Author: Saadut
•4:29 PM

The caravan of life moves through various paths, journeys and as is with motor able roads, this caravan of life is also subject to many bumps and pits. Some use the pits and bumps to make complaints and some use these to learn to navigate, to drive and to foresee.

We wake up in this world, take roots, develop trunk and gain foundation. Our promoters (read parents) keep nourishing the root to make the trunk strong. The journey carries on and the tree makes efforts to touch the sky. While still in pre spring days the weight of our tree is just us and our trunk (self). Unaware of the future fruits and blossoms to be, we can chalk out our own growth, the trunk able to stretch in any direction, be is upward or sideways. The moments of glee, of unrestricted freedom and the seasons of life sans responsibility are the time when our roots can hold, strengthen and venture out. But often we are busy watching other species in the garden blossom, flower and grow, always wondering where they got the color and nature blessed shapes from. If we had bothered to glance down on the earth creepers or the wild spouts on ground we could have been proud of the natures blessing endowed on us.

In our races we always look at the ones running ahead of us and the milestone ahead of them, not at the countless running behind or alongside us.

Growing up into summer, life takes hold of responsibilities and realizations. Cool mornings and playful enjoyable evening of spring lives are taken over by hot and demanding times of summers. Ahead of us the realities and scorching heat of life stares in the face. And then the branches of the tree that has blossomed with flowers, in summer starts to be laden with fruit. Now the nourishment for self has to be shared between the trunk (self) and the growing weight of the branches. The sight of spring buds blossoming into fruit is always a joy, and only the firm rooted are fully able to sustain and nourish such fruit. For the firm rooted and uniformly branched the sun instead of being a scorcher becomes a part of the support mechanism. Often the trees with frail branches drop, making a burden of their fruit and flowers.

Some of us evaluate our flowers and fruits with other trees and plants in the garden, often missing the individuality of each species and each plant in particular bouquets. We tend to overlook the unique supplications and opportunities that are given to each individual; no two flowers in a garden look alike even if they were of the same set. Then you see some of the garden species trying to grow at the expense of others, encroaching and overriding, but the gardener often weeds out the plantations that try to invade on other crops and their opportunities. Summer provides ample opportunity and means for the fruit to get ripe, the flowers to blossom in full color and the garden gives ample space for all to branch out and reach out. Some people in order to reach out in inverse directions forget their aim. Instead of aiming to reach out to the sky and grow with sunshine, they escape to delusions and are condemned to darkness of shades and irrelevance. Such people are the faithless. The real test of a tree comes when during high winds a tree become submissive to nature and bows down to the will of GOD. Stiff and arrogant trees are swept away by strong currents, uprooted from their not so firm roots.

GOD has given us bounties of nature and of earth, which we should learn in our prime time, our springs how to connect to with roots, and grow on.

Autumn closes in and each variety gets a chance to be plucked, chosen and marked for new nurseries. In the garden the enchanting flowers make it to exquisite shows, are admired and the delicious fruit to appreciating places. The Master eyes of the plucker make no mistake in identifying a toiled produce. The tree that has used its spring well in spreading its roots firmly, to blossom and grown on the opportunities of the summer surely finds pride in having priority in the hands of Master. When the tree has given its produce in the autumn sunset, the only thing it holds on now to be its trunk and the leftover leaves. The branches having emptied, the fruit having been tasted, the leaves start to turn golden and wither. A healthy tree even does not allow the withered leaves to go waste, being consumed by the earth to feed, to nourish to replenish.

And then cold winds of winter start blowing, leaving the tree and its trunk exposed. And faraway the sound of an axe felling trees can be heard. The garden shivers, there is a murmur.

Those who are not prepared for winters often are the ones who shudder most in the cold. The axe is already identifying and grading the trees. As the axe finds it’s was to other areas of the garden, some chopped trees can be seen having been segregated to be used for burning while some are neatly stacked for replanting.

The pyre that is lit by the diseased trees will surely be re ignited by more diseased ones next fall, but the strong and clean trees that have been stacked for replanting will again find their way into the world.

