In these uncertain times, when we are following a hartal calendar instead of Gregorian calendar, nihilism at its peak, everything in the world restless; even the non-living world is afraid of the developments happening in the living world. Whether it is we the Kashmiri people, some of us claim to sustain hartal till judgement day, the US Elections, or the end of those 500 &1000 rupee notes, world is turning its own set rules topsy turvy.
Since, the invention of cars, humans have a unique and affectionate relation with cars. These days a father may think, his car is more loyal and trust worthy to him, than his own son/daughter or even wife…
Manufactured in Punjab, both of them were beautiful, polished, sophisticated and ready to rule the roads…
Once kept in showroom for sale, 'Azad' and 'Azadi'- the two sister cars, dreamt every time about their owners, loving and taking care of them. While 'Azad' was destined to travel Chandigarh roads, its owner, a film-maker; 'Azadi' was sold to a Kashmiri doctor.
Cars and humans share an over whelming relationship in Kashmir. In this part of the world, not only do cars make one feel powerful, classy and at times authoritative, but also safe (public transport in Kashmir is a messy affair). Moreover, cars are also discussed when a good match is sought for a girl in Kashmir… "khabar gaeid cha ladkas?"(Does the guy possess a car?)
The nick names,' Khatara, Raida, Ram-pyari, Poo-poo gadi, Pichkoo jaisi, Dulhan-gaadi, Bum gaed, Bakhtar band, Chota hathi,' etc. are very common for vehicles in Kashmir.
Years passed, while 'Azad' became a popular car on the roads of Chandigarh, its film-maker owner fell so much in love with it that he made a movie on 'Azad', even the songs of the movie became instant hit. The safe, highly macadamized roads of Chandigarh where the car would not just command the roads but also give a soothing experience, the organs of the car didn't exhaust or get tired quickly, as happens in case of torn, dusty, kacha roads .
It so happened this November that, 'Azad' was taken to the service station for servicing. While waiting in the queue for its turn, it could notice another car of its own segment, in a very dilapidated condition…'Azad' got a feel that the car besides it, resembled 'Azadi"-its sister car. It signalled it and there it was, 'Azadi'! For a while, 'Azad' was shocked to see the impoverished, poor and damaged condition of 'Azadi'…till 'Azadi' responded with tears in eyes, "Dear, it is me, Azadi.."
"Horrible, terrifying, in-human indeed! Who did this to you? Has some truck hit you or did youfall in a gorge, my darling sister, tell me."
On the bonnet of the car was written a pro-azadi slogan! 'Azad' could realise that 'Azadi' may soon be booked under sedition.
Since there were a lot of cars in the queue, 'Azad' and 'Azadi' got a full night to spend at service station.
'Azad' was anxious to know the plight of 'Azadi'…. 'Azad' initiated the evening chat, "Azadi, my sister! I had thought that u would have died in 2014 floods in Kashmir."
With a sigh of grief, 'Azadi' responded, "No, I survived, no doubt I was on ventilator for a long time, my ECM, brake oils, wiring,etc.. all got damaged, but I survived. My owner spent a lot of money to save me from dying. I got in proper shape after that huge surgery. But hard times didn't end there, the roads in Kashmir have so many pot-holes and are in such a bad condition that even my owner gets confused whether he is driving me on road or through an ocean of never ending pot-holes. As a result, my tire's side wall get bulged, rims get dented, undercarriage punctured and my ride damaged. What adds more to the misery is the lack of patience of humans for following traffic rules. If Kashmiris start following the traffic rules as they follow hartal calendars, Kashmir would never witness a chaotic traffic jam. There, everyone has urgency of 'nothing'…. 'Nothingness' means 'Everything'….nothingness in air, nothingness in feelings…
But my name is so popular that if our car community would reveal to them that my name in the car world is 'Azadi', they would establish a shrine in my name and worship there for it."
'Azad' was not only surprised while hearing 'Azadi's story but also lost..
While revealing her melancholic journey through the lanes of Kashmir, 'Azadi' revealed, "This August, when my owner was returning from the hospital, I got stuck in stone-pelting. In a mood to destroy me, a stone pelter pelted a stone at me and broke the front windshield …he might have been a school dropout, no sensible person would do that… I was in pain and so was my owner. May be they wanted to destroy everything that is moving…movement is an important aspect of everyone's life outside Kashmir, but I wonder why is movement such a hated thing in Kashmir. Don't they know it is the law of nature that everything has to move to sustain? Doesn't earth move, is it stationary? Imagine earth being stationary, there would be no day and night, no seasons even….but it seems that a violent minority is keeping a silent and peace-loving majority hostage to their vested interests.. While the pieces of my glass were getting scattered on road, my owner had tears in his eyes, he has always treated me like his baby'. Suddenly after that, a masked man came and started writing the pro-azadi slogan on my bonnet, I was crying for help, but who would hear it! My owner got helpless, and tried to change the gears, with his foot on accelerator to move away fast, but all of a sudden, he got an emergency call from hospital and in the worst of the moods, while he reversed me and turned to hospital, we both were stopped by the police. My owner was asked about the pro -azadi slogan written on the bonnet. He failed to convince them that it wasn't him but stone pelters who had written the slogans…. "Clean it?" asked the police man. "Sir, I have to save a life at hospital, it has been written by a protester with a permanent marker, so I will have to get the car to a specialist to get the slogan cleared…I beg u, please allow me to go to the hospital, please???"
"Azad Bhai, I thank ALLAH I am not ashraful-makhluqaat….they defy all forms of logic these days…
I wept that night and so did my owner…I wish one day all the trouble makers board a car to space…there, they would fight with heavenly bodies, leaving all of us in peace, so that a heaven on earth, becomes lively again and not stony!"
(Maria Wani is pursing Masters in Craft Management and Entrepreneurship at Craft Development Institute, Srinagar)