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26th August '2013
Ode to dying Dal!

The Mughals had made Kashmir their jaunt to escape the scorching heat of the plains. Kashmir Valley for them was a pleasure garden. Love of pleasure has been undoing of Kashmir itself. The last ruler of the sovereign independent state of Kashmir, Yusuf Shah Chak, too was a lover of pleasure and poetry. It is Kashmir’s misfortune that most of the time people think of pleasure and luxury whenever they talk about it. Very few people talk about Kashmiris and their suffering which is centuries old. During the last 65 years and particularly in last couple of decades the local people have seen the worst of times.

They have been oppressed beyond limits. They have seen bloody massacres, tortures, innocent killings, disappearances, mass rapes, and continued detentions within and outside state. Apart from the massive sufferings of the people, the beautiful land of Kashmir and its environment too have been drastically vandalised. Most of the water bodies are either dying or drying up. The River Jhelum once supposed to be Kashmir’s lifeline has turned into sewer. The pride of Kashmir, the green and tall cedar forests have been mowed down like stalks of wheat leaving only rows upon rows of stumps by the timber smugglers in collusion with security forces.


Kashmir in the present state is not looking for a Shah-i-Jahan to soothe peoples’ suffering through music but needs a Budshah to take hold of the situation to redress their grievances and rebuilt Kashmir emotionally, spiritually and physically, as he had done few centuries back!

The German Ambassador Michael Steiner has put together an event to take Kashmir to the world. He feels that the world needs to give recognition to Kashmir, its culture and history. His focus is supposed to be on the people. In an interview to Greater Kashmir Michael Steiner said that he feels an affinity and emotional bond with Kashmir. He had visited Srinagar seven times in a year to set up the event. He claims that it is not a “Peace Concert”. “This is not a solution to anything. This is a purely cultural event”. The concert is being televised live worldwide. There would be 1500 guests from all over the world. If the concert is expected to give recognition to Kashmir, the recognition has to be full and absolute. Truth cannot be compartmentalised. Feelings have to be conveyed in full and not only superficially. Smiling faces and cheering crowds would not convey the bitterness and pain deep within the soul of Kashmir. Yes, it would give true recognition to Kashmir, its culture and history if it motivates the world to look deeper into the psyche of a suffering Kashmiri. It should convey not only the smiles and cheers but the tears and the groans also.

The event being on the banks of a Lake in throes of death makes it pertinent that people take cognizance of the dying groans of this speechless water body neglected and polluted by its owners and guardians. The growth of obnoxious and poisonous weeds including Azola all over the water body shows the pathetic condition in which the Lake is at present. German Government instead of spending millions on a musical concert could initiate a proposal to start a time bound turnkey project by some global companies having expertise in Lake Restoration and Conservation to breathe fresh life in the dying Dal. Incidentally, some years back the Austrian Government had offered to start such a project but the Indian Government turned it down and instead started a consultancy through Roorkee University which has virtually proved fatal for the Lake. There is still time to retrieve the ebbing life of the Lake and it would be a real tribute of the Maestro if his music can awaken the world to the pathetic condition of the dying Dal Lake.


Here, one is reminded about a passage from Salman Rushdie’s novel. “Shalimar, the Clown”. In the novel a similar celebration is held in the Shalimar Garden. The best part of the celebration is a magical show. “A drum boomed immensely in the night, louder and louder, commanding attention. So potent was the drumming that it froze people in their tracks, it silenced the rumours and got everyone’s attention. The little man, Sarkar the magician, was marching down the central avenue of the garden, hammering away at his mighty dhol. Finally, when all eyes were on him, he raised a megaphone to his lips and bellowed, “….. I came here to do something and I’m going to do it. The genius of my magic will triumph over the ugliness of the times. On the seventh beat of my drum, the Shalimar garden will disappear.” He banged the drum, one, two, three, four, five, six times. On the seventh boom, just as he had foretold, the whole Shalimar Bagh vanished from sight. Pitch blackness descended. People began to scream”.

“For the rest of his life the Seventh Sarkar would curse history for cheating him of the credit for the unprecedented feat of “hiding from view” an entire Mughal garden, but most people in the garden that night thought he’d pulled it off, because on the seventh beat of his drum the power station at Mohra was blown to bits by the Pakistani irregular forces and the whole city and region of Srinagar was plunged into complete darkness. In the night-cloaked Shalimar Bagh the earthly version of the tooba tree of heaven remained secret, unrevealed. Abdullah Noman experienced the bizarre sensation of living through a metaphor made real. The world he knew was disappearing; this blind, inky night was the incontestable sign of the times”.

One sincerely hopes, that the Maestro Zubin Mehta may also be able to perform a similar feat and make all the sufferings of Kashmiris disappear in a jiffy even though temporarily!

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