What do we want to become, the wood that is felled and burnt or the tree that is marked clean, noble by its virtue and is replanted?

22nd December 2010
Author: Saadut
•12:34 PM

As I was seated on the bank of the lake, a light breeze blew into my face and touched me as if wanting to say something. I could still feel your warmth around me, although you had left me. I could still smell your fragrance that had become so much an integral part of my breath now. The waves seemed to be enjoying being tossed around. Their merry making seemed to be an endless affair. And I sat there quite unaware of the world around me. I sat there in expectation of somebody’s arrival, in anticipation of a rendezvous that had been promised and promised till eternity.
And I believed in it. I may not have been the essence of the rendezvous to be, merely a detail, but I had pinned all my hopes on it. I had almost forgotten my being, as the silence of the gloomy trees on the banks was whispering something about me. The world around me was going about its usual business, but it hardly mattered to me as I was lost in thoughts of you. The anticipation of your coming was proving too much for me.
As I sat there, the young saplings had turned into trees gaining strength and size, providence and nature having nurtured them with hope. The same hope did not let me give up. Whenever I was about to loose heart, a recollection of events of the time that was would grip me, getting back those oaths and promises and my cherished memories would infuse a new faith in me, strengthening my pledge more.
As I sat down through time, dense and heavy fog lay on the lake, then a drizzle as fine as water dust fell steadily from morning to morning, and turned the clayey roads and footpaths into a thick mass of mud. Although it may have made my body wet, it surely did not dampen my spirits. And then a fierce storm blew, the tree tops rocked and heaved like waves in gale, and at night the iron roofing houses rattled as if some one in heavy boots was running over them. Window frames shook, doors banged and there was a wild howling of chimneys. Far away shikaras were being fastened close to houseboats, so as not to allow the wind sweep them. The whisper of the trees had turned into a roar. Were these not the same trees that I had watched growing from humble saplings? They sure had achieved something now in their efforts to touch the skies. And there were clouds all over the sky.
And then dark, dense clouds crept to the top of hills. The lake wore a deserted look. The landscape changed all white. It must have snowed ‘cause I could see people huddled up in their pherans and scurrying to their places. The snow reflected gloom all over. There was a strange peace in this gloomy shine. The lake stood still. The snow had covered the trees which had been forced by the fall to shed their leaves. An act of mutual reconciliation I thought. For all this I could not feel the cold, the light within my soul must have kept it all away from me. I sat still through all this watching it quietly. And I waited there.
Then the weather changed. There came calm, cloudless days that were sunnier and mellower than they had been. The trees restored to their quietude, were meekly putting on their leaves and grace. The bloom of flowers was like a carpet of multiple colors. Their fragrance must have been enthralling but the only fragrance that I could sense was your fragrance that had become so much a part of me. The lovely days, the calm, the solitude and pure air, the swallows twittering on the wires as they flocked fly further and the caressing breeze that drifted gently from the lake would have infused joy and peace in any soul. But I was not to be moved as I sat still in anticipation of you. All through this I had not account of time as I sat all alone in my spot, waiting. And then the long autumn sunset came through the narrow crimson slit glowing on the edge of the horizon, between the light bluish loud and the valley faded out. Now the earth, trees and the sky could no longer be seen. A haze a fog had taken over all things. I remember when I was a kid this fog played all kind of tricks to us in Kashmir. Children used to love to bump into things, and grownups cursed the fog for allowing them limited visibility options.
And then the fog and haze cleared out. Overhead big stars shimmered with their eyelashes in the blackness of then night. And the blue beam of Hazratbal dome shot upwards in a thin column that seemed to splash into a liquid, blurred circle of light as it stuck the firmament. Far away the Muezzins call could be heard calling the faithful. As the autumn moved on I could sense people preparing for the coming winter. Optimism is a part of human nature. We may not be sure if tomorrow will be there, but we sure will be prepared for tomorrow. And the same optimism held me to my spot. As the passing days weaken the autumn sun further I could see the trees shedding their leaves which had turned golden with the onset of autumn. The distant paddy fields presented a deserted look with stacks of golden hay kept in pockets of these fields. How rejoicing it must be, I thought to reap your crop after toiling hard for months. But rejoicing was not yet for me as I sat down there waiting or you.
As I waited I could see in the horizon far away the sun was finally setting down. I passed my hand through my hair and I could feel it had turned coarse, probably of age. I did not know how much time had elapsed since I lay waiting but as I could see in the reflection of the water down below, the wrinkles on my face told it all.
Although there was no desire within me to move from my place, I could feel my legs giving way. Even as the sunset was approaching me, the flame within me refused to die out. I remember how you used to spread out your elbows, popping out your chin on your cupped hands. I could see your eyes gleaming into mine, your innocent looking face smiling at me. I remember your vows and promises. There had always been a cozy charm about your unhurried speech, every word of which lay cherished within me. As my hand moves to touch you, the vision melts away into thin air and I realize you are so far away. I refuse to give up although I can feel that moments are slipping away. The Greeks knew the unstoppable nature of time and I think that is why they had kept sand in the sand clocks.
I am waiting for you, I am still waiting. As I look into the horizon, a warm crimson red light has lithe sky. I can feel the sun giving away.

