I won''t dig notes from history, I will relive what I miss
Sopore town has earned a sobriquet – “Chota London”. People of the place are being called “Zinda Dilane Sopore" – people with a pulsating heart. Despite being strategically located, the place has either been an eye sore for many or has been treated with suspicion and bias.
It reminds me of Voltaire: "It is dangerous to be right when the Government is wrong”. The feeling of neglect is palpable. Lack of effective mainstream politicians from time to time, limited representations in bureaucracy or judiciary (particularly at the higher levels) seem to stifle the voices of the area. However, the intentions and role of late Kar Sahib were clouded under his party affiliation. D.P. Dhar Hospital, Congress Yateem Trust in particular will remain his forte. Enigmatic Sofi Muhammad Akbar, Syed Ali Shah Geelani with a gift of gab have had a deep impact on politics of the town. The influence of the latter however widened. The town, in spite of all these odds, excelled remarkably in professional fields like medicine, engineering, agriculture.
Some landmarks and individuals have and will remain linked with Sopore viz Revered Khanqa-i-Maula, Jamia Masjid, Shah Darga Sahib, Tulbul Shrine, Rahim Sahib, Lala Bab Sahib. Likewise Haba Sahib Hath Langoo, Ahad Sahib, Raja Moj, Lassi Sahib were crowd pullers though not without controversies.
Khawja Samad Pandith’s name continues to remain synonymous with the town. The ideas of present entrepreneurs were not missing in him even in that age. Cinema Theatre, juice factory in collaboration with Mohan Meakins (present public private partnership mode), state-of-art workshop/ petrol pump, mills were not only the symbols of economic activities but the sole employment source for the poor. Anecdotes associated with him and Late Ghulam Nabi Toogu still are part of public discourse. Pandit Bhajan Sopori/Abhay Rustom Sopori are undoubtedly proud of the town besides symbolising a cultural fusion. Ganjoo family’s role in easing the cooking chores of ladies with supply of cooking gas (novelty then) is being sincerely remembered. The honour of establishing first printing press in the Northern Kashmir and weekly Urdu “Diler” goes to my grandfather Pir Abdul Ghani. Ms. Atiqa Ji remains synonymous with educational /social works and continues to be indomitable least afraid of treading on paths otherwise exclusive for men. Donning slanted caps Prof. Abdul Ghani Bhat Sahib’s durbar on Degree College veranda would attract the attentive audience.
The role of schools run by Jamait-e-Islami in imparting education to the students of town cannot be overlooked. Erudite Ali Muhammad Nadvi Sahib facilitated the reading and reciting of Holy books with ease with his command on Arabic grammar in particular not to forget his tweaking when at fault. Schools run by Anjuman-e-Mainul Islam have also played a major role in imparting education. School at Noorbagh (Ningli) and Women’s College, in particular, need a special mention. Inspiration from Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) was manifested in commissioning of Muslim Educational Trust (MET) which attracted Scholars and Students from all over creating a cosmopolitan culture in the town. However, diminishing role of trust members diluted the objective of the institution.
The town, with reputed medicos like Dr.Khuroo, Dr. Guroo, Dr. Kanjwal, Dr. Hajini, Dr. Shabir and doctors from town presently with SKIMS/SMHS faculties, has travelled a lot from Shankar Nath’s mixture variants and Atiqullah Sahib’s cycle rides. Dr. Hussan Ara’s Clinic, though with inadequate facilities at that time, was akin to Niloufer Hospital (Hyderabad) for people of Sopore particularly for those in a family way. Tooth extraction at Dr. Bir Sing’s Dental clinic was the quickest and easiest soothing option available to agonizing patients.
Some unforgettable characters of the town need a mention here. Imposing fishwife namely “Bodhi Moj” omnipresent in old market, late Haji Akbar Bisati’s present day Mall (a byword that one could get everything – from pin to aeroplane” from this shop), cramped space of Subhana- the only source of National, International dailies or magazines at that time (always updated with Cricket Scores) even internationally acclaimed magazines like “Times"/"Spain" would be available with him. Iqbal Park offered its lap to all who wanted to vent their grievances and "Shoda Cowki" reflected an institutionalized mode of marijuana cigarette smoking (present discourse on legalising drugs). Incident associated with a police officer Shamji (nickname of Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din Shah) finds references in police public relationship discourses. The college ground, a misnomer, in view of frictions between Boys Higher Secondary School and Degree College about ownership was like a colosseum for people of town. The voice of late Ghulam Hassan Dar (teacher/footballer) compering the tournaments still echoes around not to forget dedicated Late Subhan Janwari Sahib.
Fruit business is the life line of the economy of town and has given town the moniker “Chota London”. Establishing of mandi was a game changer for self-reliance and the roles of late Ghulam Mustafa, Prof. War, Javaid Iqbal in particular were momentous. The internal and external factors, however, took a heavy toll on its fructification. The fish business also remained stagnant as it continues to remain under informal sector like apple. The people of town, however, continued to diversify their economic activities and made a mark in pharmaceutical distribution sector also.
Three “Rs” have been associated with Sopore: Rub (mud/slush), Reda (horse cart) & Ropai (money). For the first one, people of town can’t be blamed. The apathy and neglect of successive governments has been explicit. “Reda” was directly linked with economic conditions and is not a bad mode of transportation in small towns if government supports in its cleanliness. Riding horse carts is a craze in big National and International cities besides is environment- friendly. Money now has wider circulation particularly post liberalization and not specific to Sopore town.
Sopore town faced the brunt of abnormal situation particularly post 1990s. Some heart wrenching firing incidents and internecine feuds will continue to haunt the affected families in particular and people of town in general.
I hope and expect my town to get its due from the centers of authority without any prejudice. Patronage may be missing in absence of representations but that shouldn’t deprive the town of its inalienable rights of development as the people of Sopore have always resisted pampering and have had been preferring to venture in self- reliant economic activities.
I would like to sum up with the quotes from an online Japanese video:"When a bowl is broken in Japan, it’s put back together, with the cracks being filled with gold creating a beautiful lining. This is to emphasize the beauty in what was once broken. They believe that when something has suffered damage and has a history…. it makes it more beautiful and same goes for human beings. Everything that you have been through or you are going through doesn’t make your life uglier, broken not beyond repairs. It’s upon us to choose to paint or struggle with gold and make it beautiful. We can wear scars proudly as badge of honour. "