Attempting to gauge who gained and who did not from Zubin Mehta’s concert for Kashmir is a treacherous exercise to undertake. It is easy to conclude, as Ravi Shastri might, that “music was the ultimate winner”, but what you hear in the Valley is not always what you get to see. There are layers and there are layers. For a moment, it seemed the maestro had emerged the BJP’s darling for a Bharat Ratna till he tripped up on Article 370. It seemed the German ambassador had buried the ‘caviar ghost’ that has haunted his political career with a global TV coup, till the Bavarian orchestra manager said they had been misled about the nature of the “exclusive, elitist, embassy event”.
It seemed Omar Abdullah had showcased his state to the world, till it emerged that Kashmiri folk artistes, whom the chief minister had applauded hours earlier, were kept out of the dinner hosted by him. It seemed BMW had got its money’s worth as sponsor with its VIP shuttles, till it was revealed that the local artistes who accompanied the Germans on stage were ferried in a truck carrying their instruments. It seemed the separatists would showcase their ‘fate’ to the world, till the state demonstrated that its writ runs whenever it wants it to.
About the only real winners were the swish set. For a few hours, Shalimar Garden looked like Lodhi Garden as the bold-faced names displayed their wears, from Armani to Zara, with none of the perspiration. ‘Gaste Drehen Gastgeber’ (guests turned hosts), screamed a front-page headline in German in a local English daily on the day of the show. “No problem,” said a Kashmiri friend who runs a hotel on Boulevard Road. “I saw the Bavarian State Orchestra in Vienna 31 years ago.”
Even a weekend visit is sufficient to come to the surmise that the people of Srinagar and the city’s newspapers live in two different worlds and the twain do not meet. On the ground, it sounds as if the aam Kashmiri has heard enough of the raga that has ruined the lives and livelihoods of an entire generation. But each morning they wake up to a breakfast serial in which the wheat is indistinguishable from the chaff, and maybe even injurious to the health of everybody down the food chain.
Wallowing in victimhood, the collective press pack is clearly out of step with the dreams and aspirations of a populace that is caught in a pincer, frustrated with the impasse and is eager to move on. The choice of stories, the phraseology of headlines and the display present a unidimensional, monochromatic view whose purpose appears to go beyond informing the reader. ‘Fear’ is an easy explanation for the stunted coverage, but what if?
When your reporter tweeted some sample headlines on the day of the Ehsaas-e-Kashmir concert, @primeargument responded: “What’s the PR disaster? It’s the English media which is a disaster. Taken for a ride by separatists, apologists and propaganda.”
Spirits of a City
In a city that is so bottled up, it is cruel that there should be so few places to unwind at the end of a long day of hartal. The pitstops on the path to escapist mecca—malls, movie halls, restaurants, bars, brands—that distract the average Indian from their daily misery are conspicuously absent in paradise. The watering holes in the star hotels are way beyond the oars of the average shikara operator wilting under a bad season that began with the hanging of Afzal Guru and has not ended since.
At the antique stores, rust-laden plaques advertising Boulevard Wine Stores at Dalgate and the cabarets at Sams Hotel at Gagribal point to a bubblier, more effervescent past. The sight of more women than men at Undress, the bar at Broadway, threatens to smash the stereotype of Srinagar nightlife, but it is not to be. Each silhouette that steps into the light turns out to be a reporter, anchor or presenter of one or the other noisy TV news channels recovering from the lilting strains of Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Haydn.
At Polo View, Srinagar’s own Savile Row, K. Salama & Sons have draped the who’s who of the Valley and beyond with their bespoke suits since 1842. With a business-card holder that looks more like the telephone directory of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Gulzar Salama still sells his jackets and blazers, suits and caps with enthusiasm.
His son, Amjad Gulzar, 27, an MBA from Manipal, bemoans not being able to go to the Zubin Mehta concert. Polo View is 2.4 km from the state secretariat.
Bombay Dyeing chief Nusli Wadia and Zubin Mehta were discussing something mundane in the corridors of Taj Vivanta: how many cars would they need to go for the Governor’s party?
Krishna Prasad is the editor-in-chief of Outlook. Follow him @churumuri. E-mail your diarist: krishnaprasad AT outlookindia.com
Apropos Krishna Prasad’s Srinagar Diary (Sep 23), had the course of events on the subcontinent unfolded a little differently, Kashmir could have been a sort of alpine getaway for the kind of people Krishna Prasad saw at Zubin Mehta’s concert. India and Pakistan could have always found some other thing to fight over.
Ashok Lal, Mumbai
So the Bavarian orchestra manager was misled about the nature of the exclusive event? But really, why was he expecting anything different? Maybe he hasn’t ever been to the ‘third world’. Western classical is still very much an elite thing in India.
A. Maheshwari, Bangalore
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
Mister Krishna Prasad,
Why dont you have the guts to speak about the Kashmir Pandits, the minorities who have been cleansed out of valley by talibani terrorists some 20 plus years back?
Is Saint Sonia and her advisors stopping you on same?
Do tell us, if you have GUTS.
Articles states .... ".... till the Bavarian orchestra manager said they had been misled about the nature of the “exclusive, elitist, embassy event”."
And why was the manager expecting any different!!! May be he has never been to the 3rd world. May be he doesn't realize as great as western civilization considers western classical music, for us from the non-western world, our ears aren't tuned to it and can't appreciate it. A Sufi Qawalli will anyday stir the soul.
"It seemed BMW had got its money’s worth as sponsor with its VIP shuttles, till it was revealed that the local artistes who accompanied the Germans on stage were ferried in a truck carrying their instruments."
All this proves that Kashmiris are very much Indian ... the near perfect heirarchical being.
Srinagar and city's newspapers live in two different worlds and twain
do not meet, is not a mere observation, but a brilliant statement about
the press and media, from a proffessional journalist. It is true, with
vernacular news papers too! More than breakfast the people require
free air not polluted with fear. Creating a fear psychosis, and prospering
is exactly, the utmost opposite thing, the news paper is expected to.
I saw pictures of men in U. P., supposedly Muslim, and they seemed to be unhappy for no reason they know. Also, I don't think Omar Abdullah asked the Bavarian Orchestra to come to Kashmir. I wonder whether the orchestra was open air. I am not sure which building in New Delhi is supposed to hold the performance of the Bavarian Orchestra, or the Orchestra that Mr. Mehta very often, and at most times represents.
You obviously have not been to kashmir in a long time. It is very close to being a concrete jungle. Plastic waste and heaps of garbage on the streets is rather comman. Whole Jungles are laying waste , Water ways are choked and Dal lake is near death.You have to see Lalchowk at peak hour to really know what "diesel fume belching" actually means. Funny thing is it did not need any tourist to achieve that distinction. They did all this by themselves and two decades of strife and militancy was a great help! Thank terrorists.
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