Thursday October 2, 1997
Author: Saadut
•8:59 PM

A Sunday calling out of home is not easy especially when your family awaits for this day to be together, when social obligations are lined up and when all things ' Sunday ko karunga' are in front of you. But this Sunday was not to be that any Sunday.

My school beckoned me, my old friends had to be joined with, and old memories were to be re lived. And hell I drove like to JKSS. The road seemed too long today, distances unending. Wading the impossible chaotic traffic of Tipper Capital Ganderbal, reached JKSS a bit late.

Welcomed by new Sainiks in cheerful NCC uniform at the gates. The dusty and disheveled road to the school was soon forgotten by their enthusiasm. Play grounds adequately used as parking spaces, the meet was going on in the old dining hall. As I entered peering faces, eyes searching for name tags for faces greeted me. ‘Oh yes you’ , and ‘Ahh so it is him’ would be the thoughts. Principal was delivering a lecture. New Sainiks were seated on the floor and the guests on chairs. Soon there were name calling nominations for those who would be given a chance to speak. Principal decided that each for every batch keeping in view the paucity of time. There were murmurs, we would want to share our memories and hear from our mentors, our teachers. I stood up and went up to the Principal Sir “pardon me for prudence, but could we have more than 3 minutes for the few who speak and some time for our teachers too. Wouldn’t it take the reason of the Alumni meet away if the speaker wishes and then takes a bye fast? Would seem like a short metro ride. And we were nothing sans our teachers. Would love to hear from them…….” Principal Sir’s glare communicated something, but nevertheless he could not say no to this suggestion.
Nominated names were noted and speakers invited to speak. Muneer spoke about his first day (he remembered the dates !!), the ride in a truck that Iqbal Munshi had given him from Safapora on the first day. Wahid spoke about the contribution of this school in our lives, Iqbal about his memories and the joys that we shared. (I may not be recollecting all my friends who spoke)

Meanwhile as our friends continued to plough the past the reliving of memories continued, and I was being driven into the past. For some moments I was transported to childhood, I could hear the cries of my friends in the dining hall, wearing the whites and greens, Dar Sir’s games period gleeful shouts, I could hear the name of all those friends who lived, smiled, cried all in unison in this place. Oh I missed you all. We were a family here. We were brothers, sisters, parents to each other. We shared our thoughts & dreams.
Hardit came to speak and narrated this "One of our friends Mirza from Ladakh had never seen a Sardar before coming to JKSS. The first day we joined JKSS, I being very friendly (we know) would greet every body. And then I met Mirza, as I was extending my hand to greet him, the bewildered Mirza had an open mouthed muted expression on seeing a Sardar first time in his life and within no time Mirza made a run for his life" No doubt I say joyous Sardars are an endangered species now having been taken over by the push and shove of the corporate race (just like everybody else in the rat race)!

