Kashmir, over the ages, has remained what we call “Terrestrial Paradise” of the planet earth. It wears an overtly devoutsoul, known as Srinagar, on its sleeves with splendor. Any visitor, after buckling himself/herself up, to Kashmir can enjoy a heartwarming joy ride when sailing through the tides of Srinagar. This city of Srinagar, historically known for its panache, had illuminated the lights of world history well before the sacred feet of Jesus Christ (Peace Be upon Him) touched the earth. It has the river Jhelum, known as Vitasta in old manuscripts, flowing through its heart thereby spreading the city on both sides of its shores. Jhelum is involved in Srinagar like the blood running through a human body. If, for a moment, the viscosity of blood, leaving aside its other ailments, gets disturbed it fluctuates the balance of the entire body.That is how Jhelum vibrates the nerves of Srinagar. Every glory of Srinagar, from the time it has entered into the annals of history, has held Jhelum’s crutch for its bloom. Taking a leaf from the garden of Nirad C. Chaudhuri, one of the bravest souls that sub-continent has given birth to, while comparing the small things with great. When NiradBabu could compare the small river, having water full to its banks only during the rains, of his town (Kishore Ganj) to the mighty river Nile of Egypt who would dare to ruffle my feathers when I do the same though in reality our Jhelum is not only mighty but majestic in comparison to Nirad’s river? In no capacity, with all my senses up and active, I ever think to challenge the intellect of NiradBabu in comparing the small things with great. To paraphrase it in simple words, what river Nile is to Egypt, Jhelum without putting a thought for a second, was to Kashmir? A view from the sky above paints the city of Srinagar like a pearl nestling in the hub of proud mountains, lustrous gardens, green meadows, river lets and lakes.
Srinagar is unique in its hues due to its golden past. Like other historical cities it, while surfacing on the map of the world, grew in stature, strength and offered its glamour and glitz in terms ofculture, social and architecture while maintaining the very physical links to the past at all times. The idiosyncratic trait of Srinagar was that it never cultivated the feelings of cultural claustrophobia and instead served as the seat of learning while offering its intellectual impact to the world of intellectualism. Srinagar carried distinguished notions and exalted aspirations for the dispersion of knowledge across the regions over the timescale of history. What distinguished Srinagar from the cities of the world was the diversity it offered the world in the stream of learning and acquiring knowledge. People were taught and elevated to standard of logic and enlightenment through the teachings of Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam while the city was engaged in its cruise over the timeline. Isn’t Srinagar unique in this aspect? That makes Srinagar the paragon of virtue from which Kashmir, over the centuries, has weaved the social fabric of harmony offering the air of peace and prosperity for all the people irrespective of their affiliations, religious and otherwise. The firmament of this social fabric was kept alight by all the sages and saints, irrespective of their religious doctrines, who elevated the people to enlightenment while letting the aroma of heritage to smell in the air for the generations to come. Fate indeed had conspired to ensure that Srinagar would emerge as one of the historic cities while putting its heritage, intellectualism and its enchanting beauty on the same wavelength to shine on the landscape of the world.
Historical cities, over the world, have gone down the youth path in the shape of modernization and/or industrialization leading to the path of urbanization yet preserving the very ethos of their heritage.They have ensured that historical genes are well protected. A vow to preserve the contributions they contributed to the civilizations of the world. Doing so, by these historic cities, has been regarded as badge of honour because these well protected historical DNAs refreshes the memory of being nations that stood head and shoulders above the rest of the nations. That is the moment of feeling proud and getting inspired of being part of such lofty nations. A walk down the lanes and by lanes of London, in this age of mobile computing, sends a breath of fresh air for a passerby to smell the aroma spread by the preserved heritage of the city. The heritage still looks fresh as a rose. This is what was told to me by a friend who was on a tour to London recently.
Srinagar, with its glorious past on the timeline of history, has landed up haplessly in our hands where it’s very pristine sanctity is getting spoiled each day that passes by us. Neither modernization nor industrialization has dawned upon the skies of Srinagar yet very spirit of its character is under constant threat of getting ruined. How unfortunate! What would we answer to the sages and saints who passed on to us the sanctity of Srinagar? Srinagar is a shining example of the manner in which state lights upon wrong-headed and muddled policies that results in the divine treasure being devastated. The city has turned into a real dustbin where every passerby either spits or throws into it without ever caring for its health. The once-proud heritage of Srinagar has been brought to its knees by decades of mismanagement and neglect. A look around these days hoping for a complete turnaround of fortunes by the state is over-ambition. Historical cities, across the world, have enjoyed the dawn of modern times. They have relished their evolution while striking the balance between the modes of modernization and maintaining the very sacredness of their heritage. Srinagar, while being a historical city, on the other hand curses the rising sun of modern times because the inhabitants of its precincts are yet way behind from their counterparts of other historical cities of the world. Fate had never kept it in store for Srinagar. That could have never happened because this city has been nourished by none other than sages and saints. There is something seriously wrong with the inhabitants of this city that the pristine fabric of Srinagar is in jeopardy. Why would the sagely city curse the falling dew drops of urbanization had its inhabitants taken care of it? This city of saints has suffered without any fault of her and that too at the hands of the people that it offers lap to blossom. Kashmiris, over the periods, have known to practice altruism. What has gone wrong with the wheels of altruism? Has this altruism turned to egoism? If that would not be the case then why would Kashmiris damage the very lap that they dwell in on this stage of world? Isn’t time for us to contemplate? Isn’t it time for us to act?
When Switzerland, as an example since Kashmir is also labeled as the Switzerland of East, can fine tune with the touch of the times without an iota of blemish to its heritage why cannot Srinagar do the same? Questions like these keep haunting us. They will keep chasing us unless and until we as a society rise up and above to preserve the very holiness of our city that has taken all the troubles in bringing us into the world of humans.As they say, loads of water of Jhelum has passed under the historic Zero bridge yet nothing has tickled the consciousness of Srinagarites to preserve the sanctity of this historic city of Srinagar. While being engrossed, in the corner of lobby at my home, into the thoughts of sail that Srinagar treaded over the timeline of history a thought germinated and kept oscillating. It was asking me, “Has Srinagar come of age? Or is it a false dawn that has touched the skies of Srinagar”.
Author Profile: Ajaz Khan, an IT professional, hails from the historic city of Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir, India. He is in deep love with the heritage of Srinagar both physical and intellectual. He seeks to restore the sagely harmony, for which Kashmir was known over the world, back to the lanes and streets of Kashmir.