Recounting Kashmir By SAF Scholar Mr Mohammad Zakaria

News Kashmir, J&K, India - 28th June 2015

Zakaria SAF Scholar at UMIKS , South Asia Foundation Uploaded by Sunil Binjola
Left to Right: Ms. Mona Hussaini (Afganistan); Ms. Kabita Kharka (Bhutan); Ms. Subarna Dhar (Bangladesh);
Mr Mohammad Zakaria ( Bangladesh); and Ms Tanjina Ahmed (Bangladesh) at famous Manasbal Lake
in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district.)

It has been one year since I have come and stayed in Kashmir. During the past one year, Kashmiri society, culture, beauty and nature have become expressible. I realized books and newspaper are inadequate to know something. The more we travel the more we come near to the reality.

Today I feel necessary to express what I have learnt from Kashmir. Before that, I should tell what I have known about Kashmir when I was in Bangladesh, my native country.

Most of the general knowledge books in Bangladesh cover two information about Kashmir – it is called Bhu-Shworgo or heaven on earth; and it has Two Capitals.

But after coming here I came to know, capitals are not of Kashmir, but those are of the state of ‘Jammu and Kashmir’. For Bangladeshis it is ambiguous that two regions Jammu and Kashmir constitute one state (Ladakh is merely known to Bangladeshis).

So once coming here, it made a sense to me, why Darbar (capital) moves from Srinagar to Jammu and vice versa. And, why it is Bhu-Shworga and who declared it so? That was unknown to me.

And then I saw Mughal invasion and difference it brought to Kashmir. The Mughal gardens reflected my mind of their love for beauty and nature, and affection to romantic structures.

Most of the Bangladeshis know Kashmir is cold. But, I know the warmth of Kangri and Pheren. It is also known to Bangladeshis that, Kashmir has high mountains. I have come to know, not only geographical mountains, but the historic ethos of Kashmiri culture are also higher like mountains. Bangladeshis know Kashmir because of the conflict but I have lived with peace loving Kashmiris.

I arrived at the Srinagar airport on 6th June 2014. My first experience was falling into a cool, pleasant weather of 23 degrees temperature from a hot, burning one of 40 degrees.

Secondly, I noticed a different pattern of houses; colourful tin shaded roof-tops, arts and beautifications. The main difference I felt in Kashmir compared to Dhaka was – despite being the capital city houses are either single or double storied. Later I came to know, it is also a geographical remark. The mountainous land, cold temperature, lack of connectivity and technology through Banihal are the causes behind this ‘difference’. Now I believe the arts and culture of a land get shaped by geography at a large extent.

I reached Kashmir University, joined classes and met the teachers, officials and my classmates. For me, it was falling down in a well from a spring. I had been at Jahangirnagar University in Dhaka (Jahangirnagar is the former name of Dhaka), where I have completed my B.Sc. (Hon’s Mathematics) degree, from March 2007 to December 2012. There, tea and food shops, were multi-dimensional classrooms for me.

I believe, my classroom learning in that university was too little compared to my experiences outside the classroom. I believe, those shops will give every stranger a complete taste of Bengali food, a deep feeling of Bangladeshi culture and society.

Here, in Kashmir University, food outlets don’t represent the food culture of Kashmir. Those seem to be for ‘elites’ not for the masses. I found university functions only up to 4 PM. Then it goes into darkness. It seems a place of meditation not a social laboratory. People hardly move within the campus. They remain in the hostel after evening. Many people live outside the campus; they come and join the class and go.

For me, university is a place where we get ‘universality of thinking’. Coming and going, like a school, may not ensure that. I feel the ‘univarsalization’ of Kashmir’s glorious past is lagging. My friends say, it is because of ‘cold’ and ‘conflict’. I agree. So, now, I don’t compare the university with my previous one. Because, the situations are different.

But, as I have been inside the campus, I was ‘developing’ my understanding of Kashmiri society by looking into the facts available in the campus. My visit outside the campus was limited to Lal Chowk and Dargah.

Few days back, I went to South Kashmir’s Islamabad district with my friend, then to Ganderbal followed by Budgam. I met the people, I talked to them, I tasted the food which Kashmiris regularly do.

And, suddenly, all my previous understandings about Kashmiri society, which I have gained by staying inside the University, have fallen apart. I got a hypothesis – that’s, to me, Kashmir University doesn’t represent the Kashmiri society. It is for a ‘fortunate few’ of Kashmir.

I will be here for one more year for my studies. And during this stay, I would like to examine this hypothesis.

(The author is a post-graduate student from Bangladesh studying at the UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Institute of Kashmir Studies, University of Kashmir)