A tale of two cities
One is for rise, one for fall
EXPERIENCE BY NISSAR AHMAD
A small distance away from home, here is a different world. Though this region too is a part of the state I come from, its sparkling makeup makes this city strike in stark contrast against its backwater sister urban centre. This is Jammu and that is Srinagar: One the winter capital of J&K and second the summer-capital separated by just a 25-minute air whiz.
It may sound odd to write about a place that is unfamiliar almost to none from Kashmir. Nonetheless, the fashionable face-paint this city has worn so quickly over past some years— in quite contrast to its sister city that has lost its sheen with same pace as the former has gained — gives stir to my pen to jot down some past wonderful experiences I have with this city.
From the gossamer of past, I can still distinctly recollect early 1980s, when my uncles took me to Delhi on a pleasure trip– my first step outside my home state. From Srinagar we travelled in a video coach straightway to Delhi enjoying every inch of our journey. One reason to get the ticket direct for Delhi was to avoid staying in Jammu.
On way back to our home from Delhi, I still recall, when the train reached Jammu at 12:30 AM much beyond its schedule time, my uncles were all sombre saying who will stay in this ‘dirty’ place (Jammu)? In fact they went ahead saying what is here, except shikas (a typical Kashmiri expression we use for anything ominous). We briskly hired a car to leave Jammu for Srinagar. During the journey in the car my uncles talked to each other saying thank God, the cab came in handy otherwise we would have to spend night at Jammu, the ‘nasty’ place.
Three years down the line, I went to Jammu to attend an NCC camp. Five boys from our school had been selected for the RD Camp. We were camped at Nagrota before proceeding to Delhi after 15 days. A few days after, I was taken ill at the camp at Nagrota (Jammu). The camp officer, seeing my condition allowed me to go back to Srinagar along with other two boys who were also not keeping well, but not before he ensured that we were handed over to some reliable and known person who could guarantee out safe travel to home.
The personnel accompanying us from the camp on the suggestion of the third boy, Niranjan, took us to some area in Jammu, where the boy had his maternal uncles residing. On several knocks, the door screeched ajar without actually anybody opening it. It was a burly and bushy old man basking in the sun in the middle of the front compound of the house. First the grandpa was taken aback finding three young boys in his compound accompanied by a few personnel. But then, when the men in uniform putting lot of pressure on their vocals explained the whole story supported by Naranjan’s gesticulations, the grand old man reached his upper pocket of his waistcoat, brought out thick eyeglasses and adjusted it on his nose. He kissed Narinjan on his forehead and welcomed us ‘O my sons.’
It was at about 6 PM when the personnel left the place. No sooner did they leave than Nazir, the third boy, took me to a corner of the house and whispered into my ear: ‘We should leave now.’ Surprised, I asked can’t we stay for the night and next day leave for Srinagar? “Moreover,” I suggested, “it is now too late to find a vehicle to Srinagar.”
“Who is going to stay at this nasty place (Jammu). Here is nothing. It is shikas,” pat came the reply. Nazir’s response shook my mind visualising that 3-year old story before my eyes. I recalled my uncles saying to each other the same thing as Nazir had today repeated, while hurrying to leave Jammu for Srinagar.
Against the wishes of Narinder, we, Nazir and I, left the same moment for Bus Adda Jammu with the hope to find a bus, but we could not. Anyway, it was the first time I was out independently and wanted to take full benefit of this opportunity. We took a room at the Bus Adda who arranged a bus ticket for us for the next morning. We find an hour or two to roam around the area, which wore a hazy and dull look with sparse and haphazard growth of decrepit one-room/two-room hotels not better than shanties.
It seemed we were in some distant and desolate place where everything around was craggy. Bored, we sat for sometime inside the hotel that was in fact a shop divided in the middle by a plywood wall to create a small room backside.
When the time came to go to bed, the hotel/shop owner asked us to sleep on the shop-front as he did not have enough space to accommodate us inside. He advised us to keep our money with him for the night lest someone should steal it from us during the night. We followed his advice that was rather a diktat.
Next morning, the cook of the hotel cautioned us to get our money from the hotel owner, lest he should refuse later. Anxiety gripped us. But thank God, the hotel owner turned honest and returned us the money. We left the place after giving tip to the cook.
After leaving Jammu we could see the sun in beautiful Srinagar but not before spending three long days amid awe-inspiring mountains intruding between two cities of J&K. The road remained blocked due to landslides and heavy snowfall.
Twenty years after at this point, Jammu is a different place. No bad roads, no power cuts; and above no preponderance of armed men around— things that have become the fate of Srinagar. A free life, relaxed minds, vast markets, everyone preoccupied with work and trade. In this little period of time, when we have lost so much in Srinagar, Jammu has really become a place where every sun brings new hope to its people.
The other day when I was traveling in a bus, on asking an acquaintance when he was leaving for Srinagar, curt came the reply: “What is there? There is nothing except shikas.”
Lastupdate on : Sun, 19 Dec 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 19 Dec 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 20 Dec 2010 00:00:00 IST
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