waaf waaf

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I dont know how many of you have heard of a mythical creature known as ‘Vaech’ as you were growing up. Probably your parents or grandparents would have told you about it trying to focus your attention onto it while they made you gulp your ‘Cerelac’ bowl. As a child I was narrated many mythical stories from almost everyone older than me. Of course most of these fairyland notions mitigated as I grew up and life now had its own monsters to deal with every working day. I am now almost 25 and would give up every tangible reality to go back in that childhood, where every unheard story would make your mind wander to be a protagonist in those happenings and every unseen creature would give you an eerie shiver. I almost always compare those whimsical demons conjured up by my parents and the real ones you face as an adult. Now that I remember, I certainly less feared the ‘Raantas’, ‘Waech’ and many other similar preposterous and spooky named monsters than the real world fancy ones much like the arch enemy, the office boss, the next door girlfriend, the percentage of marks, a career, a setback, a loss, a profit, a character et el. As a child I was atleast sure of the security and warmth my parents provided against their self made chimeras and now as an adult I am left to defend myself on my own. I am not to be treated as a pessimist here, for I am just longing for my childhood like everybody else.

All of these unnatural eerie beings have now long been vanished in my mind but for one – the ‘Vaech’. Till date I am still aware with stories of its existence and the theatricals surrounding its power. I first heard about It from my late grandmother and often relate her memories with the stories she used to tell. She described It as creature possessing a ‘’sone sinz tuep’’ (a golden cap) and often appearing in midnight winters outside the window yelling ‘’waaf waaf waa’’(two and a half cries to be precise). A man desirous of becoming rich should catch the Vaech, dispossess It of its ‘sone sinz tuep’, secure it under an earthen ware filled with oil, and ask the Vaech to go fetch water from a river in a woven basket if It needed the cap back. Ofcourse the woven basket would never be filled with water as it would leak out of the holes and thus the Vaech would tire to death eventually. The cap left behind would make the man rich.
Those cold winter mornings often filled with grief and amusement for me when my grandmother used to inform me of the visit of Vaech to our house the last night and I slept through it. I often used to be angry at her for not waking me up in the middle of night to see the Vaech. Life seemed to be in a hurry with me growing up and my grandmother passing away. No one now seemed interested to tell me about the Vaech or wake me up to see it disappear after its two and a half cries. I had almost forgotten it until the last winter when I was still awake past midnight at my home for obvious reasons. Stuck in the realistic and banal routines of life, I was too involved in myself to give a heed to anything fanciful. After almost two decades of coming to terms with the difference between reality and myths, I heard the same old cries of waaf waaf waa. My head started spinning all around in haze and those goosebumps decided to crawl out impromptu. I couldn’t handle myself literally and was spooked to death. I mustered courage to look out of the window in a half moonlit night and there it was – trotting along the fence of our house with the night’s veil to abet its grandeur and the dark shadow of its presence smothering me. In a moment’s notice, It took everything from me I had learned in those twenty long years. I had come to terms with the reality of things in life, abstained from wandering my mind in clouds of lies and myths and even had questioned its very existence. I didn’t have control over my emotions and I extemporaneously opened the window and yelled out as loud as I could at It. It was as if I was letting all the fear out and telling It that I wasn’t afraid anymore. The Vaech stood there looking at me for a moment as if it was smiling at me with that evil grin and then jumped off and vanished in the cover of dark. From what I could get the best, It was a quadruped creature with a long tail and the body-build in between that of a cat and a monkey. It was both exuberant and dismaying to see It with my eyes. I was exuberated to finally see my hero and dismayed at the same time to unravel a veiled mystery which was better off concealed.

A few days back, yes in the month of April, I was attending the mundane task of sitting in the garden park of my home with the morning sun shining not so brightly due to overnight clouds. As my home is located on the edges of my village with nothing but mustard fields to surround us for miles, I find it quite peaceful and serene to just sit and enjoy whatever sunlight reaches us and not muse about a single thing. The last thing I could expect out of the blues was a cry of ‘’waaf’’. Yet again I was bemused at these audio frequencies ringing my ear and I jumped out of my chair to look outside the fence. To come this close to me in the odd daylight and reveal itself by crying out loud were not the actions of my hero. Yet only It could have achieved this feat, for it was not fearful of a coward like me. I yet again couldn’t believe my eyes as they sat upon the open-chested, feline like creature sitting there camouflaged in the mustard fields looking directly at me. The odds were in my favour as the daylight seconds the weak-hearted and I took a leap out and ran after It. I really don’t know the reason why I was running after it but I guess I could have beaten Usain Bolt in this very run. Maybe it was a childhood dream and I ran to chase my dream or maybe I was nuts as to what exactly I thought I could achieve doing so. I couldn’t have just leapt and caught my dream in a moment. That would have been a shame for my hero. It was eventually supposed to outrun me and prove its worth of a praise of decades. For a frame of ten seconds, I was set free by this very wild creature. I ran without a thought about anything in the whole world. I felt I touched the air while my feet were skipping past mud.

