By Hirra Azmat
Srinagar, Apr 18: On the broken entrance to an uptown café, she outstretched her hand to help me.
“Don’t panic. Hold my hand,” Meanka Handu said, breaking into a warm smile. “The only serious thing in this life is death. It will come, but till then, let’s laugh about it.”
This was my first introduction to the comedian who has taken social media by storm in Kashmir.
The Delhi-based comedian has her roots from Kashmir: she was born in a Pandit family at Rainawari in old Srinagar.
Her family left the valley in the ‘90s and settled in New Delhi, where she did her primary and secondary school to, subsequently, pursue a career in engineering.
She rose to prominence after her videos gained popularity on the social media sites especially among the Kashmiri audience.
She has her YouTube channel known as ‘Asvun Kashur’, meaning laughing Kashmiri, which has more than 10,000 followers, and counting.
“I did a fulltime job in several management companies for eight years. After a certain period of time, I realised that 9 to 5 job didn’t suit me well. I started to freelance. At present, I am a learning and development professional.” Meanka shared.
Walking down the memory lane, she described herself as a “studious” and “submissive” kid.
“I was not a very talkative kid, but I was very expressive. I used to imitate the advertisements that came on TV. Mimicry came very naturally to me. I have participated in many dramas and plays at school level. My teachers used to say, she is a natural actress. But I would do it merely for fun.”
The most cherished memory of her childhood is when her older cousins and relatives made her imitate a lady in an advertisement.
“There was this ad, ‘Lalita ji, surf lene mein hi samajdaari hai’. I used to stand and do this act in front of my cousins. They would roll and laugh,” Meanka recounted, laughing.
She said “the streak” was always there, but “I never thought I would be able to contribute to the society like this”.
Meanka treaded the path of satire and humour last year in April while making a video in Kashmiri language for the first time.
“I always desired to do something as a service to my homeland. The language and culture has suffered immensely in the ongoing conflict.
“Language binds us all together, so I thought why not use it in an informal way to reach out to people as formal way of teaching is not always the right way to do it.”
The female comedian is not inspired by anyone; the credit for her skills goes to her parents.
“My typical Kashmiri-speaking family was a boon to me. Our parents used to hammer force us to speak in Kashmiri, and they made sure that we learnt the language properly. That is how it started.”
Her videos are characterized by sharp observation and satire on everyday life presented with a conversational twist. She finds the easiest way to communicate with the audience is the anecdotes that she is familiar with.
“My videos talk about our culture, the characters that we see every day. We have these phuphis, massis, khalas, uncles, and aunties. I pick these characters and weave them in my videos. Whatever culture I have grown in and whatever I have seen my parents doing, I have picked it from there.” she said.
Meanka was in full flow recently at an event titled ‘Salaam Mahra’ held at Tagore Hall to rejuvenate the bond between various religious communities in the valley.
“This event is very close to my heart. I came here after a long gap of 28 years and got an overwhelming response from the Kashmiri audience,” she said, believing that such events could help overcome the trust deficit between Kashmiri Muslims and Pandits.
“Such events send a strong message of peace where in people of different faiths sit together and share some light moments. I hope to attend many such events in future.”
Meanka doesn’t have any plans of making her videos commercial, “I want certain things regarding our culture and language to be recorded for the coming generations. My mantra in life is simply this: The world is filled with people who talk serious stuff. There has to be someone who can make you laugh.”
ASI among three cops injured in Rajbagh grenade blast
Srinagar, Jan 17: Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI) of police and two traffic cop were injured in a grenade blast near Zero Bridge in Rajbagh area of Srinagar city in Central Kashmir on Thursday afternoon.
Reports said that suspected militants lobbed a grenade on police party near Zero Bridge in Rajbagh.
In the blast, three policemen including an ASI of police and two traffic policemen sustained splinter injuries and were evacuated to SMHS hospital for treatment.
The injured has been identified as Iqbal Singh (ASI of JKAP 14 Bn) and traffic policemen Haris Manzoor (SPO) and Sanullah (Head Constable).
While ASI Iqbal has sustained splinter injuries to both of his legs, Haris suffered an injury to the back side of his neck and Sanullah suffered injuries in his right leg.
