever someone would ask me where I was from, I’d tell Kashmir. Depending on the listening party, there was a good likelihood of my enduring flak over the admittance. And then the political conversations that came as added baggage. Hardly something I enjoyed dealing with upon every introduction. It’s much easier to simply cop out and say ‘Texas’ than to get pulled into a mire of endless debating and arguing.
Frankly, I no longer care. It makes no difference to me the various argument put up by opposing parties. What’s the point? By taking out their venom on me, will any change befall the topics they speak of? Time and again I’ve had to endure would-be policymakers tell me just how the entire problem could be solved, or that if we simply admitted that we were a part of their country, all would be well.
Initially, I would offer forth a witty retort, and so would start the battle, always ending futilely, with glares being exchanged, arms crossed, and feelings miffed. How’s a kid supposed to make friends in that kind of an environment? These days everybody has an opinion, whether or not they actually have an idea of what is occurring. Why bother when in this modern age one can simply borrow ideas, thoughts, and political strategy from the nearest television? Why even think when there’s something telling you how to do just that?
What gets me is that man has made such advancements- scientific, medical, mathematical, etc. Yet ignorance prevails, and even more so among our youth. Why is that? How can it be possible that the one generation with thousands of amenities at their fingertips fail to adequately use them? I can come to terms with how some decades ago, waves of people joined behind one ideal or another at the pure say-so of those running for office. Lack of resources and constraints of time made it difficult to keep in touch with the state of affairs. But nowadays what hampers us? News is as far away as our cell phone. A milieu of papers can be perused in a matter of minutes. What excuse does one have to not be in the know?
We impede our nation’s progress. If anything, thanks in part to the persistent efforts of a good many in our society, we are slowly slipping back to days long forgotten by industrialized nations. Shame fills me when I see tourists in the streets perusing the wares of Lal Chowk amidst filth, dung, and a penetrating odor of urine. One is more likely to collide with livestock driving the roads than with another vehicle. Trash is dropped as though a trail beckoning Alice to the rabbit hole. Hospitals are breeding grounds for fatal illnesses.
The one place we at least would want to keep clean tends to be just as dust-ridden, with chaos enveloping the masses as soon as the last salaam is turned. Naturally, shoe racks are superfluous. It makes infinite more sense to toss footwear in the nearest corner instead of placing them in their designated place, lest we be late for the khutbah and elicit dirty stares from those we jostle in order to obtain a spot near the front. Have we not even the most basic forms of hygiene?
The Valley has become a hovel, a putrefying blend of droppings and phlegm. And it’s hardly as though one could hope for any sort of enlightenment to fall upon the successors of this Vale. Many would much rather busy themselves with the latest fashions, gossip in regards to who is dating whom, and dismiss any form of tradition or value that was once held in high esteem. One must be modern to fit in, with modern ideals. Marriages are based on money, hijabs are worn as per whims, and cursing is the only way to speak.
We’ve seen many a nation herald a new beginning and instill reform, but only through unity amongst the people and an inherent trust that we severely lack. We’re far more interested in lining our pockets than bringing about change. There’s a sort of apathy associated with my generation. For decades this issue has simmered. If our parents and theirs before them couldn’t solve it, why waste time and get involved in a sure-fire money burning activity? Indeed, why bother? At least, why continue in the same manner as those before us. All they’ve given us is a quicksand of deceit wherein we shall always be stuck. Let’s give our revolution its own twist, paint it our way, and get the most of what we want.
Now the pertinent question- how? Go to school. Get an education. Study well, top your classes, and ensure yourself a national seat in a prestigious institution. Attempt to secure any form of a scholarship along the way. Complete your degree, and become an upstanding citizen. Vote. Make yourself heard through your works. Express your thoughts through your hobbies. Get a job in the most competitive fields; infiltrate each and every aspect of Indian life and culture. Speak Hindi or Urdu with clarity, become well-read in the matters of art, history, poetry, and science. Run for a political office. Become the dean of medicine in the finest hospital. Espouse economic reform measures. In short- take advantage of each and every opportunity afforded to you, but keep strong in your heart the solidarity of your people. Bring forth the wealth of the oppressing regime into your backyard, and let us bring back our former glory.
Retain the languages of our ancestors and instill it into the minds of children from the very beginning. Establish a concrete written form, ensure that the works of literary greats are known, and teach open-mindedness and optimism. Speak to the occupational forces in Kashmiri. Refuse to respond unless they too enquire in Kashmiri. Make it your initiative to uphold your culture and ideals throughout all of their taunts. Keep in your mind the following verses: “What reason do we have not to put our trust in God, when He has already guided us to the ways of our lives? We shall certainly endure your persecution patiently, and those who want to put their trust, should put their trust in God.” (14:12).
What use is there in burning buildings, throwing rocks, shutting down commerce? In the end, who does it benefit? Why have we forsaken the one thing that will lead us to felicity? Fighting fire with fire never got anyone anywhere. “True servants of the Compassionate are those who walk on the earth in humility and when ignorant people address them, they say: ‘Peace.’” (25:63). Be proper, be polite, be humble. Never give them a reason to instigate.
Beautify your land through your own efforts. Pick up wayward trash. Utilize dustbins. Don’t use the roads as your sink or toilet. Again, let it never waver from your mind that “…The fact is that God never changes the condition of a people until they change it themselves. If God wants to afflict a people with misfortune, none can ward it off, nor can they find any protector besides Him.”(13:11). So why do we indulge in the wishes of richer or more powerful people when in the end it will be of no avail?
The author can be contacted at www.koshur.weebly.com.