Lunch break was announced, but Gayas-u-din Sir was yet to speak. We all requested the lunch to be postponed by a few minutes so that he could speak. He was brief but his words touched a chord with us all. He believed in our dedication and wished us all to touch zeniths. He missed the institution that he had left and the state in which he had left it (we all did).

Lunch break and we all proceeded to the dining hall. The trays had been pre filled and laid out on the tables. Oh how much I missed standing in the queue (and the music of these thalis that we used to make). During Lunch time 120 relived old habits of the dining hall : doubling.. And me, Syed Zulkarnain and friends could not control our laughter.
Brief lunch and back in the old dining hall where we had all gathered. Some more reliving the memories and some more friends called to the podium.

Meanwhile many friends had already spoken on the dais and Nasir Munshi was called for. A lot of requesting and he sang a few lines. Dr. Gani took to the stage and his simplistic words bought appreciation and peals of laughter. Gani bhai some things don’t change and one is your ‘tallafuz’. I was called to stage and first time in my post childhood years I got jittery on the speaker’s podium. In an effort to balance my words between the well read grown up audience and the still linguistic grasping young Sainik’s seated on the floor, I preferred to choose the middle path of Urdu speak. I spoke of the foundations that the school gave us, the pride that it instills in us. How we were forever indebted to our teachers, remembering Shiekh Sir (and his pencil), Farooq Sir, Mir Sir, Parray Sir, Raja Madam, KK Sir, Dar Sir, the friends of our batches, the bowling of ‘kapil dev’ (3 balls line & length and next three bouncers or wide’s), of Dr Sajad who wanted to come but was overtaken by professional obligations. Remembered friends not present and who would have been very eager to come today.

Teachers spoke. Zainulabidin Sir and Mir Sir. And next again Principal Sir spoke and spoke. A very knowledgeable person, but why are we being subject to an exam on “alimi adab aur shayri ka phan”. Applause please!! And the class went on till 4:30 (no I did not say eternity, what did you hear?)
He (also) deliberated on the progress achieved during his tenure, the hardships faced by the institution and the affect of current turmoil on the institution. He intimated that the fencing around the institution would be done soon (probably next year) . I was wondering who do you need to fence? The school from the village herd or the village orchards from the school nigh raiders !!!
Some body bought tea, served to some, served by some and some left high and dry. I to joined the serving party and served my own friends but but .. well was left with no tea for myself.
A vote of thanks for the invitees and the attendees was passed and accepted. An adhoc alumni committee was nominated and formed. A constitution and charter would follow and Dr Gani took up the responsibility. Day nears to an end and we move to the admin block. We walked the same path the same rocky road that we used to run-on during our childhood, the marathons between the admin block and the dining hall. These rocks and stones in the payment would have been witness to our marches, to our efforts in reaching the dining hall first, and the countless falls we may have encountered in our runs and our efforts in standing our feet. The nostalgia overtook us completely moving from class to class. A series of photo ops near the admin block and the Sun was already setting in the horizon. The assemble ground stood still as if pausing momentarily in our presence. Time stood still, the circular road that was never completed lay as deserted as it had been earlier. The morning assemble events, the news reader, JK Gandhi Sir’s morning speech, all events that set the daily routine into motion were remembered. Frankly I think Gandhi Sir was a visionary far ahead of his times. The aura, the discipline and the thought that was attached to this man was not replicated in those days. The brick and mortar buildings stand still in time as if in standing ovation to the ‘architect of JKSS’. A few visionaries like him and we could change a lot of things around us even in these times. I remembered his white poodle ‘beauty’, who used to run across his quarters, followed him on walks and gave him perfect companionship. The garden in his quarters would be impeccably maintained as reflected the ethics and life style of this gentleman.

Moving our way thru the road winding from the admin block to the parking area, Nasir identified the trees as the ones planted by students during Col Sehgals tenure. At the parking area none of us wanted to let go, (why was the day ending so fast?). Some more reliving the memories, sharing of anecdotes and reluctant bye bye’s. Cold creeping over our bodies hardly made any difference, the day having been warmed by reunion of old friends.
As I drove out of the school I could notice most of the orchards having been decimated, some converted to kitchen gardens while others lay barren. These were the ones we used to prey during nigh raids, the booty then shared in the dormitory. I wondered if any of the new Sainik’s would have such tales of adventure and freaking out. Hitting the road the high of the day refused to leave my mind. This day I have lived and relived an age, an epitome of life, of careless childhood, of unfailing convictions and beliefs that strangers can be family.

