Downtown: The Heart beat of Kashmir

Downtown: The Heart beat of Kashmir

Downtown is the veritable heart of Kashmir. There can be no two opinions about this. Downtown’s primacy and status as the jewel in Kashmir’s crown accrues from history, culture and society. Historically, it was the downtown that was the centre of gravity of politics in Kashmir and hence the site of action, so to speak. This, among other things, rendered downtown a site of culture and a social trailblazer. Culturally, the downtown is a unique entity and there are certain cultural peculiarities unique to it which makes the entity rather exceptional. Downtown, before the fragmentation of society into nuclear families and other sociological and political reasons, was very much close knit and more cohesive than now. Almost everyone knew everyone and people were generally looked after. The aura of camaraderie that defined the downtown was and, in some senses, continues to be unique. Downtown was also the site of political contestations which determined, to a large extent, the political life and tenor of Kashmir. But, alas, downtown, which is basically and essentially not just a place but an attitude, temperament, culture and an idiom is dissipating, fast. The reasons, in the main, pertain to sociological changes that have accrued over a period of time. These include , largely, the breakdown of the joint family, followed by population growth, demographic pressures and a concomitant urbanization and pressures thereof that made people migrate to other places. Now there are only those in downtown who either remained , by conscious choice and others who have no choice but to remain. The consequence has been a kind of shriveling of the downtown. But, of course, the concept, idea and culture of the downtown remains and should But, the effect must be amplified and while physical downtown must be promoted, nurtured and rebuilt wherever needed, it is the downtown as a concept, a value system, culture and attitude and temperament that must be amplified and nurtured as a value system that is the actual heart and defining feature of Kashmir. For this, we as a society, need to pull our socks up and actually nurture the values that define the downtown and pass it onward to posterity. This would include crystallizing , maintaining and promoting the written and oral history of downtown, promotion through and by modern techniques, and last but not the least, passing onto the tradition and nature of the downtown by word of mouth. The down town, in the final analysis, is too precious, too valuable to be left to the vagaries of so called development. It must be maintained and revived. The first step toward this would be in our hearts and minds.