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Kashmiri youth talks of agony through rap, graffiti and writing

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Srinagar, after a quarter century of turmoil in Jammu and Kashmir, a section of the new generation is taking to music, writing and other art forms to tell their stories.graffiti-680839_640

The mass protests over the Amarnath land row in 2008-10 changed the perspective of 20-year-old Fahad Idrees and others of his generation on the Kashmir issue.
Dozens of protesters were killed in police and paramilitary firing in different places across the state after the government tried to transfer 99 acres of land in the Kashmir valley to the Amarnath Shrine Board. The decision was rescinded within five weeks, after uproar and violence.

A teenage boy, known by the name MC Kash, hammered the “words of pain” on a piece of paper and his rap song, “I protest”, on YouTube became a sort of anthem for the summer protests during 2008-10. It also inspired many others to share their feelings through rap.

Fahad Idrees is one in the brigade of music rappers and believes rapping is a form of storytelling for him. “I yell loudly and put all my feelings into it.”

For Idrees, rap is a medium to vent his anger in the form of words. “Every other medium of expression is controlled. After witnessing such turmoil in the state, I chose to tell my stories of pain and suffering this way,” he says.

In this rage, Fahad is not alone. In 2013, when the famous musician Zubin Mehta held ‘Ehsaas-e-Kashmir’- (the feel of Kashmir) in Srinagar, Fahad and his friends participated in a counter event – ‘Haqeeqat-e-Kashmir’- (reality of Kashmir) organized by civil society groups, performing rap on the stage.

While many chose music as an expression, some youngsters took to the traditional method of writing.

Towfeeq Wani was only 17 when his first novel titled “The Graveyard” got published. Wani says: “It is my way to resist the atrocities in Kashmir.”

“I chose to write the book after being haunted by the nightmares after the uprising in 2008. The images of the boys who were killed continued to haunt me even when I left Kashmir,” Wani told IANS.

Wani, now 19, completed his high school from Aligarh and is now doing his Bachelor’s in English from Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi.

In 2013, a compilation of the protest writings of Kashmir was edited and formulated into a book by another young journalist, Fahad Shah.

The book ‘Of occupation and resistance – writings from Kashmir’, included the memories of young people.

Another bunch of young minds in the Valley has chosen graffiti to express anger and tell their tales. On the banks of the river Jhelum, under the shade of mighty Chinars, the walls are splashed with graffiti drawn by a young boy who does not want to be named.

“Writing on the walls was missing from Kashmir. For me, this is a chance to express anger and protest against the atrocities in a peaceful way,” the boy says.

One of his works on the walls of Sopore explains, “Bring back our dear ones”. About this graffiti, he says, “I drew this after being a part of an Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) association”.

“During the turmoil, thousands of people disappeared. Who will raise a voice for their families?” he asks IANS.

The artist believes that everyone has his role to play. “Everyone has his/her own way of expression. Mine is the paintings and I will continue with this.”

The reason for his anonymity, he says, is fear of police action. “Some immature boys hijacked our work by writing ‘Welcome Taliban’ and ‘Long live ISIS’ on the walls. But we have nothing to do with this,” he says.

(IANS)

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Why Anyone Should Not Miss Visiting Kashmir In Spring Season?

Floating flower markets

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Why Anyone Should Not Miss Visiting Kashmir In Spring Season?
Why Anyone Should Not Miss Visiting Kashmir In Spring Season? Pixabay

Visiting Kashmir during spring-summer is like a beautiful dream come true. This is the time when all the flowers are in full bloom, making the valley look like a paradise. Tulip plants rule the roster while cherry, peach and pear trees brim with flowers, after shedding all leaves. Flowers of wild perennial trees colour the gardens with their beautiful booms. We are fortunate (after braving those wide eyed exclamations coming from some well wishers) to descend in the picturesque valley during this year’s bloom time.

Tulip Garden, Srinagar

The taxi driver who picked us from Srinagar airport gave good news that Tulip garden had just opened for tourists the day before, a week early this year. After checking in and finishing lunch at the traditional houseboat on Nigeen Lake, we headed straight to the tulip Garden.

As we entered through the gates, it was an awesome sight to witness rows and rows of tulip plants running through the garden. Were they real? They looked like sights from picture postcards. Many of the 50 varieties of attractive tubular flowers with different colours and hues had started blooming, as though to soothe the eyes before the harsh sunrays of summer. Less snow during winter had hastened temperature rise to herald early summer. Never mind global warming and change in weather, nature’s cycle was intact to offer vivid sights to locals and tourists alike. These colourful sights have made Asia’s biggest Tulip garden, a major tourist draw of Kashmir. We learnt that the floral attraction had 1.5 million visitors in April 2017, ahead of the regular tourist season that
begins in May.

Charming flower garden in Kashmir
Charming flower garden in Kashmir. Pixabay

Tulips originated in Central Asia.

The taxi driver who picked us from Srinagar airport gave good news that Tulip garden had just opened for tourists the day before, a week early this year. After checking in and finishing lunch at the traditional houseboat on Nigeen Lake, we headed straight to the tulip Garden.

