By Saadat Bilal Khaki
Kashmir is known as heaven on the earth and many poets have sung songs praising the beauty of the place. Visitors from all around the world are mesmerized by the Valley`s beauty and, at the same time, deeply impressed by the hospitality demonstrated by the natives. Kashmiris have a warm and hospitable nature and receive their guests with much warmth and this nature of Kashmiris has impressed one and all or whosoever visited this part of earth. We have ethnic, cultural and religious diversity but we believe in co-existence; our bonds of love and harmony are inbuilt and deep rooted making us most tolerant and accommodative. We believe in togetherness over discord, in love rather than hatred, in respect rather malignity. Our cultural values that teach us these lessons of love, values and compassion are in our genes and we have inherited these from our forefathers. These distinct characteristics make us tolerant, accommodative, lovable and hospitable in nature. Some call these qualities as humanity while others call it hospitality
The times have changed, unlike the past when non-Kashmiris highly appreciated the hospitality of Kashmiris, now we have to advertise about our hospitality and make people believe with cosmetic smiles about the hospitality and warmth of our place. It seems little bit harsh and uncivilized to advertise about one’s own hospitality. It had never been so in the past, where we have to make people believe that we are really hospitable and warm people on the earth with the smiles of appeasement. The million dollar question is why is it so that we have to make people accept about our hospitality and warmth? Is it just an appeasement to attract tourists who are scared to visit Kashmir or is it because of the wrongful depiction of corporate media about Kashmiris, who shout their lungs to portray Kashmiris as separatists? They do talk of the integrity of the State, do call it as heaven on the earth, but ignore the sufferings of the inhabitants of this heaven, the sufferings and trauma that have been inflicted upon them by three decades of turmoil while living in the largest militarized zone of the world. The recent advertisement of the Kashmiri hospitality bears testimony to the fact that we have to appease people by cosmetic smiles to make them believe that we are indeed hospitable in nature.
The five minute video, “Kashmir: Warmest Place on Earth” produced by J. Walter Thomson (India) attracted huge viewership with millions watching the video and sharing it on social media. The plot of the video starts from young tourist couple in the Kashmir being called by their official host, Sheikh who tells the couple that the driver Mir in a red cab is waiting outside their hotel to take them around. The couple mistakes another middle aged person who had gone market to purchase some sugar with a red cab as Mir. The middle aged person does not want to annoy the tourist couple, presumes to be Mir and takes them around for showing the warmth and hospitality of Kashmiri.
It is innocuous to see the video with a casual view, but if one carefully watches the video and listens to its lyrics, it has a negative portrayal of Kashmiris rather positive. How can a person be so careless to leave his family to appease someone that too to depict fake hospitality? The middle aged driver is shown to be hospitable, but at the same time, he is inhospitable or indifferent to the calls he receives from his wife. Hospitality, at the cost of the family, is just mockery of the hospitality itself. Had he taken them to their home and served them there it would have given a better message. Initially, the presumed driver receives the call of his wife and later ignores it thus ignoring his family in this time of turbulence and great need.
Hospitality and fake appeasement are two contradictory things and, in this video, both the things are mixed, where the latter is dominated and thrusted upon the viewers as hospitality. Ather Zia, a Kashmiri scholar and an editor of online magazine, “Kashmir lit” while criticizing the video goes on to say, “ Pity. It reinforces how-the best Kashmiris are capable of historically is through serving Indian tourists. This time, it is not a Kashmiri running into the arms of a soldier, but an old man, who could be anyone’s father, easily digresses from a home errand and decides to do a voluntary “begaar” for a honeymooning Indian couple. He drives the two around while ignoring his wife’s call; the poor man can stay on hold while he practices an extreme bout of misplaced compassion.”
The background lyrics sung in a beautiful voice does not go with the story of the video. The video tries to show the Kashmiris as hospitable and readily welcoming the guests while the lyrics, “Sahiboo buha chyani mayi, yeth taap krayi, zayi kornasa hoo” narrate the tale of pain and hardship (yeth taap krayi) separation (kya kar bu chyani rous) and ruin (zaayi korthasa hoo). The lyrics starts with the word, “sahiboo” which is generally used by poets in “Ishq haqeeqi” not in Majazi, but in the lyrics, it tilts more towards majazi as in the line, “Yim chyani shehrukie loukh chi wopran cheshmi wathrawan”. May be poet is trying to describe the love of any visitor to the levels of obsession that whosoever visits the place gets obsessed with it, but the message of video is hospitality and warmth and by getting ruined in obsession (zaayi kournasa hoo) is in contradiction to it and suits more to separation rather welcome.
Kashmiris are the most hospitable people and receive their guests with much warmth. If the media stops the negative portrayal of Kashmiris, we do not need to prove our hospitality by these cosmetic measures where hospitality is being mixed with the fake appeasement and carelessness towards ones family by ignoring the phone call of one’s wife. We will remain the most tolerant, hospitable, and accommodative and history bears witness to it. We do not need to go into humanist publicity , that too , again to make others happy.
—The author can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org