[Part 1] Chhum te karas kyah: Story of herd-instinct

Kashmiri-Muslims’ winter migration to Jammu
"Actually, a malady of show offs, which is sagely described in an old Kashmirian idiom “chhum te karas kyah” [Tr: show off finds it unavoidable], has infested Kashmiri community, as a whole, so much so that if one family is wealthy, or financially better placed than their neighbours or relatives or friends, they will make every possible effort to make every one of latter notice and follow them in their showing off aberration."
"Actually, a malady of show offs, which is sagely described in an old Kashmirian idiom “chhum te karas kyah” [Tr: show off finds it unavoidable], has infested Kashmiri community, as a whole, so much so that if one family is wealthy, or financially better placed than their neighbours or relatives or friends, they will make every possible effort to make every one of latter notice and follow them in their showing off aberration."media-exp [Creative Commons]

From earlier times, “it seems to have been customary for the rulers of Kashmir to leave the valley during the winter, and return to its delights on the approach of summer”, but the subjects always stayed back in their hometown.

However, in recent years, one more novel crazy trend, among many others, has been set among Kashmiris, where we see a good number of better off Kashmiri families purchasing properties outside Kashmir in Jammu city, for residential use during cold winter weather.

Reference to Delhi and other hotter cities of India where, too, everyone knows, Kashmiris buy residential properties for winter shift is intentionally avoided. Reply to this avoidance will come itself at the end of this essay.

Chhum te karas kyah”:

Actually, a malady of show offs, which is sagely described in an old Kashmirian idiom “chhum te karas kyah” [Tr: show off finds it unavoidable], has infested Kashmiri community, as a whole, so much so that if one family is wealthy, or financially better placed than their neighbours or relatives or friends, they will make every possible effort to make every one of latter notice and follow them in their showing off aberration.

But the story does not end with better offs who set a trend. Even those not-better-offs are largely influenced in their collective behaviours, actions and decisions by the better offs to such an extent that they follow them without their own independent judgment, like herd imitators.

It is “social proof” where more and more Kashmiris blindly imitate, emulate and copy others with higher socio-economic status assuming that since they are doing it, they must be doing it correctly.

“If a lot of people are doing the same thing, they must know something we don’t…..when we are uncertain, we are willing to place an enormous amount of trust in the collective knowledge of the crowd”, writes Dr. Robert B. Cialdini, Influence: The Science and Practice.

Guren Lageikh Naal, khar doorehi padder heth”:

The Kashmirian proverb “Guren Lageikh Naal, khar doorehi padder heth”, [ Tr. when horses’ hooves were fitted with hot-metal-shoes, for making them run a cart, donkeys rushed in to offer their hooves for the job] may not be inept to describe the bizarre collective behaviour, actions and decisions of these not-better-offs who simply imitate and follow the well offs in a bid to look like Kashmiri-Khojas, socio-economic elites of Kashmir.

So, many others among bad offs have chosen to fall in this mad race of looking and becoming Kashmiri-Khojas. It is due to the effect of social proof or what is also called “herd instinct” or “mob mentality” or “herd mentality” which the Kashmiris are invariably possessed of and which Friedrich Nietzsche in 19th century has said to be the cause of decadence of human societies.

“It destroys the self-esteem of the community, its faith in itself, its backbone, is broken” [Friedrich Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil]. “The notion that there is safety in numbers can prove very wrong once a herd mentality sets in”, says Dr. Robert B. Cialdini.

The term “herd instinct” was first time used by Friedrich Nietzsche in his book, The Gay Science. It is the blind conformity of the individuals to the mass behaviour of the other Kashmiris.

One Kashmiri individual needs to set a particular trend, I may add a negative trend or precedence, others will follow him automatically like flocks of cattle without realization of its negativity or if it is at all correct.

Causes:

Coming to the focal point of our discussion about winter migration of Kashmiris to Jammu city, the “herd instinct” of bad offs adopting the bad precedence of self-named Kashmiri Khojas or socio-economic elite families; we need to look into the reasons behind it.

The reason behind their winter migration, as given by these migrant-Kashmiris to one and all non-migrant-fellow-Kashmiris, is severity” of the cold winter in Kashmir which, they, however, correctly claim, gets worse by “the absence of basic amenities of life in Kashmir” during cold weathers.

But, how can absence of facilities furnish a ground for escaping from one’s homeland that has been facing infrastructural and other issues since long without fighting for their improvements? It is absurd and self-deceptive logic.

Not being any firmly tempered community, owing to age old enslavement and exploitation at the hands of “rulers”, Kashmiris mostly and blithely make wry comments upon trivialities and fancies like imitating pedants.

We may mention of something related to their “habitual behaviours”. During the last decade of nineteenth century (1889-1895), when Sir W P Lawrence was on an official visit of Kashmir valley for discharging colossal assignment of land settlements, he noted in his memoirs that he saw the old men declaring that the climate of Kashmir was fast changing and that it was not what it used to be during their childhood days.

They would publicaly say that “in Maharaja Gulab Singh’s time the snow was up to a man’s shoulders, in Maharaja Ranbir Singh’s time up to his knees but now [ in Pratap Singh’s time] winter passes without any snow fall. Nearly every man who talks on the subject holds to this belief”.

But contrary to these declarations and beliefs, in 1890-91, it is a fact, “snow was four-feet deep in the valley and thermometer fell below zero; in January-February 1893 due to intense cold it was possible to skate all over Dal”.

Till date, Kashmiris are by nature engaged in many a kind of gossip and pedantry. One of the tattles frequently exchanged among them, to this date, is that as “Winter-Queen is terribly severe on Kashmir”, it is better to have a temporary shelter outside the valley.

But the question which catches attention is whether the Winter- Queen is as harsh with Kashmir as it is with most of the European countries, America, Canada, Central Asian States, Russia, and Antarctica? “Big No” is the answer.

Those countries and their residents know how to deal with it [The Guardian 01-12-2010, Snow problem! How other nations deal with winter weather]; The Guardian dated 02-02-2009, It’s -24C in Russia – but life goes on].

Then, why the Kashmiris prefer temporary shifting to hotter place of Jammu during winter? Selfishness or selfish gene and fickle mindedness. Nothing else!

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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