I feel I have shown much courage to write and share this experience with you. I am not concerned if someone terms my words as inane and fatuous. To me the ‘Vaech’ is an integral part of the endangered kashmiri culture where children were taught by their parents and grandparents to face the real world by introducing them to fairy worlds. ‘Kashmiri’ was the language children were introduced to growing up. The same culture is dwindling now with the so called ‘’educated’’ people behaving much more asinine than the illiterate ones. Kashmiri language is seen as an impediment in progress and treated with despise. Those fairy tales and folklore are replaced by the otherwise despised Indian culture which in turn is a progeny of the western culture. I was though amazed to see some Indian television advertisements singing “ hukus bukus telli wann cze kus” proudly instead of us kashmiris even refraining to it within ourselves.

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Patriotism and chauvinism

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“Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism -how passionately I hate them”- ALBERT EINSTEIN

We always flee to our nationalism and patriotism when someone invokes in us the fear that we are on the losing side of the war between two nations/groups/cultures/religions. The very fact that it is unclear what constitutes a nation is why I refer to nations and groups and cultures et al. In order to placate our anxiety and nervousness, we try to form groups at an inter-, intra- and individual level.

In his classic essay on the topic George Orwell defines nationalism and a nationalist: “A nationalist is one who thinks solely, or mainly, in terms of competitive prestige. He sees history, especially contemporary history, as the endless rise and decline of great power units, and every event that happens seems to him a demonstration that his own side is on the upgrade and some hated rival is on the downgrade. The nationalist does not go on the principle of simply ganging up with the strongest side. On the contrary, having picked his side, he persuades himself that it is the strongest, and is able to stick to his belief even when the facts are overwhelmingly against him.”
In India and Pakistan, this seasonal fervor of patriotism is at high at only sporadicintervals of time. The only time an Indian is an Indian and a Pakistani a Pakistani, is when there is a war going on in the battlefield or in the cricket field with the neighboring country. There are clear testaments to this epiphany of finding the patriotic self at these odd times. For example, patriotism in Germany before World War I ranked at or near the top, whereas today it ranks at or near the bottom of patriotism surveys. Yes there is a ranking of countries according to how proud their residents feel. And no surprises there:India ranks third. The constant war in between the two countries leaves their citizens high on patriotism.

Clearly in this game of ‘Monkey in the Middle’ between the two countries euphemistically referred to as patriotism and nationalism, a Kashmiri is playing the one in the middle. It is India and Pakistan who are holding the ball all the time and enticing a Kashmiri every now and then to have a go. The gullible Kashmiri tries to befriend Pakistan at one moment and India at other to catch hold of the ball.

The recent furor over the ouster of sixty odd Kashmiri students from an Indian university apparently over supporting Pakistan in an India-Pakistan cricket match made me to question the pragmatism of the actions of not only these students and the authorities but also myself. I am not questioning the reasons as to why a Kashmiri would support Pakistan because the answer is quite obvious. Rather, I want to know what good it brings to a Kashmiri to chant pro-Pakistan slogans in an Indian setting. I even want to go to the extent of questioning patriotism in the first place whether it be towards any country in the world.

I want to see nationalism from a point of view of religion today. Rather interestingly, Islam denounces patriotism for a single country and stresses the fact that the country for a Muslim should be Islam. No doubt we as Kashmiris cheered for Pakistan in the Pakistan-Bangladesh cricket match because we based our patriotism on the basis of countries rather than religion.

“ Whosoever fights under the banner of the blind, becoming angry for partisanship (‘asabiyah i.e tribal-ship), calling towards it, or supporting it and then dies, he dies a death of (one in) the Days of Ignorance (Jahiliyah).” [ Sahih Muslim(6/21)]

Once the Muhajireen and the Ansar argued, such that one of the Muhajireen yelled at his tribesmen: “O Muhajireen!” (come to assist me) And one of the Ansar said: “O Ansar!”Upon hearing this, the Prophet (pbuh) said: “Is it with the calls of Jahiliyah (ignorance) that you cry out, while l am still amongst you?!” [Reported by Al-Bukhaaree (8/137)] And he became very angry at that.”[Majmoo’-ul-Fatawa (3/456)]

“Those who believe fight in the cause of God, and those who disbelieve fight in the cause of rebellion. Then fight the allies of Satan; indeed, Satan’s strategy is weak”
[Quran 3:78]
“O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another”[
Quran 49:13]

We as Muslims represent different countries in the whole world and differentiate ourselves as Saudis, Syrians, Iraqis, Pakistanis, Kashmiris et al. We are not patriotic towards our religion rather have created idols out of our countries and unknowingly commit shirk in the name of nationalism. Had all the Muslims been proud of their religion rather than their citizenship, we would have had our path a long time ago. I leave the reader with some beautiful quotes from Allama Iqbal(r.a).

