The funeral is of an elderly man, 72 year old, a native of Qazipora near Tangmarg, on the way to the world-famous tourist destination of Gulmarg. The man died of Covid-19 on April 25, becoming the second person from Tangmarg and the sixth in Kashmir to die of the dreadful pandemic. Experts and authorities, WHO or whosoever, have issued guidelines and we as commoners have to follow them. So it is with the guidelines related to funerals, especially of Covid-19 victims. The death of an old man would have caught no attention of either the media or the administration but the photos of this man’s funeral, attended not by friends and neighbours but a few trained personnel clad from head to toe in protective dress, standing around his coffin, made for a sight.
The season and the scenery in Tangmarg these days is what brings tourists in droves. But now these meadows fall in ‘Red Zones’ where both entry and exit is prohibited. You can’t go out to breathe in the soothing air and enjoy the freshness of lush green trees. It is a microbe that has changed everything everywhere.
This place where the funeral is taking place is part of the fabled land of Cashmere. The archaic spelling makes for a new phrasal combination, “The Covid, The Coffin, and The Cashmere”. The alliteration should also lead us to some introspection. A mere virus has exposed the tall claims of development and progress and superpowers. The outskirts of Gulmarg are deserted and a beautiful scenery is what frames the coffin of the dead. There is a lesson for all of us in it. It is a warning to us.
There are many ignorant scholars in Cashmere who divine knowledge by themselves and treat science as a pariah, which it is not. It is part of the creator’s universe and one who works on it, explores it, draws from it benefits for us all. Post the 2014 floods we talked much about improving infrastructure in Kashmir, but it seems we forgot everything very soon. Now is again a time that requires us to do something about our health infrastructure. It is not only and always the government to be blamed. To talk is easy, to do is difficult. What is the use of our fifty-lakh rupees worth residential houses when we have only two big hospitals in Kashmir, SKIMS and SMHS. How much can they cater to in a health crisis? As a society we have no option other than to build infrastructure primarily in health and education.