By TUBAH SHAH
Kashmir bewitches everyone with its heavenly landscape, music of gushing rivers, shining cascades, magnificent lakes, the fragrance of tulips, and stunning Chinars. From snow-clad mountains to verdant pastures and from the enchanting Bungus valley to the serenity of Mughal Gardens, the surreal beauty of the Kashmir defies description. Many poets, authors, and philosophers have tried to capture the splendor of this place in words. The resplendent beauty of Kashmir lends meaning to Amir Khusro’s famous Persian verse: “Agar Firdaus bar roo-e-Zameen ast/ Hameen ast-o Hameen ast-o Hameen ast (If there’s Paradise on earth, It’s this, it’s this, it’s this).”
The ethereal beauty that nature has bestowed Kashmir with makes it rightfully the ‘Paradise on Earth’. Besides, it is equally being called ‘Pir Vaer,’ meaning the alcove of Sufis and saints, which has a distinctive aura of mystical aroma that touches the hearts of all and sundry. There is much more to it that adds to the elegance of this pulchritudinous place and makes it even more pleasurable and satisfying. The inhabitants of this pristine land are considered beautiful inside out. Kashmir proudly boasts of its people being kind, warm, hospitable, helpful, affable, loving, and always smiling despite being engulfed by the turmoil.
Lately, I have started to feel otherwise. My hands tremble to write something unbecoming of a ‘Kashmiri’- an epitome of humanity. Some very recent gut-wrenching incidents that took place in the main city are enough to make any native say, ‘This cannot be my Kashmir,’ given the compassionate nature of the populace here. It is hard to believe that the benign and benevolent hearts are turning to mephistophelian and violent heads.
The news of two siblings murdering their father flashed across my mobile screen and jolted me out of my slumber. I stood there utterly thunderstruck, rubbing my eyes to recheck if I read it right. I dropped my phone in shock, wishing not to have come across this gruesome news. Least would have victim (father) thought that inhuman monsters are lurking in his home. A few days later, in yet another brutal incident, a fruit vendor stabbed a customer after an altercation over the quality of watermelons. Both the incidents had one thing in common, as could be judged from the nature of the crimes — monetary dispute. It still sounds unbelievable to me that the people of my Kashmir can stoop to such low levels just for a few bucks. Though such horrendous incidents have happened in the past, the rate of the crime spree has been increasing for quite some time now. I can’t muster the courage to write about it, even accept this as truth. How would I write about my Pir Vaer getting transformed into an abode of criminals? About my people who are losing their patience and humanity in the pursuit of material wealth? About my people who are setting their feet on the wrong track while ignoring the teachings of our beloved Prophet (PBUH)? About my people who are becoming walking demons under the garb of angelic faces? No! I cannot because this is not what I have known and seen about my homeland and its people. This cannot be the Kashmir of Lalla Ded, Nund Reshi, and Habba Khatoon. This cannot be the Kashmir that our ancestors visualized and which Agha Shahid Ali and Rasul Mir weaved in their verses.
The saying that it is never too late stands true. However, we need to gear up to make a change for the better as the power to change the world lies within us. We are all humans, but lest we forget that the greatness lies in being humane. It’s high time to pay heed to our very own great Kashmiri poet, Mahjoor, who said: “Walo haa baagvaano navbaharuk shaan paida kar/ Pholan gul gath karan bulbul tithe saamaan paida kar” (Come O Gardener! Let us create the magnificence of a new spring/ when flowers will blossom and bulbul will dance, create that consciousness). We are the gardeners of our land, and it solely becomes our responsibility to nurture it and be the torchbearers of love, peace, harmony, and brotherhood. It becomes our duty to work together to revive and retain the sheen and glory of this land and its people that make it a ‘Paradise’ on earth rather than becoming the contributors to making it a living hell.