Kashmir… from conflict to calamity

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Just as this unstable region was finding its feet, natural disaster struck

The very first family holiday that I am able to recall was a trip to Kashmir, way back in the early 1980s. Even today, I often go through some of the photos from that trip when I visit my home in India. Kashmir, one of the most elegant and picturesque places on this planet. Beauteous and outright exquisite, often referred to as “heaven on earth”.

I do not remember much from that holiday in Kashmir, however the grandeur and dazzle of the snow-capped mountains and lush valleys remains fresh and vivid for me. All the bewitching locales of Kashmir have been made all the more familiar and memorable for people of my generation by Bollywood movies of the 1970s and 1980s.

I have never been back to Kashmir. The biggest reason for this, perhaps, has been that for a long while now Kashmir has been considered an “unsafe” place for holidaymakers. The long running instability and terrorism in this region has been responsible for the tainted image of this gorgeous place.

However, more recently, I had heard from family and friends in India that people were returning to the Kashmir Valley once again. Peace, life, and normalcy were making headway in the region, they told me, after a long inglorious period of dispute and violence. It was such a pleasing thing to hear.

And then the tragedy of the recent floods struck this region. The silver lining of an impending revival of peace has yet again been rocked by a setback. This time, a callous natural calamity with unparalleled fury causing widespread havoc. Washing away entire villages and leaving countless hundreds homeless and exposed to the nature’s acrimony, the floods caused calamitous loss of life and property on a monumental scale.

But, like any great nation, the citizens of India came together, in spirit and effort in this hour of need, to reach out to the people of Kashmir. Leading the way in rescue and relief have been the defence forces. The true unsung heroes. The pride and honour of this great nation. The greatest example of a true democracy in the real sense – fellow citizens reaching out to those in dire need with religion or class no barrier.

I am not even remotely astute enough to adequately comment on the history and politics of Kashmir, or the dispute that has held it back for years. Nor am I qualified enough to provide an opinion on what is the future of this conflict moving forward.

The reason I chose to write this piece is to share my sense of gratitude and pride towards the citizens of India, and members of defence forces, working tirelessly in the harshest of terrains, to reach out to their fellow citizens.

It is a Sunday evening in Melbourne as I write these lines. Prior to writing this article, I was getting organised for my work week. While contemplating the hectic work schedules for the next week, I expressed a sense of stress to my wife. I suggested to her that life has to be easier than this for us.

Right at that moment, a news story about the Kashmir flood situation came on TV. There are people over there who have lost everything they ever worked towards for their entire lives. They have been rendered homeless with nowhere to go. With an impending harsh winter, they are staring at cold, hard adversity.

My little case of “Mondayitis” is insignificant when I think of those fellow humans facing such brutality. So I hope and I pray that life gets a bit easier for them. I will gladly face my work week next week…

 

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A typical middle class guy who is abundantly opinionated, moderately flawed, and adequately grounded
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