Saturday, June 27, 2015

Kashmiri Summer

One of the most enduring pictures in my mind is that of children splashing about gleefully under the fountains of the Mughal gardens of Srinagar.

How many generations have grown up like this, soaked in memories of sparkling waters and clear blue skies?

Emerald green paddies, towering poplars and chinars lining the banks of Jhelum. Women busy in the fields and orchards. Nearly a thousand years ago when Kalhana sat down to chronicle the "Rajatarangni" (The River of Kings) stretching back another thousand years, he would have seen the same mountains and valleys, the same motely mix of good leaders and pathetic ones.

In Kalhana's time the Vaishnavite-Shaivite conflict or the Buddhist-Hindu friction may have been no different from the Pandit-Sunni faultlines we see today. The aspirations of the Tibetan Shaivite warriors riding down from the Zoji-la pass, via Kargil, into the valley would have been no different from those of the Pakistani soldiers cowering on Tiger Hill, waiting for the next 155mm shell to crash in.

Surprisingly, I saw a lots less of the army than I expected. Apart from isolated pickets overlooking the road to Gulmarg it is the long convoys of troop-trucks returning from northern Kashmir that told you about trouble brewing in other places. Bullet-proof APCs, canvas covers pock-marked with bullet-holes, soldiers perched atop truck with their fingers on LMG triggers and heads covered in motorbike helmets.

The little girls splashing about in Shalimar Bagh may not have heard of a disabled queen named Didda who once ruled Kashmir with an iron hand. Perhaps a few summers down the line they will look at the world through the peepholes of a hijab, or may be they will toss it aside and seek a world without diktats.


* Sen, Shailendra (): Ancient history and civilization -- GoogleBooks --

* Kalhana's Rajatarangini (MA Stein's translation) --

* Wiki - Rajatarangini -

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