July 25, 2009

Day 1

Filed under: J&K,National Security,Politics — loggers @ 1:29 am

With tickets purchased on Yatra for INR 2791 (inclusive of taxes et cetera), we walked in to the low cost airline terminal of the CSA airport, Mumbai.  Upon arrival at 2pm (flight time 2.5 hrs) in Srinagar, we made our way to our local host and mentor, David Devadas residence in Rajbagh. David is the author of `In Search of a Future, the Story of Kashmir’. Over adrak chai, samosas and vegetable patties, we spoke about the ubiquitous security personnel in multiple shades of khaki and goodwill messages on barricades. We learnt that the security cover tends to be heavy on Fridays as Muslims gather at local mosques for jumma prayers. Today was the first peaceful Friday in 5 months.

After the intro to Kashmir talk by David, we headed to Lal Chowk (Srinagar’s city center) via streets sprayed with bunkers, Jammu & Kashmir’s only flyover anhd the outskirts of Bakhshi Stadium. As we drove through the city, we absorbed the mystic concept of Kashmiriyat evident in polite manners and eclectic architecture. Lal Chowk, up until now, had been part of unpleasant headlines in the news. Today we discovered gushtaba and rista (beaten, not minced meatballs) and tuj, bookstores and stock brokers on-looking a volatile crossroad.

Gushtaba & Rista at Lal Chowk

Gushtaba & Rista at Lal Chowk

We made an interesting discovery as we pondered over what we saw and heard. As visitors, we thought of every security checkpoint as a comforting factor that mitigated our preconceived fears about a region prone to violence. To understand the political turmoil that has come to define Kashmir over the years, we spoke to Shaukat Motta, editor of Conveyor who gave us a factual account of ideologies that have shaped the issues that plague this region. We realized during this interaction however, that even the most peace loving Kashmiris thought of security checkpoints as unnecessary intrusions. This discrepancy taught us something. It forced us to think of the root causes of this major difference in attitude towards the army, and thus towards the government it seeks to defend. We thought of, and discussed, the region’s political history, its economic profile, and the cultural influences that condition its people, realizing that there was no one root cause – but a combination of factors that account for such attitude. We hope to discover and understand more as we go along.

We walked most of the distance home from Lal Chowk, and crossed the Jhelum on a Shikara – an enamoring experience in itself. We came home with many of our presumptions shattered, and perhaps with many new ones developed. Importantly, we came home with many new unanswered questions.


1 Comment »

  1. Love the reference to food. yet, please add supporting pictures.

    Comment by Aviad — July 27, 2009 @ 2:27 am | Reply

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