Given a chance I would live that life again and again.
“har mulaaqat ka anjaam judaii kyun hai
Ab to har waqt yehi baat sataye hai mujhe”

28th November 2010, Srinagar
Author: Saadut
•9:50 PM


"Rashomon” 1950 Japanese movie written by Ryunosuke Akutagawa and directed by Akira Kurosawa is a classic in itself and depicts human behaviour and the perception of truth from different visual capabilities and human understanding. The movie is an exemplary depiction of how we relate to and see truth. The plot is woven in 12th century Japan, where during a journey thru the jungle a samurai and his wife are attacked by a bandit. During the ensuring fight the samurai is killed by the bandit, and soon after the crime the bandit is captured. During the trial the narration of the samurais wife and the bandit are completely different. To get to the truth a psychic is brought in to allow the murdered man to give his own testimony. Here in also the version of the story is completely different. Finally the woodcutter who had found the body of the samurai is asked to testify. His story is also different from that of others. Although all of them are speaking the truth, their stories are different from each other. This narration of truth as visualised and understood by human being is more closer to perceived truth than absolute truth. I am not doing a movie review here. The only reason that I have dissected a movie plot which was released many decades before I was even born is that in our daily life we often face such occasions where perceived truth for the same problem or event is different for different individuals, even when each may be right in his own way. This syndrome I term as the “Rashomon syndrome”.

The current stalemate between the employees, the government and the common people has all the ingredients of the “Rashomon syndrome” in it.

The employees
The state employees (about five lakh of them) have been demanding the implementation of the sixth pay commission in the state and enhancement of the retirement age to 60. With the inflation levels’ having breached all acceptable limits since the last time a pay revision was implemented for the state employees, their demands for the implementation of 6th pay commission are not without reason. The price rise and inflationary pressures in J&K seem to have been imported the same way we import almost all our essential commodities. Since Kashmir is an “all things import” place the meteoric rise of prices of food products, manufacturing products, and essential commodities outside the valley (or state) automatically has a cascading effect in local markets. Knowing that a honest monthly pay packet for an employee which would sustain the family needs for almost up to end of the month some years ago, will currently not suffice for a fortnight with the same family strength and needs, the pressure is definitely on the earning hand to try to stretch where there is nothing more to be received and the stomach which keeps asking for more, where no more can be fed. While sustenance needs money and more money, the power of earnings keeps on shrinking. The wallet keeps on trying to elasticise between providing basic amenities to the family (where the government has utterly failed in providing for basic social amenities like health care and education) and attending to “stomach and clothe”. If anything is left that may chip in to the social requirements of the individual. The “roof” requirement is an elusive dream which cannot form a part of the honest earning, not in a single lifetime. With these things in mind the employees may have no other option but to force their way into pay revision acceptance.

The government
A pay hike needs money and the government has none. In order to implement the pay hike on account of the sixth pay commission recommendations the government will have to arrange for Rs. 3,800 crore immediately (retrospective effect from January 2006) while the recurring expenditure incurred every year will be more than Rs. 1,400 crore. While the ever increasing state debt stands currently at more than 13000 crores, the total internal revenue of the state stands at Rs.3000 crore only. With such a gap between the ever mounting state debt and actual availability of funds, the government has some serious thinking to do before committing itself to any pay rise. The current salary bill standing at about 2800 crores, forcing the government to raise further debts to meet the financial requirements of implementing the sixth pay commission recommendations could be suicidal for the state’s already ailing economy. Raising further taxes to generate revenue may not be an option that the government would exercise, since this would go contrary to the initiatives for creating “investor and business friendly” environment in the state, and with limited business enterprises existing in the state (especially in the valley) such a move may not compensate in total or even part requirement of funds to meet the new liabilities (while leaving the existing debt unmanaged).

