The Year That Was

By Sameer Bhat ·

The world didn’t end in 2012. Silly Mayans. Although panic gripped Kashmir in December following gossip that cosmic rays from Mars will enter Earth, perhaps somewhere between Gupkar and Dalgate, leading to harmful effects on mobile users. God knows who spins these old wives tales in our neck of woods but they always travel thick and fast. Such was the alacrity of the rumour that the office of Kashmir’s divisional commissioner had to step in, late at night, to allay any fears of mass paranoia. Behavioral scientists later attributed it to an early winter condition called ‘afvah-mongeritis’, a hallucinatory condition, brought about by Kangris. It goes away in a few days.

Displaying our frenzilicious appetite for all things horrible, we got into a Shiite-Sunni Twenty-20 in 2012. Both Shias and Sunnis thought, in their infinite wisdom, that the state was in league with the ‘other’ community. There was such vile posturing. Flabbergasted, the administration quickly imposed curfew in nine police station areas in the city. The university postponed its exams and the usual blame game begun. All opinion polls suggested, what Geelani Saab had prophesized when the first stone was flung: handiwork of the agencies. It is a time-tested Kashmiri euphemism for our own ‘imbecility’.

In the year bygone cooking gas became a rare commodity. Serpentine queues to fetch a gas capsule became routine in Kashmir. With an acute shortage of more than 6000 LPG cylinders per day, many rued the day they dismantled their mud hearths, a central feature in all Kashmiri homes, not too long ago. Alas the advent of cell-phones and disposable incomes dulled many a heads in Srinagar and other semi-urban places and people started doing away with good old fireplaces. There was some romanticism in saying ‘hearth and home’. Not any more. Now keep standing in the damn queue while it snows on you.

The beautiful shrine of Dastageer Saab went up in flames one fine morning last year. The 200-year-old sanctuary, located at Khanyar in old city, was entirely made of wood. The desecration came as a rude shock. How could someone put a match to our heritage? Accident or vandalism – the jury is still out but what an utter disgrace that our cultural history is being torpedoed right in front of our eyes. No one might ever know who committed this crime but a spiritual watering hole to hundreds of thousands cannot be extirpated by such acts of hate. Dastageer continues to live on in the hearts of countless.

Towards the year-end the Hurriyat (Mild) got busy, packing their bags for Pakistan. They broke bread with everyone — from Bilawal’s dad to Imran Khan and returned home the other day to declare the trip a huge success. There is a speculation – and it would only be a stab in dark – that the visit had the Indian blessing. God knows what’s cooking behind the scenes? At the Institute of Strategic Studies of Islamabad, Pakistan’s top think-tank funded by the foreign office, Prof Abdul Ghani Bhat, clad in a funny blue cape, was at his melodramatic best. He told a serious audience that even if we have to cut each others noses, it should be done in such a fashion that we should look better than before. Prof Shireen Mazari, editor of The Nation and one of Pakistan’s top strategists, had a confused look for days afterwards, I am told.

And for all you news-floozies out there, a new luxe hotel has come up in Gulmarg. The Khyber: Himalayan Resort and Spa, owned by the Khyber Group of Industries came up at a whopping Rs 120 crores. JHM, a US Hotel group, which owns the Crown Plaza, Hyatt Regency, Marriot, Renaissance hotels across the globe, is a partner of sorts in the venture. The Khyber Group belongs to the Trumboos of Sopore, our erstwhile next-door neighbors. The price for a room in their suber-luxury hotel oscillates between Rs 14,500 to 1,05000 per night.

On that rather upscale note, wishing you a happy New Year.

PS: Snow, pherans, old kotchas, familiar laughter, naar kangir, naedir monja, old friends, vaan penji. Simple pleasures in life are still priceless.

(Sameer Bhat is a Dubai based Kashmiri journalist)


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