By JAVEID HASSAN MALIK
Dear Mr. Dhoni:
I vividly remember the time when you made your debut in One Day International cricket. Most cricketing analysts were not optimistic about your prospects in cricket, because of your awkward batting style that annoys many till now and your poor performance in the first series. But , you still made headlines in national media for being a catalyst in Jharkhand’s cricketing revolution with admirable physical features like long hair, well-built body and mesmerizing voice. You made the best of chances that you got and quickly climbed in hierarchy of cricketing positions. Your watershed moment came when you lifted the T 20 world cup by defeating your arch rivals in nail biter by playing a gamble which only you could have dared, by handing bowling to the lesser known Joginder Sharma ; it worked very well and , all of sudden, you became a celebrity and a cricketing icon Corporate houses and fashion brands began chasing you like a storm. In cricketing circles, you got the tag of the best finisher. But, despite your stupendous success, you are remembered as a humble person who always believes in fair play, inside and outside the cricketing field.
As I woke up to the news of you arriving in Kashmir as a guest in a local tournament, I could not believe it till I authenticated it. Most Kashmiris, if I may speak for my fellow natives, were expecting to receive the same Dhoni who entertains millions on the cricket field. Many were hoping to see your trade mark helicopter stroke on the cricket field but ended up seeing helicopter used for landing you on the ground. Many more were expecting to see you running between the wickets like a leopard but ended up seeing you cramped up for space amid heavy security cover under the shadow of the gun.
‘With army regiments, and jackboots, you set foot on the proverbial heaven on earth. Certainly, you had not arrived as a cricketer but as a Lieutenant Colonel. It appeared you had landed in a hostile country without a passport. The way you were guarded by your security personnel, you looked like the same person which we Kashmiris encounter, one in every three persons , on a one kilometre track every day in every nook and cranny of the blighted valley. You had ostensibly arrived as a messenger of peace to bridge the gap of trust deficit between civilians and the military but certainly it didn’t work. You ended up as the same nightmare whose shadows haunts us since the past few decades.
You shouldn’t be surprised to have been welcomed with slogans; we, Kashmiris, are made for sloganeering since six decades, so much so that sometimes, we utter them in our unconscious states too. You should know we are being forced to prove our identity on our own land by men in uniform; these identity cards have become extensions of our body. Kashmiris can afford to travel without money but not without an identity card. You should know these jackboots are figures of fright and horror for us and every time some child weeps in her mother’s lap, mother terrors him/her to stop otherwise the army will arrive(certainly not copied from the Sholay movie).
I would like to tell you that if you had arrived without security as MS Dhoni that we know, you would have certainly seen what the real nature of Kashmir, and Kashmiris-why we are the best in hospitality. Next time, I would like to invite you to visit Kashmir, along with Gambhir and Sehwag, who are unaware about the ground realities here and proudly tweet about Kashmiris, to hurt our sentiments, I want to be your host. We will be visiting our countryside where our raw talent is rotting for lack of infrastructure , training and resources.. We will visit Nayeem Chowk , in Handwara, named after an aspiring cricketer Nayeem Bhat ,who dreamt big but his dreams were cut short by men in uniform who shot him in broad day light in 2016. We will ski on the slopes of Gulmarg, go for river rafting in the Lidder; we will taste Kashmiri cuisine together and we will play gully cricket in streets of Down town on Hartal days. But, more importantly, we will share the pain of common Kashmiris.
The author holds a Master’s in Chemistry. He is NET/SLET qualified and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org