As we entered through the gates, it was an awesome sight to witness rows and rows of tulip plants running through the garden. Were they real? They looked like sights from picture postcards. Many of the 50 varieties of attractive tubular flowers with different colours and hues had started blooming, as though to soothe the eyes before the harsh sunrays of summer. Less snow during winter had hastened temperature rise to herald early summer. Never mind global warming and change in weather, nature’s cycle was intact to offer vivid sights to locals and tourists alike. These colourful sights have made Asia’s biggest Tulip garden, a major tourist draw of Kashmir. We learnt that the floral attraction had 1.5 million visitors in April 2017, ahead of the regular tourist season that
begins in May.

Tulips originated in Central Asia.

Don’t we all identify tulips with Netherlands? But surprisingly, tulips are originally wildflowers growing in Central Asia. They were first cultivated by Turks as early as 1000 AD. Tulips were imported into Holland in the 16th century. Holland sure dominates in the production of tulips with 86% share of the world market. Rich and bright coloured, tulips represent largest ornamental perennial crop of the world. Conducive climates were utilised to start the Tulip Garden in Kashmir a decade ago and it was adjudged as the second best Tulip destination of the world in 2015.

Tulips obviously dominate the 18 hectare or 360 kanals garden dedicated to floriculture with 1.25 million blooms aesthetically spread on seven hectares. These are complemented with Hyacinths, Narcissus, Daffodils, Muscara and Iris. Fruit trees like Himalayan cherry, peach and plum trees in the garden also bloom during the same time to add beauty. Alternate green patches next to long rows of tulip beds were good for us to pause, click and be mesmerised with the sights.

Tending to tulips involves meticulous planning

The gardens maintained by Department of Floriculture, Government of Jammu and Kashmir, are tended by 100 gardeners through the year for that one month to 40 days of fascinating bloom. It involves hard work and meticulous planning to cultivate these bulbous plants. Once the blooms whither by end of the May, bulbs are carefully dug, packed, marked and stored in green houses at 15 degree temperature till November.

Bulbs are replanted again in winter, aesthetically with rows of contrasting colours, which bloom again by March end or early April. Tulip Garden is opened for visitors when there are at least 25% blooms.

More flower varieties

A gardener informed us that they keep adding aesthetic themes every season. Hyacinth theme garden is a new attraction here this year, along with a water channel with jet fountains that adds to beauty and cool. 20 more staff maintains fountains, water bodies and public utilities in the garden. Plans are on to create an ornamental cherry blossoms patch along tulips for future seasons.

It’s not just flowers of tulip garden that make Srinagar a paradise, but there are other beautiful springtime blooms across the valley.

The city close to Himalayan Mountains has abundance of gardens, lakes and bridges. Shalimar, Nishat, Mughal and Ceshmashahi are some of the royal gardens developed during the raj era and are beautifully maintained. A tree bearing big pink and white flowers in Shalimar garden had created a carpet of petals underneath. Countless chinar or maple trees, pines, deodars and Kashmiri willows, some of which are hundreds of years old, add green beauty to the city all along.

 It's spring in Kashmir Blooming almond trees on the way to Yusmarg from Srinagar
It’s spring in Kashmir Blooming almond trees on the way to Yusmarg from Srinagar. flickr

Flowers of fruits

On return to our houseboat on the quiet Nigeen Lake, it was a treat to sip hot kahwa (Kashmiri green tea) in the fruit orchard next to it. Houseboats are decoratively built with traditional intricacies and provide stationary accommodations on the lake. Beautiful pink peach blooms on trees lined the path leading to the garden. Thick white blooms in the corner were those of pears. Some of those will wither out and the strong ones would grow on to be juicy fruits.

A few pink, red and white tulips were in the centre of the garden, under the intriguing umbrella tree. The yellow flower lined stems of a wild plant looked very attractive against the green background. We saw them at many other places, some beautifully lining the fences and the roads leading up the hills of the valley.

Floating flower markets

A flower boat sailed towards us while we stood in the houseboat verandah, watching sunrise at the peaks beyond the other banks of the lake. The flower vendor docked his boat next to ours and asked if we would like to buy some flowers, seeds or bulbs. We later saw many such floating flower markets at the dal lake during a shikara ride.

We drove along the tulip garden for a lunch organised by the event organisers in the botanical garden next to it. The sights of the flower beds from afar showed more blooms than the day before.

We were tempted to go back to the garden again the next day to see enhanced blooms. The tulip festival was organised for 15 days during the peak bloom season, offers fun and frolic activities alongside food carts.

Also read: Jammu and Kashmir cabinet gets five fresh additions

Fact file:

  • Spring starts in early April or by end March, depending on climatic conditions Spring starts in early April or by end March, depending on climatic conditions.
  • Tulip garden is situated within the city of Srinagar, close to Dal Lake and remains open from 9 am to 7 pm during bloom time.
  • Srinagar airport is connected to many cities in India through direct and indirect flights.