Kashmir to Kanyakumari

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ABDUL WAJID

Abdul Wajid

Abdul Wajid

It was late February in wintry Kashmir. The mercury was dipping down to subzero and the cold was harsh enough to arrest me in my warm cosy place. Everything around was catching the snapping cold. Life was freezed like frozen waters. The dark shady sky overhead was warning of bombarding more snowflakes, making people lazier because of the winter-blues. I was also a part of this lazy routinely chore. I started my day late and ended it early only to add more laziness to my sluggishness.

This routine of me was making me dumb, consuming my aptitude day by day. However it was only after I received my appointment letter from L&T InfoTech where I had applied earlier, my life changed drastically. Funnily enough, I wished for a little warmer place and I got the warmest, Chennai, the place where I am posted. Ah! And now here I am in Chennai aka Madras.

At first Chennai turned me ill at ease. I had never been to a south Indian state before. I knew nothing about Chennai except ‘Dosa’ and Rajnikanth. From last six months, I was like hibernating in my place but now this was the wakeup call for me. Although it was a promising opportunity but the trouble to bother was that I had to travel from an extremely cold place to an insanely hot and humid place. “Kashmir to Kaniyakumari”, responded everyone in bewilderment.

As I stepped first into Chennai, a chain of trees, all coconut, welcomed me. Interestingly, the architecture around reminded me of RK Narayan’s lifework Malgudi Days narrating stories that are weaved around intricate streets, modest houses and men in their ‘loungi’. It was as if characters from Malgudi Days had turned live to entertain me!

Well for many people, Chennai won’t seem to be a very interesting place as far as the expectations from a “metro” city are concerned. Minus some of the good beaches and few glittering malls, a commoner cannot find anything worth entertaining. But that’s okay. Modesty is what I really admire about Chennai. The Chennai people, as I inferred, are very modest in their behaviour and attires accept some “inflexible” guys who strictly confine themselves to the five letters of being TAMIL.

The widespread use of the local language is something that I found very peculiar about Tamil Nadu. The Tamil people literally don’t give a damn to the “national” language.  Hindi influence, or the presence of Bollywood is negligible as compared to Tamil regional cinema i.e. Kollywood. Not a very good example of “Abhin Bharat” (Integral India), I must say. A food for thought for Kashmiris as our local language is slowly becoming part of history. Although language is a big barrier here as the Hindi speaking crowd is apparently nil but I hope to follow local language soon.

Food is another big problem after communication for North Indian people, specially Kashmiris (excuse my assumption of Kashmiris being Indians here), who find it difficult to gulp South Indian food. I couldn’t find any restaurant for Kashmiri Wazwan although, non-vegetarian stuff is easily available especially Biryani that rules the roost.

Another interesting factor added to my experience as I could draft a similarity between the Tamils and Kashmiris. It is the liberation fight going in the Northern part of Sri Lanka by Tamils against the Lankan atrocities, wining the sympathy from the Indian Tamils and some Kashmiris. After interacting with some of my Tamil colleagues, I could hear some praise for the slain chief commander of LTTE, Velupillai Prabhakaran. The same opinion is not true for my North Indian colleagues who feel otherwise when asked about Prabharkaran. “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter,” that’s what I opine.

Well, the similarity of thought between Tamils and Kashmiris can be understood by JKLF chairman, Yasin Malik’s recent visit to Chennai.

Keeping politics aside, many Kashmiris have find their home in Chennai. Regardless extremely humid climate, many Kashmiris have successfully set up their businesses in Chennai. Interestingly there are market places in Chennai like Mahabalipuram and Spenser’s Plaza, where there are more than hundred Kashmiri shops in one place. Most of the Kashmiri businessmen are into trading of handicrafts.

During my last six months in Chennai, I have met many Kashmiri fellows who have almost settled permanently in Chennai. Muhammad Ayub from old city Srinagar is one such person who is settled in Chennai with his family. Running emporium shops in various parts of Tamil Nadu, Ayub has spent almost three decades in Chennai.

His typical old Kashmiri face and a long white beard, speaks of his experience. Abdul Rehman is another Kashmiri whom I met in a mosque. Rehman says he came to Chennai some two decades back, married a local Tamil woman and hence got settled here. “My food habits also changed from Noon-chai and Kander Czout (traditional baked bread) to Idli and Dosa,” says Rehman with a smile.

A good reason for this settlement can be that South India is much safer for Kashmiris compared to other Indian states.

But sometimes it makes me wonder for how many more years Kashmiri people will be forced to leave their homes in pursuit of a “better living”. And now when I am living in my new home of scorching sun and humid air, I wish for a change again. Needless to say this time to a colder place: Kashmir.

1 Comment

  1. Hi. . Thanks for the informative article. I am an Indian, live in Maharashtra but never get the chance yet to visit Kanyakumari. I have been to Rameshworam once and Goa couple of times. Kanyakumari is still in my wish list. I have made a trip plan for it and I hope I would be there very soon.

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