Kashmir : A comforting Viewpoint

Vikas Variahwa and the Muslim Hindu relations in Kashmir
I met Mr Vikas Variahwa (VV – name tweaked slightly) at the recent French National day celebrations in the open but tented lawn in their Embassy . He is 81 years of age and former CEO of a leading compressor manufacturer and a corporate Director now in some leading companies.
When I mentioned I was from JK, he mentioned someone’s name and said ‘you can ask him – I had dealt with him several years ago’. He recalled how Mr Mittal (of Arcelor) recognised him nearly after 20-25 years of his meeting with him, when he had sold him some compressors as a Sales Executive, although it was in competition with 6-7 others.
During the course of conversation, I asked him about his place of residence.
I have two bases – Delhi and Srinagar. Spend equal amount of time in both places.
‘Is Srinagar safe’, I ask (his name was obviously Hindu).
Him: ‘Why are you asking? Whenever I am there, I play my Golf every morning at 6 am. I have been born and brought up there and I have lived there for 80 years now’
Me: Isn’t the place violent and militancy dangerous?
Him: ‘I avoid going to downtown areas. And you don’t go into areas which are into trouble. Apart from that i see no difficulty’.
I would at worst say, things are abnormal but not scary or dangerous.
Me: ‘But that’s not the way we hear from the media and TVs?’, i said. ‘Are the TVs and media mis-representing then’.
Him: ‘They may not be. Whatever they are showing must be true. may be overexposing. But i would still say things are abnormal not scary as you seem to fear’ and his gaze locked with mine and he let the statement hang in the air. I was trying to figure out the meaning. A big sigh.
[My Words: The public expects the Government to run as per its perceptions (nothing wrong), public opinion is formed on the basis of information made available by TVs, Newspapers, and now increasingly Social media (nothing wrong again).The media as it is designed is to report exceptions and aberrations to normal (Nothing wrong again. You don’t keep reporting ‘things are normal’ stuff). But the media by repeating the aberrations and exception again and again may make a 2 to 5% abnormality as 50-60% abnormality and thus create misperceptions of degree – lets call it ‘exception trap’. Both the media – even the responsible ones without any ulterior motives or agenda or sides to take – and the general public can get sucked into it. The reality on the ground may be far less intense, harmful or scary like in the eyes of VV, who doesn’t think he is betting his life by living there.
This exception trap is an unexplored dimension of Right to Freedom of speech]
I felt more confident to raise ‘What about Hindu Muslim relations’.
Relations in my younger days … there was a lot of comradery and cordiality. I would say between the elders even now there is no rancour but friendly exchanges. But we have to recognise it is a Muslim majority state. A minor section of youth – i would not call it anywhere close to majority – is misguided and misdirected. But things will be normal. Things do take time to sort out.
(For the first time I was hearing some comforting and confidence inducing words from anyone on the subject of Kashmir and naturally it induced a huge sigh of relief).
Me: What about Tourism?
VV: Yes it is down. Things can be better.
Me: But who will go there if in danger of life
But they don’t kill anyone at random with whom they have no agenda. Look they may also be sensible in a way… but with an agenda.
Me: So there may not be an issue if i travel there?
Him: ‘Look. If a bullet is meant to get you, it will. (I said you are going philosophical now). Let me relate a story … about Arun Kirpal Singh, brother of Army (some high meaning rank he mentioned). He was travelling to Chennai and he came to the airport … had a peg in the lounge and when it was boarding time he reached the gate only to be told that the flight was getting delayed by an hour and half. So he went back and had 2-3 rounds more and passed out’
VV caught hold of someone jostling his way through by his elbow and said ‘Hi.’ They exchanged some pleasantries of long last friends and he introduced him as the Mr Mishra an ex Cabinet Secretary. (Later i gathered he was Naresh Chandra’s batchmate). ‘I was telling him about Kirpal singh’s story. And resumed.
‘When he got up, he went to the counter which was shut after the Aircraft had left. He argued with the station staff that it was their fault blah blah … and the counter staff kept saying that they had paged for him several times but had to let the aircraft go.
‘Disappointed he started back but before he was out of the airport the Public address system announced that his missed flight had crashed. (I tried re-jigging my memory of AI air crashes for flights meant for Chennai 25-30 years back, but not able to recollect).
‘And a personal one. A few days back there was an accident involving Gondola rides in Gulmarg. (i did recollect reading from papers about 3-4 weeks back some such accident which killed 2-3 people). My Sister, her sister in law and niece had gone there and were seated in a cart with some others. The attendant came to them and said that there were 3 more who were part of same family of three who were already seated with them. He conveyed to them that the others want to be seated together and if my sister would be kind enough to move to the next cart. My sister obliged and moved to the next cart. As it happened there was some strong winds due to which a big tree fell on the Cable sending it wobbling and getting stuck. The cart by which the six travelled hit the pole, the glass door opened and some were thrown out resulting in death. My sister and co were dangling for nearly 4 hours in the next cart before they were rescued. But they escaped death’.
I was trying to connect with a French Banker and had messaged and whataspped him 2-3 times about my whereabouts without connecting with him. I told him finally that i would go behind the Beer Bar and stand with an empty Wine glass so he could identify me. We did connect in 2-3 minutes and I wanted to join back with VV and take a picture and quiz Mr Mishra on a few items about Bureaucracy then and now. But they had melted into the crowd.
There was a gleam in VV’s eyes which conveyed success with the past and hope and confidence about the future. I was 2/3rds his age and the curious quizzer – so he could have easily gotten patronizing or pontificating or at least superior sounding (a disease 99% of Indians suffer from). There wasn’t any of these. He kept his enthusiasm also in check – enough to interest me but not going overboard or argumentative or overly critical (another national epidemic). … I hope someday i would acquire those qualities in myself … in this birth or the next.
For the first time I heard someone talk differently about Kashmir and it was energising and confidence boosting… and that too from a man on Ground Zero. I could not thank him for his inputs though.

