This is a true story.
It is a story about how a nation can fail its own people, despite the best efforts of the citizens of that very nation, to make a genuine, long-lasting, positive, contribution.
Mr Trali, now in his late 30s, grew up in a small town in Kashmir. His family was neither wealthy nor too poor, just an average middle-class Kashmiri business family with agricultural land and a profitable agricultural business. His father, like most fathers in Kashmir for the past few decades, made great efforts to educate his rather large family. Two of Mr Trali’s brothers would become engineers, one of whom would hold a prestigious post in Kashmir’s premier engineering institute before life dealt him a great blow. Mr Trali was, however, the outstanding one. He went on to study, and study, and study, and research, and research.
His love for his work would take him out of the Valley, first to Delhi, where he did his PhD, then to Germany, where he would do a post-doc fellowship, to Switzerland, where he would take up a prestigious college lecturer-ship, and to Harvard, in the Unites States, where he would work in a niche area in the Harvard Medical School, on the path to some ground-breaking research work. He was on his way, many would say, especially after he found a match, and fathered two kids while in the US.
The blow that struck his brother would force him to return to Kashmir, to look after his treatment. The diagnosis of a very serious form of cancer had brought sorrow to his family. The family went from the pillar-to-the-post in search of treatment, and finally the patient found himself at Mumbai, where he was receiving treatment in one of the city’s premier hospitals. It was not of much avail. Months later, and after an expenditure of lakhs of rupees, the brother would pass away peacefully on a bed at the SKIMS, in Srinagar, in the presence of Mr Trali and his own children and the extended family.
Mr Trali would never be able to complete his project at Harvard. He had to return. His brother’s death had dealt a blow to the family business, with the father taking the brunt. Mr Trali would have to look for a job in Kashmir.
But what could Kashmir offer him?
Someone who had been engaged in fundamental research in biology; someone who had dozens of international papers to his credit; who had hobnobbed with Nobel laureates, and caught their attention; someone whose peers had already billed him as a Potential Nobel Prize Winner. What could the cold corridors of Kashmir’s institutions offer him? A professorship? A research project? Anything?
He went from one authority to another, meeting all he ever could, but to no avail. All he would hear was the excuse of supposed ‘helplessness,’ and be at the receiving end of administrative apathy. He did, in the end, secure a job, for which he was much too qualified. A job which he perhaps would not have taken up ten years ago, as a fresh post-graduate, and one he would not have thrown a second glance had it not been for the personal tragedy that had befallen him.
His story is an eye-opener. Kashmir, for all its beauty, Kashmiris, for all their hyper-ventilating mutual concern, and the Government, for all its hooplah about ‘development’ and ‘youth projects,’ has consistently failed to open avenues for its highly-educated, and well-meaning youth. Mr Trali’s is an instructive case. Kashmiris, in high posts, rather than bending the rules for the benefit of the larger Kashmiri nation, to employ a potential ‘Nobel Laureate,’ decided to throw the rule-book in his face. The Government, for all its talk about this University and that, could not generate a single post worth his qualifications and expertise. Rather than roll out the red carpet for him, they slammed their doors shut. How many Kashmiris ever went to Harvard? How many had such multi-national exposure in his field? Sad to say, few, too few.
Rather than waste money on the security, safety, and comfort of a few, rather than waste money on making Kashmiri a nation of ‘second-rate government employees,’ like the British did to Indians a few hundred years ago, it would be worthwhile to see a government that calls on Kashmiris to return to Kashmir to add to its rich culture, heritage and development. And, it is the fault of the rich in Kashmir that they waste their money on buying land, building houses, and lavish weddings, rather than ‘give’ money to institutions that can not only employ, but foster a new philosophy on Kashmiri students.
Till that happens, Kashmir will continue to fail its own.