Jammu and Kashmir is an established tourist destination since centuries. The vale of Kashmir has a reason to top the list. Its climate, mesmerizing landscape, miles of mountainous terrain, lush green fields, pristine water bodies, gushing springs and bubbling brooks are its brand.
This canvass still holds its sheen despite we being mal- professors of good environmental practices. Yet destruction at human hands, so far, has failed to dent the nature's benevolence.
And the vale is still lucky to enjoy the arrival of visitors. We have hardly any antagonists of Tourism by intention. But there are a host of actions, that unwittingly might rob us of the goodwill so essential for an outsider to visit us often. So must we ink a protocol that is a prerequisite to sustain and expand our tourism potential and capacity by setting our own house in order through a befitting Street protocol.
We must have all heard about the various protocol charters? A well looked after department of Hospitality and Protocol is in place!! But that glitters only as a high end, star studded, dispensation and might not reflect the degree of hospitality or Height Bar of Protocol when it comes to welcoming a visiting Tourist. Nor does it even send a message good or bad.
Visitors to vale who set foot on this soil traverse our streets in private Taxi Service or public transport system, and on foot squeezing their way through the multitudes on streets-facing a unique entity `Kashmiri People' (Kaeshir Lukh) – men and women, young and old. It is here on our Kacha Pucca streets that our visitors feel and recognize the pulse of Protocol – we can aptly call it our 'Street Protocol'. This includes how we walk, talk and transact with each other.
How we buy and sell. How we use or misuse our eoads and pedestrian pathways. How we dispose our trash. How we look and perceive others. How we deface or maintain our built spaces. The list is unending. Our shopkeepers, way side vendors, our commuters, our police men and women, our field workers, our tongue-less yet mind boggling larger than life hoardings, all contribute, little or more , to our 'Street Protocol' .
This reminds one of our most prominent of all street entities –"The Way Side Fruit Seller" . Humorously , the fond fruit seller often wields a stick with rags hanging down its tip. They have a perpetual habit of swinging the stick in their hand to ward off the distracting flies, bees and wasps. This is perhaps a time tested protocol to ward off the flying insects and keeping the fruit a little cleaner.
Though a layer of dust might always add to the size and weight of fruit sold to a buyer !! But that is not a problem at all because buyer can decide on that. What really matters is that occasionally the stick of the vendor hits the nose of the buyer. Amazingly the vendor with a smile on his face tells the victim somewhat politely "Don't worry I did not hit you in vain, there was a fly sucking your nose !! Great it sounds.
And buyer is left with no option but to say thanks to the vendor for his favor and a painstakingly artistic protocol, in the process suppressing his anger and painful experience in the broad day light. And more so, swallowing the gesture of a fellow Buyer "Don't Panic friend you will enjoy the fruit more and it will be sweeter and a pain reliever as well". The buyer beats a hasty retreat with the polythene bag full of fruit that distinguishes him as a caring head of the family in an over crowded 407 , ding-dong and bumpy Matador, back to his home!! This is a heart burning situation!
Where from did we inherit this amazing street protocol of which this example is tip of an iceberg? A million dollar question indeed. Per se grandma's wisdom and memory it was not prevalent in pre-independence era. Is this a bye product of half baked democracy that was gifted to us by our half baked socio–political ideology. Or else is it a bitter failure of our intelligentsia?
We all need to research- an-answer and paste it on the bosom of our social canvass. And this just to metamorphose into a good nation if not great. We may as well need to test our 'Street Protocol' , whatever its hue, against the touchstone of our socio-religious legacy. Sooner the better. Surely ,a tiny initiative in this direction will be thousand times more effective in attracting the visitors than tones of effort put in by our political executive, tourism promotion departments and private sector players put together at a huge cost. Long Live the Vale and long live its visitors. And no more nose hitting . Mind You please.