SSP Srinagar Imtiaz Ismail Parray confirmed the attack and subsequent injuries to the ASI and two traffic cops.
Soon after the attack, the government forces cordoned off the area and launched a hunt to nab the attackers.
Security forces have launched a massive search operation in Rajbagh and adjoining areas near Zero Bridge after three police personnel including assistant sub-inspector were injured in a grenade attack by the terrorists on Thursday.
Homes and hotels in the area were searched frisking was also carried out. It was the first major terrorist attack in the Srinagar city this year. The injured cops are undergoing treatment at the hospital.
Meanwhile Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) has claimed responsibly of the grenade attack on the forces’ party at Raj Bagh area of Srinagar.
A JeM spokesperson Muhammad Hassan in a statement claimed that two forces personnel were killed and 6 critically injured in the attack.
An ASI of police and two traffic cops were injured in a grenade blast near Zero Bridge, Raj Bagh in Thursday afternoon.
2018 has been remarkable year for forces: Army commander
Srinagar, Jan 17: A top army commander on Thursday described 2018 as “remarkable year” for government forces, saying that more than 250 militants were killed, 54 others were arrested and four others surrendered in Kashmir Valley.
“The year 2018 has been a remarkable year for armed forces on the security front. As per the record of last ten years, army along with other forces have neutralized many militants. Many militants have surrendered under pressure and many others were arrested alive,” said Lt Gen Ranbir Singh, GoC-in-C Northern Command told reporters after inaugurating Kalai Bridge constructed by Border Roads Organization.
“More than 250 militants were killed, 54 others arrested and four others have surrendered,” he said, adding, “This speaks about the strength of our security establishment,” the officer said.
He said that the army was giving “befitting reply” to Pakistan army along the Line of Control whenever there were instances of any ceasefire violation or snipping.
“As per wireless and other intercepts, Pakistan army and militants suffered a huge loss in our retaliatory action.”
The Kalai Bridge spans over Suran River and connects Kalai area to Chandak area in Poonch district. During the inaugural function, the Army Commander addressed the gathering of Army, GREF and local residents and said that the Kalai bridge is an important milestone towards enhancing the road communication in the area.
“The bridge is an important strategic asset as it enhances the movement of military equipment and troops in a faster time frame,” he said. The Indian Army and BRO have been working towards infrastructure development in the remote and far-flung areas and improving the road connectivity, he said.
“The bridge will reduce traffic congestion in the city and ease out inconvenience caused to the people specially those moving towards Budha Amarnath Shrine in Mandi as it reduces the travelling time considerably.”
The Army Commander appreciated the contribution of the District Administration for their support and cooperation during the construction of the bridge.
Beg to differ: Omar Abdullah
Srinagar, Jan 17: Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and National Conference (NC) vice-president Omar Abdullah on Thursday lashed out at the Northern Command Chief Lt General Ranbir Singh, on his “great year for security forces” remark.
Taking to Twitter, Abdullah wrote, the compulsion of killing militants/terrorists shouldn’t be treated as a cause for celebration.
“I beg to differ, a great year would be one in which no young man would join militancy, no terrorists would be killed & no security personnel would lose their lives in encounters. The compulsion of killing militants/terrorists shouldn’t be treated as a cause for celebration,” Abdullah wrote.
Abdullah was reacting to a statement by Gen Singh on the sidelines of the inauguration of the Kalai bridge in Poonch district. Gen Singh said 2018 had been a great year for the security forces as they had managed to kill 250 terrorists.
Heartening to meet Kashmiri students in Bangladesh: Shahid Afridi
Srinagar, Jan 17: Star Pakistan cricketer Shahid Afridi on Thursday met Kashmiri students in Bangladesh and interacted with them.
Afridi said that it was heartening to see Kashmiri students in Bangladesh who are studying medicine.“Heartening meeting with some Kashmiri students who are in Bangladesh on scholarship, studying Medicine. Keep up the hard work and making your people proud!,” he tweeted.
Afridi in the past has been in controversies over Kashmiri over his support to the Kashmir cause. He has been vocal about letting the people of Kashmir decide their future.