Unlike other Muslim majority places of the world, Ramazan doesn’t come with a bang in Kashmir. It rather sneaks in silently past mighty Himalayas, under the shade of chinars, sailing past Jhelum and into our lives. In Muslim societies, the arrival of Ramazan, apart from bringing piety into one’s life, it comes with month long festivity.
The bazaars, community centres, mosques, parks etc. all wear festive looks. It is one grand celebration that goes on in almost every part of the Muslim world.
But in Kashmir, the arrival of Ramazan is entirely different in every respect. It is dull, lifeless, and full of darkness. While in most of the Muslim world business establishments, shops, bazaars etc. open after Iftaar (fast breaking) and remain so till it is Sehri (morning meal) time, Kashmir is completely different. Here, markets close as soon as it nears Iftaar, or the sun is about to go down. After sun down, not even a single soul is visible on the roads; instead, you get to see deserted bazaars, empty roads, lifeless marketplaces, and unattractive mosques. Almost everybody tries to be at home with his/her loved ones before breaking day’s fast. There is no culture of going out for Iftaar, or eating out with family and friends. The biggest argument one gets to hear about our secretive celebration of Ramazan inside our homes is because of halaat (situation). Agreed, that halaat (situation) is not favourable for grand celebrations in a place like Kashmir, given the ongoing conflict. But why people remember conflict only during Ramazan and not while having lavish marriage parties, or celebrating other festivals. Why this false sense of austerity only during Ramazan. Take for instance Srinagar’s otherwise busy Lal Chowk market, which remains full of life during evening hours. It wears a typical curfewed look during Ramazan, especially when it is iftaar time. Understood, that people want to reach home and breakfast with their families, but what about those who are Muslims and visiting Srinagar? How they are supposed to manage their day-to-day needs during Ramazan. Where will they go to break their fasts when the entire market is closed?
A number of non-Kashmiri Muslims, who are currently visiting Srinagar for one reason or another, face tough situation because of such self-imposed curfews. In contrast, when a Kashmiri moves out during Ramazan, he comes back enlightened, with a smile on his face, and full of experiences.
But when a non-Kashmiri goes back home after visiting valley of saints during Ramazan, he carries painful memories of hunger, search for food, unfriendly souls, dull and lifeless nights etc. with him.
Last year, in order to break the monotony and dullness of the after Iftaar life in Srinagar, a number of famous eateries and chefs were specially flown from Delhi to help introduce the culture of eating out. And to everybody’s surprise, after the initial hiccups, it worked.
The otherwise dull sky lit up with laughter of little boys and girls who accompanied their families for a rear outing. But, some babu, sitting in some dull office, felt it too gaudy to be continued. And it ended.
This Ramazan let’s try to find light quite literally!