by Syed Samreen
SRINAGAR: The dread of the virus could not devour Kashmir of its fundamental trait – its hospitality. Unlike other places where strangers and chased away and guests are unwelcome, Kashmir has remained unchanged.
Stranded in Kashmir, a film crew from Pune felt anxious and helpless once the country-wide lockdown was imposed on March 25. Ever so worried, the crew saw no escape and believed that it was a better option to not move and stay put in the valley.
With all the air traffic suspended and the hotels closed, the group had nowhere to go when a gentleman namely Nazim Malik of Gatha village, in Bhaderwah outskirts let the entre group stay at his abode. The group includes Nachiket Guttikar, Shamin Kulkarni and Ninad Datar.
The trio had come to the Chenab Valley on March 15, in order to shoot for a documentary. Supposedly, the group was to leave on March 25, the exact day lockdown was imposed.
Sighing in relief, the group felt extremely fortunate and ever since, feel that no matter what happens, Kashmiris will always be gracious and helpful.
Kolkatta based newspaper, The Telegraph quoted Guttikar saying: “We were so fortunate that this family graciously came forward and gave us the offer to stay with them.”
He said that the friendly nature of Kashmiris doesn’t make us feel we are not home and that the family members they were staying with were extremely friendly. “I am quite sure this type of hospitality cannot be found anywhere. This is the real Kashmiriyat which we often hear about.”
However, Nazim Malik and his family feel extremely fortunate to be able to help stranded travellers. At their village in Doda, they feel content after serving the trio for weeks now. There are photographs, viral on social media, showing them playing cricket with the host kids.
The family emphasizes that they have not done a favour to the crew and believe that if their children face a similar situation someday, they will definitely be helped by someone, just they as extended their warm welcome to the group.
Truly do the people of Kashmir remain hospitable and gracious enough to anyone and everyone even in times of distress and chaos. Only last week, one house-boat owner was formally booked by police by retaining a British citizen in his houseboat without telling the authorities. Earlier, another house-boat owner brought in an Italian couple but the media attention led the police to fly the visitors back to Delhi. That was at a time with Rome was busy burying hundreds daily.
With thousands of the non-local seasonal workers in Kashmir, there are no major tensions around. Where the civil society reaches, they are helped and where they are not able, the government is helping. Food might be deficient at some places in Jammu and Kashmir but being suffering hunger is out of question, as on date.
In the periphery of Srinagar is another inspiring and spiriting story of Kashmir hospitality. It is in Pampore where a stranded son and mother from Mumbai are living with a family.
Javed Rashid Sheikh and his mother Khatija had come to Kashmir for its beauty when unfortunately during their trip; the lockdown was imposed all over India.
Fortunately, the duo was given accommodation by Nazir Ahmad Sheikh and his family hailing from Pampore’s Patalbagh belt.
Javed, 28, who owns a turf ground in Mumbai, has been an admirer of Kashmir’s beauty and has visited Kashmir many times. This time, however, Javed thought of showing his 59-year-old mother, the beautiful waterscape of Kashmir.
The stranded Javed and his mother told reporters that when they were denied entry to one of Kashmir’s beautiful Mughal Gardens, he was certain that something was not right. At that time, the administration of Kashmir had closed all public parks and gardens due to the Coronavirus scare.
Soon after the lockdown was imposed, Javed was confused and worried as to where he should take his mother.
Javed was quoted by news website Firstpost saying: “I had no idea where we’d go or how we’d survive. My mother was even more scared as we were far away from home.”
Amidst this chaos, Nazir offered his two-storey house wholeheartedly to Javed and his mother.
Nazir lives with a family of three daughters and two sons along with his wife. The family is extremely hospitable and friendly with the two. Javed has developed a deep respect for Nazir ever since.
The Firstpost also quoted Javed saying: “From giving us a place to stay to keep our spirits up, they’ve done all they can. My mother has had problems with her teeth, so they’ve been taking her to different doctors. People like Nazir and his family restore your faith in humanity.’
Javed and his mother feel exalted and happy. Weeks together, they’re still with the family and are keeping good.
These testaments are nothing new. It happened during September 2014 floods when most of Kashmir was under the water. Almost all the unrest had countless such stories. Retelling them is also vital because it helps Kashmir retain its moral identity.