A happy coincidence for my unbelieving eyes and ears. A daybefore I decided to end my longish Kashmir affair–six weeks in a row, not a daymore or less. Leaving Pahalgam I heardsky rending bum bum boles and Harr Harr Mahadev 'shaivite' greeting in praiseof Lord Shiva, a greeting – or call it marching tune – perhaps announcing yourarrival at the battlefield and in this case the icy sanctum sanctorum; thefirst of the local Muslim guides and the more proficient ponywaalhs had lookedsomewhat skeptic about their making a seasonal killing, thanks to thedestabilizing frequent VIP chopper traffic and pilgrims buying helicopter faresfrom both Pahalgam and Baltal via helicopter and to remember that no effort hasbeen made by authorities at the centre and in tourism generatingcentres in the rest of the county of Kashmir's ever enduring attraction as oneof the finest spots designed by the God to uplift the human mind and physicalmind. Funny, the stray tourists you run into Srinagar street asking why are there no tourists thistime. The government for its part is happy picking and choosing hotels to suitits whims and alternatively to locate cheap, subsidized 3 to 5 star hotelaccommodation for its staff posted in Srinagar necessitated by the six-monthlyshift of capital cities between Srinagar and Jammu. The day may not be far –nothing is in these volatile times, if New Delhi issues a fiat making anadditional third capital of the state, Ladakh to wit. After all it fits in withthe larger scheme of BJP's bid topromote Ladakh as a major tourist and administrative centre.
Curiosity drove me to the airport two nights later to seethe first planeload of would be Hajis,most sporting beards, men more numerous than women and the young in reasonablenumber, most sporting beards, fully grown, half grown and funnily the few youngfellows scantily bearded too among them, bringing me to my wit's end. Andsuddenly I was reminded of Muneer, the handsome young man with hisawkward facial sprout, perhaps showing it off out to let it savour its firstKashmir spring. Muneer works at my friend's office, lives in downtown whichapparently keeps changing and he commutes by a scooter ( A friendly spy tellsme it was a wedding gift/ Lucky Muneer, I dared not ask. A nicely turned outyoung man, barely 24, his BSc done, andacademics stopped for the present, very bright and one hopes hesucceeds in whatever his future calling. The Haj House beards some how rang a familiar bell. For one thing it reminded me of my Mamu (mother's elderbrother). Mamu, a police man who had a mustache as long as my young eyes hadseen when he was posted in Hndwara. Not long enough I learnt later to beat theRajasthani Mooch man (God knows how many yards the Rajasthani Mooch man had allyou need three mini mooched men to hold it on either side. At Haj House I saw avaried assortment of beards and like some for their trim. There were really asmany different faces as there beards. For the religious passion of some. Nevertheless have seen odd ones toosay it with reverence. For some peoplethe beards looked as an excuse for a hand towel, beards fully grown, half cutor trimmed at ends and a few vying for attention as they sprout. But then mostimpressive beard I saw as Muneer"s and God bless him. Muneer comes into thepicture because he is bright. The Hajis, I must confess, had been prepared wellfor the journey to Makkah and Madina. I remember the late Basheer Quereshi sentonce by Mrs Gandhi as leader of the Indian contingent of Hajis. Now, asub-continental Indian (am toldPakistanis as well) Muslims I will give his arm to touch a gorgeous curtain awhip would rap him on the knuckles; had been thoroughly briefed even in the matter of religious obligationsand rituals. Score of flights will take Kashmiri pilgrims to Medina and Makkah.I wondered for a while as the previous day's Bumb Bum Bole vied for attentionhow the Allah o Akbar resonated in the Haj flight in my bum bum bole flight no sooner did thecaptain announce bad weather and cabincrew from the North East pleaded for quiet; for that obviously was to inviteLord Shiva's Tandav dance. We had a peaceful journey hereafter. My mate in Pahalgaminforms me that the up and down journeys from both Pahalgam and Baltal had beenincident-free till the time of writing. Tried Muneer's number for a finalprewriting but the communication lines did not cooperate. That, if you know howchaotic it can be if per chance a real bada VIP is in Srinagar.And that day it was Mr Modi's No 2, MrAmit Shah on his maiden visit as the home minister. His predecessor RajnathSingh had during the four years of his Home Ministership may have promised much– not much really – but delivered very little. Amit Shah is said to be a doer,for good or evil he is the Modi government's loco man. When he says he will cutKashmir to its size, he means it. His direct attack on Kashmir's special statusis no ideal threat. He has his ways ofdoing it. He made a start in Jammu when his party joined the PDP. Kashmir hasgone down on the progress list ever sine. The latest administrative upheaval inLadakh is actually nothing but cutting the valley to its size bestowing onLadakh virtually all the powers a Kashmir presently enjoying in terms ofLadakh. The next step will be to make the three regions virtually free of acommon umbrella, let the three bloom either way they please. When Mr Shah saysArticle 370 is not a permanent feature of our Constitution he is only sharing histhought process with the State. Probably Mr. Modi has chosen to go one gentlestep by another finally till the edifice called Art 370is reduced to Parliamentart library.