Dameal, Bandpather, Bachkoot, Ladisha, Rouf etc—save the last two that I am sparingly acquainted with—I have never been lucky enough to be familiar with these invaluable themes of Kashmiri culture.
I have merely heard about them, as have many others belonging to the so called jet-setting new generation.
But thanks to an enthralling event, a district level Jashn-i-Meraas (Kala Utsav) which was organized by the office of the Chief Education Officer Budgam on 7-10-2015 in the Town Hall Budgam. Let me be honest, it was not yet another 'humdrum occasion', it was a full throttle, an event that was as entertaining as it was informative, instructive and ideology-changing. The sound of the drum and trumpet is still rebounding in my ears. I came out as a new person, with a new mentality, a proud Kashmiri who could flaunt his chest because of all that richness and beauty he discovered in himself. Besides everything it was a thought provoking experience. I came to realize that in the pomp and show of a glib modernity we have crassly overlooked the intrinsic magnificence that informs our Kashmiri culture. The matter of the fact is that we have wholeheartedly embraced and assimilated some exotic cultures not because these cultures are more appealing and affluent but because we have chosen to be downrightly oblivious of the beauty of our own culture. And if there has to be a tyranny, this is what can be billed as one.
In this era of globalization where we are witnessing the diminution and elimination of geographical, economical, social, political, psychological and cultural barriers there is a reason for us to be apprehensive and jittery about losing our identity. That how far is our sense of identity, community and meaning threatened is evident from the fact that most of the people are completely unaware of the different aspects of their own culture while being complacent with a hegemonic culture that engulfs them (Take me as an apt example here!). As such, we are losing our belief system and value system in the unchartered waters of seamlessness and sameness. Is there really a threat to our culture? If yes what kind of threat is it and how can we face it? Has our approach towards our culture been satisfactory so far?
What has been observed of late is that the 'culture' has intrinsically been wedded to materialistic development. An illusionary belief that the culture of affluent societies is superior to that of relatively less prosperous societies is the direct outcome of this association. There is an attack on the mindset, manufacturing change by consent not by force. This is what has to be fought against. It is a psychological war, one which cannot be fought with force, canons or bullets.
Let's take it as a challenge. Let's stand against cultural homogenization. But yes let's stand for change too, a change for good and not for bad. Let's be receptive as far as the good in other cultures is concerned, let's guard against what is bad in them. Let's cease to be mere receivers, let's strive to be givers too. Jeans, burger, coat or hat should not fascinate us alone, Pheran, Karakuli, Kanger, Suthh, Kulcha, Choochwur, Tomule-choet , Baeltomul, Kreswor etc should equally beguile us. The challenge lies not in saving our culture but in demonstrating that it cannot be trampled, overshadowed or obliterated anyway. We need to fight the haughty-hegemonic culture by staring at its face. It has to be addressed in a language it understands.
(Mohammad Muqaddas Hussain has done B Tech from NIT Srinagar)