In Taza Khudaon Mein Bada Sub Se Watan Hai
Jo Pairhan Iss Ka Hai, Woh Mazhab Ka Kafan Hai

Country, is the biggest among these new gods!
What is its dress is the shroud of Deen (Religion)

Bazu Tera Touheed Ki Quwwat Se Qawi Hai
Islam Tera Dais Hai, Tu Mustafavi Hai

Your arm is enforced with the strength of the Divine Unity
You are the followers of Mustafa, your country is Islam

Ho Qaid-e-Maqami To Nateeja Hai Tabahi
Reh Behar Mein Azad-e-Watan Soorat-e-Mahi

The limitation to country results in destruction
Live like the fish in the ocean free from country

Hai Tark-e-Watan Sunnat-e-Mehboob (S.A.W.)-e-Elahi
De Tu Bhi Nabuwwat Ki Sadaqat Pe Gawahi

Renouncing the country is the way of the God’s Beloved (PBUH)
You should also testify to the Prophethood’s Truth by similar action

Guftar-e-Siasat Mein Watan Aur Hi Kuch Hai
Irshad-e-Nabuwwat Mein Watan Aur Hi Kuch Hai

In political parlance country is something different
In Prophet’s command country is something different

Aqwam-e-Jahan Mein Hai Raqabat To Issi Se
Taskheer Hai Maqsood-e-Tajarat To Issi Se

The antagonism among world’s nations is created by this alone
Subjugation as the goal of commerce is created by this alone

Khali Hai Sadaqat Se Siasat To Issi Se
Kamzor Ka Ghar Hota Hai Gharat To Issi Se

Politics have become bereft of sincerity is by this alone
The destruction of the home of the weak is by this alone

Aqwam Mein Makhlooq-e-Khuda Batti Hai Iss Se
Qoumiat-e-Islam Ki Jar Katti Hai Iss Se

God’s creation is unjustly divided among nations by it
The Islamic concept of nationality is uprooted by it

Stay hungry, Stay foolish

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Humans are hardwired to be optimistic in everything they come across. There is no such thing as pessimism. Have you ever come across someone who doesn’t like favourable chances? Why do we always think of outcomes that may favour our gain? Can you think in contrary where you would love to lose? I bet you cannot. Wouldn’t it have been more wise at times to foresee and accept a loss than be blindly optimistic about it? Then why do we still hold onto our dogmatic approaches? Didn’t you sleep the sunday night so that you could wake up the next morning to a more beautiful day even though it is a monday? Aren’t you hoping for world peace while your neighbour is digging into your house? How often have you not seen the last delivery of a cricket match even though your team had already lost the game an hour ago? When was the last time you didn’t appear for an exam even when you knew the result is going to be a C or worse? Why do you still love that person even when he/she don’t know you even exist? Why do you dream of being a celebrity some day even when the chances are all stacked against you? Why do you keep saying yes to yourselves even when your mind has evaluated a NO as a safe exit? Even after knowing the obvious result, you cannot dodge your inbuilt logic which always directs you to be positive about things. Talking in the jargon of a neophyte programmer, you don’t have a subroutine you could have jumped to incase you wanted to be negative about things.You keep going on with your life when things are not going your way because you are hardwired to believe someday they would. Systems which are not compatible with this positive logic often crash or self-destruct resulting in events called death or suicide.

Most of the times humans evaluate their strengths and the chances to foresee a negative result which is misinterpreted as pessimistic behavior. Pragmatism is the obvious route most people take giving high priority to a task which seems more viable to produce output and masking other low priority whims. You would rather go about your life happily being recognized by your friends and family rather than try to be some celebrity of sorts. You have evaluated a safe and risk free path to go for an arranged marriage rather than proposing to that girl/boy you loved. You are almost reclining back in your chair now that the game is almost over for your team rather than be anxious whether the batsman on crease is going to hit the ball for a hundred runs out of the earth’s orbit. A grade of C would be more welcoming than expecting an A out of the blues. Even after going the obvious and safe way, you could never stop thinking about that other option with more gains. The famous quote by Steve Jobs would be a perfect fit here: “Stay hungry, Stay foolish”.