There is this rather eerie coincidence that Kashmir always seems to bring out the ‘doctor’ in people at the helm of affairs. Unfortunately, though, none of these people have been able to deliver a ‘cure’ for the problems that beset Kashmir leave alone providing a cure for the Kashmir problem itself. Readers may recall the lecture by Governor Jagmohan Malhotra in the very initial days of militancy when he claimed that he was assuming the mantle of a ‘nurse’ to heal the ‘disease’ that afflicted this place. With a reassuring smile he explained to the people in his very first address that a cure was underway although it might necessitate an occasional ‘painful injection’. The promise of pain and agony proved to be true and it was not restricted to mere ‘injections’ but even more drastic painful procedures. However the ‘cure’ never materialized and in fact any attempts in this direction proved to be deadlier than the ‘disease’ itself. PDP in its first stint too promised a ‘healing touch’ policy. There was very little that was ‘healing’ about the policies of this government, however, and the phrase ‘healing touch’ eventually came to be identified in more of an ironical sense by the people.
‘Cosmetic surgery’ seems to be the latest attempt at ‘curing’ the long afflicted and much blighted ‘paradise on earth’. Tulip garden is perhaps the best example of this ‘cosmetic surgery’. It does make a lovely picture indeed–a million brightly coloured flowers in bloom—the very stuff for calendars and screen savers. The reality, however, is always different and diametrically so–its ugliness in direct proportion to the portrayed beauty. Glossy facades all too often cover the ugly truth but scratch the surface a bit and the rust that lies beneath the paintwork becomes readily manifest. A Tulip garden may form an attractive picture but it is a picture far removed from reality.
The laying of a Tulip garden may be praised as a worthy effort to bring succour to a suffering people and it may be made to appear that we have come a long way from the days of strife and misery. And why not, fairy tales have been a refuge of mankind all through the ages, a refuge from the bitter realities of day-to-day life. Maybe the powers that be, savvy as always, have decided to provide the masses with new visions of fantasy to take their minds off matters mundane and miserable! Tulips are thus made to spell out peace and prosperity even if they are not there, to create alluring fiction, perhaps an altogether new genre of magical unrealism.
As for prosperity, the pot-holed roads of the paradise, the very roads that lead to these man-made Edens are a testimony against the same. If for a moment one even lets the fantasy to delude ones senses these roads jolt him back into the ugly reality. That peace is a long way off yet is amply pronounced by the ugly edifices of concrete bunkers that are coming up in the middle of these very roads, giving a lie to the pronouncements of our leaders, which would have us believe otherwise. Miles and miles of razor wire just serve to underline this fact.
Moreover a tulip garden cannot replace an all-weather school building for a poor child, the rains and the snow and the cold of winters being as much a fact of nature as sunny days and flowers in full bloom. Playgrounds are next in priority, and tulip gardens do not fit the bill for this purpose even, nor for that matter do golf courses. A flowerbed, no doubt how beautiful, cannot replace a much needed hospital bed for our ailing. Visit any hospital and you will see our version of the miracle of modern medicine, a single bed attempting to accommodate half a dozen sick. Flowers have been traditionally used to cheer the ailing, but don’t blame it on a lack of aesthetic sense if these tulips fail to bring a smile to the faces of our sick.
Comparisons with Netherlands and the rest of Europe are all right so far as you restrict it to description of the tulips, a superfluous exercise anyway because the tulips being imported from there are bound to be similar. The real world in this part of the globe, and a very different world at that, is the one that exists outside this garden. It will be a fallacy indeed to assume that the high walls surrounding these gardens are supposed to screen the garden from the outsiders, they are needed more to avoid the stark comparison between the fact and fantasy.
All said and done, flowers have a language and a symbolism of their own. With its hundred thousand dead, innumerous unmarked graves, and more than that the dead human values, decency and morals that lie buried in Kashmir, tulips are not exactly the right choice when it comes to planting flowers here, for traditionally tulips are not grown in graveyards.