Fraternity – a word light on the tongue but pregnant withmeaning and teeming with sentiments. The age we are in seldom gives us a chanceto witness such higher values manifest themselves in our mediocre lives. Yet,whenever it does, it leaves us astounded!
Moralizing stories that we are told in our childhoodtransform into dreamy fantasies as soon as we grow up. Yet, it is these highervalues and morals that make sense once we are rendered upfront life and it isthese that touch the humane part in us in a way no material thing ever can!
Kashmiriat is a milieu, a culture, an ethos, a civilization.Time and again, this Kashmiriat has manifested itself in varied ways, takenhuge strides and imparted a colour of beauty and brotherhood to the richculture of Kashmir. What one can brag about Kashmir even after being away fromit, is the love that every Kashmiri heart harbours for the other, irrespectiveof religion. The unification of Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, and Christians asKashmiris is a facet of Kashmiriat and therefore unique to it only. It is here,that communal harmony ceases to be a mere copybook maxim but a rule of lifefollowed by each member of the Kashmiri community. Whenever undesirableelements or circumstances attempt at the ghettoization or the othering of onecommunity, it is this Kashmiriat thatturns the tables on its rivals.
This winter season proved out to be much troublesome andnasty for common Kashmiris. Heavy snowfall, landslides, avalanches being talkof day every now and then. Amid such adverse weather conditions, disruption oftraffic on the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway is a common and redundantphenomenon in Kashmir. For most part of the season, vehicles travelling to andfro on the National Highway remained stranded and the people were left to facethe adversities characterised by a constant privation of basic necessities. While communal apathy was beingignited by untoward elements in and around Kashmir, Kashmiriat came into playto prove all odds wrong. The Muslims stranded on the highway were given shelterinto mandirs and guruduwaras. Langars were organised by the Sikhs to feed theirstarving Muslim brothers. Meanwhile Muslims prepared food packets and wouldwait for vehicles at check points throughout the National Highway to distributethe packets among their Sikh and Hindu brothers including the army personnel.This ambience of oneness and accord shook the collective conscience of Kashmiripeople. It was a kind of deja vu. Something like this had happened before!Something like this was a part of their existence! The aura of unity actuallywas the essence of that nostalgic Kashmiriat.
There may be none who does not long for or crave for theculture, the society in which one has been brought up or to which one belongs.Kashmiriat is such a cultural ethos which if narrated to strangers may create alonging in them! Having said about these things, I feel a pride in unfoldingthe real meaning of Kashmiriat. Kashmir has been a valley of saints and sufis,shrines and stupas, mosques and temples. If one goes down the stream in Jhelum,one would find mosques and temples side by side in areas like Habbakadal,Fatehkadal, Alikadal and Nawakadal. One will never miss a temple near theshrine of Hazrat Amir Kabir, Bulbul Shah or the Hariparbat near the shrine ofMakhdoom Sahab. Muslims and Pandits braved the cold in the wee hours to dip inthe freezing waters and thereafter pray in their own ways. For the evenings,men and women belonging to different communities would gather around afterhaving done their respective outdoor and domestic chores and sing together Sheikh-i-Shruk and Lal-Vaakh. Ceremonialfunctions of one community would be incomplete without the participation of theother. In the recent years too, we have had numerous incidents where Muslimsorganised the wedding ceremonies of non-muslims or the latter participated withutmost zeal and zest in the weddings of the former. There have been incidentswhere thousands of Muslims joined hands to perform the last rites of KashmiriPandits, and stood with their Pandit brothers through thick and thin.
It is said that the warmth and light of day is better feltand understood when compared with the cold and dark night. Similarly,Kashmiriat becomes all the more imperative in times when dubious elements, takeadvantage of dodgy situations to fan the sparks of communal discord. Beforegetting swayed by any such act, one should reflect back on the quintessence ofKashmiriat. Notwithstanding the brutality unfolded during the years of turmoil,it is this Kashmiriat that abetted Kashmir in galore incidents of tolerance,fellow feeling and owning members of the minority community. Arms as well ashearts of the majority community were always open for their brothers, sisters,children and elders of the other community.
Kashmiriat is less about the serene and appealing beauty,soothing climate, delightful winter and enticing cuisine and more about theinexplicable bond that exists between its inhabitants belonging to differentreligions and passed on as a legacy from generation to generation. IfKashmiriat would ever have a synonym, it would be fraternity, oneness,belongingness and brotherhood. This, in real sense, is Kashmiriat and this iswhat one longs for, what one craves for, what one feels nostalgic about, whenone goes away from it.
(Asma Majid is Master's in English Literature, University ofKashmir)