Friday, February 27, 2015

Love in the times of swine flu

These days nothing much happens to the liking of Kashmiris. There is swine flu in Srinagar and no one has a clue why. If that is not a worry big enough, those juvenile Pakistani cricketers are not helping with their lousy performance Down Under. Anxiety levels are up. For the first time ever – since Kalhana wrote Rajtarangni – more people are buying tobacco than mutton. This is bloody alarming.

Disappointment comes to Kashmir like Omar Abdullah’s tweets. Those thousands upon thousands who defied old boy Geelani, the padre of resistance, and came out in droves to vote during pre-winter assembly elections, were faced with a big downer aka fractured mandate. In a major what-the-hell scenario, they were to soon learn that Mufti Mohammad Sayed, the ageing groom from Bijbehara, is to take Narendra Damodardas Modi of Vadnagar, in a political marriage.

No, Modi’s sense of fashion didn’t steal any hearts here (he scores self-goals on that count anyway by wearing silly pinstriped dresses); it was the months-long courtship that surprised everyone. While everyone tried to discourage Mufti and Co from wooing the wrong set of people and notwithstanding some serious trolling by Omar, nothing could stop the inevitable. The wedlock has happened. In a few days we will have the PDP walking down the aisle with BJP.

In a comical anticlimax of sorts, the same mademoiselle, who was supposed bring bad luck to the household, became the bride. Kashmiris, by and large, are witnessing the celebrations with a ring of consternation and amusement. When I asked a senior PDP neta over phone the main reason for this liaison, pat came the reply: ‘Marriage is the only war in which you sleep with the enemy’. One cannot completely disagree with the wisdom, at least figuratively.

True the two creatures – PDP and BJP -- have very little in common (South Pole and North Pole, confesses the groom). While the former peddles a mild strain of soft-separatism in Kashmir, the latter has a pan-India presence, thanks largely due to a very shrill form of nationalism that is somewhat antithetical to all things Hum Kya Chatey. It would be interesting to see how, and by what alchemy, will Mufti Sayed manage this alliance. After all persuading Kashmiris to dip the nib of their collective fate in saffron ink (incidentally in a green inkpot) is no mean feat.

Coming back to the wedding, ofcourse like all weddings in the subcontinent there is an exchange of dowry, give-aways and largess involved in this one too. In plain speak it is called quid pro quo. Basically both the bride and the groom have agreed to behave and shall not bitch about each other (and the in-laws) on complicated stuff like Article 370, AFSPA and the like. Self-rule and other such romantic talk will be considered kid stuff henceforth.

The famous Kashmiri custom of flattery is expected to kick in any day now. Muzzafar Baig, who once unsuccessfully attempted to save Maqbool Bhat from the gallows, has already started quoting Syama Prasad Mukherjee, the founder of Jan Sangh. Who would have thought that those promising us autonomy and self-rule would one day deliver sermons in the name of those who would deny us those very freedoms?

Meanwhile having perfected the art of not speaking out of turn, unlike his detractors who talk nineteen to a dozen, Mufti will –- in all probability -- try to recreate that Midas touch, variously called healing touch, that he is famed for. Now that he has trucked with an incredibly influential set of people, one should expect some of the dowry to be used in our neighborhoods.

Known to throw lavish wazwans, where local journalists are also invited, Mufti has finally ascended the throne that evaded him all along. Even as guests struggle to dichotomize tabakmaz at his grand feast, the wizard of Bijbehara will have little respite. He shall constantly be on the look, cautiously tiptoeing the jungle, making sure that the witches and werewolves on prowl don’t mix his drinks.

If Amit Shah be the djinn, Mufti is the peer.