Once I met a gentleman in a bus in Kupwara with whom I shared the seat. While talking with him it came to light that he was researching on Hazrat Sultan ul Arifeen Makhdoom Sahib, a great saint of Kashmir. He was in search of some manuscripts, old books or relics of the saint. The zeal of his research had made him travel from Banihal to Kupwara, not an easy journey those days.
A well-known poet-writer of our times came to see me and I asked him on what subject he was currently writing. His answer was amusing. His subject seemed very ordinary and simple on the face of it. “Brother, these days I am writing on the Kashmiri ‘Qasaba’,” said he. Qasaba is, or rather, was, the headgear worn by Kashmiri women in olden days. He then explained in detail what it was and how it looked like and its different shapes and shades etc. His next subject would be the Kashmiri Kangri, he said. What he chose to write on reflected his love for Kashmir and all that was and is of Kashmir. Alas, he is no more in this world now (Allah maghfirat kare).
There are many of us who love to talk, write and research on Kashmiri art and culture. Some of us are obsessed with it, irrespective of our profession. There is a full-fledged department also to encourage such activity. This is indeed the need of our times, otherwise we will forget about our culture and art altogether.
When we say that we love our mouj Kashir then we should love its culture also, ancient or present. Let us talk about qasaba for instance. It shows the richness of our culture and tradition. Qasaba is a breathtakingly beautiful traditional dress of Kashmiri women which has now gone almost extinct. It was specially designed to add to their personality and had intricate designs. It had many folds held together like a turban and was decorated with trinkets and round-headed small pins. Its flowing scarf at the back narrowed down towards the heels and its use was also as protection from the cold, apart from bestowing elegance and nobility.
I remember my childhood days when the women of our village would gather in the ground adorned with snow-white qasabas and would sing the traditional I’d Rouf after making two rows facing each other. The scarves of their qasabas would flow from their backs down to their heels. One naughty boy amongst us would go and knot their scarves with one another. When the women found their scarves tied together, they would give a laugh and their I’d Rouf would end on a note of merry laughter.
—The writer is a retired telecom engineer. [email protected]