Triple Talaq – a practical view

 

Triple Talaq – a practical view

My driver in Kolcutta 2 days back was a frail middle aged man. From the Airport, a couple of times i egged him to go faster in somewhat empty roads since i was getting late for the dinner i was supposed to attend.

He refused sternly saying 60 kmph is the limit prescribed. I got put off and lost interest in conversing with him further during the trip.

But after the dinner, i opened with ‘what do you think about Triple Talaq’?

The Driver: ‘Iss galath sawaal ko mea kya jawaab doon?

I did not know what to make of it. After about 30-40seonds i once again plodded.

“aap TT ke khilaaf hai yaa saath?’

‘Bilkul Khilaaf’

‘I confirmed that he is a Muslim (was a clear muslim name, nevertheless i wanted to be sure).

‘aap kya Bangladesh se or India se’

Patna se. My parents live there still.

I continued on TT.

What’s wrong with TT?

Sir. I am not only a husband. I am also a father to my daughter, son to a mother, brother to a sister. How can i turn a blind eye to them.

My eyes went a little moist; there was a small gasp of breath and i hoped he did not notice me.

Supposing the Government brings about a law to get rid of TT, would you support it?

‘If there are 25 others in the Mohalla who are for it, i cannot oppose it alone in public. It is difficult. There are some people who are taking signatures from ladies to present before court evidence against doing away with TT. But what use it is, when most of them are putting their thumb impressions. They cannot read or understand what is written. They simply over power them into signing. Even so, i have told ladies in my house not to sign any such petition and tell them to wait till i get back home. I will tell them what the paper says. I know from their small talk that almost all ladies in the Mohalla are against TT. If my ladies are also against it, let it get it reflected.

How many families are there in your mohalla – 25? or more?

There are 83 families.

How many such divorces TT have taken place so far in your lifetime in your Mohalla?

‘Three. He was jigging his memory. In all cases, the husbands were bevdas, who used to while away their time thru the day and when there was no food when they returned, maar peet.

‘TT is a responsible provision and meant to be used responsibly. And ladies are also given option to ask for compensation for living maintenance. TT is meant to  be used only against betrayal, proven acts of infidelity, or where they just cannot be compatible. It is meant to be done after all counselling by mohalla elders  fails.  Not that you had 10 years, sired some kids and things become difficult just dump them and go.

‘How many people in your Mohalla live with more than one wife?’

‘None’.

What do the ladies do after TT.

They go back to their parents if they are live and able to support them. In some cases the male siblings support them In most cases in our community, they start working as domestic servants cleaning utensils, household work, baby sitting etc. But some are left in the lurch.

How many children you have?

Two – one is in class 3 and the other too young to go to school.

He himself  has studied upto 7th (fail) in Hindi medium and his wife is a 10th pass.

Changing topic, how is Didi doing.

‘Buss woh hi goondagurdhi what CPM was doing but saath saath some good work also’.

What do you think of Modi.

‘Sincere fellow trying to do something. At least not messing up things’.

Will he come from WB next time.

No chance. Didi knows how to manage them. She will ensure he does not come from here.

 

PS: during the SBI Dinner i met some industrialists who once again reiterated that big industry can never come up in WB. But in the last 2 years, the Jute industry has come up very well. Although it is not creating as many jobs as previously, it has created additional 2 lacs jobs in the last 2-3 years. That’s a hell of a lot of primary employment. But i could not figure out what the sudden surge in demand for Jute products.