“ There is nothing new in world except the history you do not know.” – Harry Truman

Mehmood sees freedom as the ultimate salvation requiring Kashmiris first to seek enlightenment

(Mr. Mehmood-ur-Rashid, 37, was born in Srinagar. He graduated from the Amar Singh College, Srinagar. He has been active in journalism for over ten years, and currently works at the Greater Kashmir, having worked in the past at the Rising Kashmir as the Features Editor. The columnist is presently the GK Magazine Editor.)

Freedom of Kashmir

Ashfaq Ahmed is one of the popular names in the modern Urdu literature. He produced his own style of writing which was an attempt to get closer to the reader, as if the two were talking. He was also a broadcaster whose programmers were intimate, lively, and with a tinge of spirituality. Not a spirituality of any order, but a common man’s spirituality; one that is found in small things, like saying a thank-you to someone who helped. On his TV forum Zavia he would deliberate on matters of life, philosophy, culture, politics and history, in the style of storytelling; in ways understandable to a man on the street. He was a common man’s uncommon teacher.

But why talk Ashfaq in this column. The precise reason is a chapter in his book Zavia. The book is actually a textual form of his talk show Zavia. The chapter is – Sabr, Disiplin, Aur Aazad-e-Kashmir. Translate it and it would become – Patience, Discipline and the Freedom of Kashmir.

But first about Zavia. Probably it would be a place and a condition where people pour their heart out and get relieved. In the Muslim Sufi tradition the term has come from North Africa. In the countries like Tunisia and Algeria these were the places where Sufis would encamp and provide a shelter for common people. They would relax, have some food and pour their hearts out. It was a sort of hospice where more than bodies, minds would relax; may be akin to a place like coffee house, but with a difference that the ambience would be overwhelmingly spiritual. Zavia would engender a condition that had a humanizing impact, and the source of that condition would be the person, who one may call a Sufi. In fact the word Teacher would be more accurate. These teachers would talk in simple language, about little matters, and towards modest ends. But in the end bring about a huge change in an individual. It was the modesty of purpose and method that would make everyone feel home in those zavias. There was no noise but everyone could feel the music of change.

The name Zavia formed the texture of the program that Ashfaq did on Television. He would talk about a casual thing about his family and friends, about his routine, about something that he saw in the market, or office, and then narrate some experience of a mystic or an event of history; this Ashfaq did in a language that was not at all burdened with terminology or verbosity. It was like talking on a railway platform, or may be over a cup of tea with a friend. And this would leave everyone with an impact.

One day he started off his program by telling about his granddaughter who once was highly feverish. How he stationed her on his chest for a long time while sitting on a chair with a slanting back. The little baby burning with fever was jammed to his chest like a small frog. It was absolutely painful for the loving grandpa. But what could he do. The night passed and the baby was still burning. Then the second; nothing helped. Then it struck Ashfaq’s mind that may be God was teaching us a lesson; the lesson of patience.

Patience, Ashfaq thought, teaches us discipline. It makes us pass through a rigor only to discipline us. Immediately the narration turns towards Pakistan. It’s lagging behind, because its people are not disciplined. And here Ashfaq relates his meeting with a Canadian radio broadcaster who had accepted Islam. ‘How do you see Islam’, Ashfaq promptly asks. The Canadian broadcaster replies, ‘the future of the world is Islam.’ Ashfaq failed to find any logic in this assertion. The Canadian broadcaster now went on to explain. “I don’t know why you have accepted this religion. I believe when some thousand Americans, some hundred Canadians and may be a handful of Scandinavian’s are in the fold of Islam, it will prevail.’ Ashfaq was dumbstruck, ‘but we are already in billions!’ ‘But you aren’t disciplined,’ the Canadian broadcaster clinched it all.

Ashfaq moves ahead. ‘Like that little granddaughter of mine God had given me this country, and like that little baby burning with fever Kashmir is jammed to my chest. It is writhing in pain, not only now but from many decades.’ But why is Kashmir not recovering, like that little baby did finally. This because, Ashfaq believes, we don’t love Kashmir like our child. We don’t experience the pain, like a grandfather does over seeing his granddaughter burning with fever. Only if people pool their love for Kashmir, praying for this land in some corner of a room, all in solitude, may be one day the bell rings in every home – Kashmir is free.

Would people in the neighborhood of sovereignties stop for a while in Ashfaq’s Zavia, and instead of discussing the politics of Kashmir with penetrating analysis pray for it in most simple ways. Shower some love on its little daughters and sons who are jammed to the bosoms of their parents like that granddaughter of Ashfaq’s- like a little frog.

And would Kashmiris learn the lessons of patience and discipline themselves in the Zavia. We have a formidable tradition of spirituality. Isn’t this the time to draw from that. No nation can afford to destroy its values in the name of politics. This is the time when people need Teachers, not politicians. People need a sensible guidance and not a provocative invocation. That is the way to prevail. That is the way to go. May be the day dawns when news comes home – Kashmir is free.