The Richest Poor Man In The Valley Essays

The Richest Poor Man In The Valley Essays-51
Mass tourism to a favoured destination by the newly empowered middle classes is a sustained and coordinated assault by these agents of modernity and consumerism on the culture of the locals and on the environment, till such time only a vague memory is left of what once was.

He was, as I realised over the visit, a Hurriyat supporter with deep-seated prejudices about the Indian nation state.It was surreal, though, passing through the town of Sopore, the district of Baramulla, and the town of Kupwara whose names one associates only with violence.We passed Vatavan Chogal, with Badam Bagh opposite which Hashim told me, matter-of-factly though I suspect to hide his sadness and anger, is 200 acres of land that once belonged to Afsal Guru.Today, we sailed through without anyone so much as giving a second look, with the army men going about their daily business as in countless bucolic army cantonments across India.Hashim had booked me at the government tourist guesthouse at Chandigam.Some places, with languorous beaches and placid weather or scenic mountains and cool valleys, viscerally grab the attention of the tourist class; desultory visitors with little commitment towards the locals; or even an understanding of the light touch, quietude, listening, or observing.Tourists who consider themselves sensitive too are a part of this assault on the local culture.It was late May, an idyllic rice planting time in Lolab valley; just a month before the killing of the local militant Burhan Wani – a “freedom fighter” for the Kashmiri, and a “terrorist” for the rest of India - that has sent Kashmir and India into a downward spiral out of which neither have come out of as I write this essay in January 2017.It took some thinking to go where few tourists do, but travelling to where real people live real lives was the only way to experience Kashmir and not be dependent on prejudices transferred to me by others.We drove past an Army painted slogan "मुक़ाम है ख़ुशहाली का, रास्ता है अमन का" – with the words Happiness and Peace jumping out at me.I thought how we all deeply aspire for these, though we are rarely able to even define, much less find them, in this lifetime.

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