The common man
The participation of people in the last elections was attributed to their desire for development in the state. The issues of roads, water, and electricity dominated the election rhetoric, with all parties promising to address these problems on priority. The development of basic infrastructure is the key that may lead to economic development and absence of this very basic infrastructure is what wards off any economic developmental activities in any region. Our habitations look like ghost towns with nonexistent roads, turn into rivers with over flowing or non functional drainage systems and towns and villages are turned into moonless nights with the ever elusive electricity. The few industrial estates that may have been spared by the security forces in Kashmir are hardly accessible and any industrial activity that may be taking place there is not what we may term as “flourishing” with skeletal services and infrastructure in place. Our cities and towns have been barricaded not only against human warriors but also against development funds and infrastructure improvement activity. All this for the reason of “shortage of funds”. The common man may certainly question the very existence of “the state” when it cannot provide for, plan and implement basic infrastructure development activities. Funds available with the state should be prioritised for providing of basic amenities and infrastructure. The availability of funds for basic developmental work and infrastructure management should not be done in number terms in the budget but in terms of percentage of the total budget with priority spending earmarked for state infrastructure development (equated among all regions – non transferrable intra region or division). And when it come to implementing pay revision for state employees at the cost of other developmental activities, the common may have a different take: what good will a pay revision for the state employees do to the state when their performance leaves everything (not something) to be desired for. What contribution do these government departments have towards mitigating the problems of the people? It is a wonder that the society and the state are still surviving in spite of the nepotism and negligent attitude of these government departments! Should pay not be linked to performance?

Retirement age and unemployment
The enhancement of the retirement age is a demand that the state employees have been making keeping in view the retirement age standard followed by their counterparts in the central government. They may have a case, by calling for work opportunity parity. But J&K is just not any other state and things just don’t end at creating parity in the retirement age.

After the 90’s the traditional Indian economy got influenced in a big way by the invading capitalistic forces. The traditional socialistic economy was mixed with capitalistic economy and new socio-capitalistic economy came into existence (mixed economy). New employment avenues were created in the growing private sector and the government sector was no more the only choice or not even the first choice for employment. All across the country this private sector flourished, but J&K was an exception where the involvement of the private sector was negligent or nonexistent owing both to the turmoil factor and to negative or lack of proper policies of the successive state governments.
Our educational institutes kept churning out thousands of youth who are daily added up to the lakhs of unemployed youth, without any career direction in sight. The few jobs that may have been advertised for by the state got lakhs of applications. And with SSB taking years together between advertisements of jobs and actually filling them, the time it takes for the majority of these applicants to have become overage. The restlessness in the society and anger among the youth is primarily because of the void and the vacuum that stares them in the face. With the some jobs that may get filled, there are usually founded accusations of favouritism and backdoor access. Most of the unemployed candidates having reached or about to reach the “over age threshold” the extension of the retirement age will only add to depriving them of any hope of jobs. While the private sector may take some time to invest and extend its reach to Kashmir, even if the government may try to express build up on infrastructure and investment opportunities in the state, currently the only hope that these unemployed youth have is fair play and availability of genuine opportunity from the state. Generating a group of “rehbars” in some departments is not going to change the status. While the state may be concerned with deferring the immediate financial liabilities that may arise from retirement of government employees at 58 (for payment of post retirement benefits), it may be able to address a greater cause by limiting the retirement age to 58, in way of proving equal and fair opportunities to unemployed and at the same time ensuring that new blood is infused in the state departments who could be instrumental in work culture and approach change in the administration. Deferred liabilities cannot become erased liabilities, and have to cleared, today or tomorrow. After all some changes have to come from the grass root and need to be implemented in spite of the pain they may cause.

The state, the employees, the common man and the ever increasing unemployed class are all equal stake holders in the welfare and well being of the state, and none can be ignored at the cost of the other. While everybody’s concerns may be their truth, the state needs to prioritise its work area and requirements so that the meagre financial resources and opportunities that are available with the government can be utilised properly. Will the state government be able to identify the truth or will it search for the mirage in the “Rashomon syndrome”.

07th Feb 2009