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“Tinka Tinka, Zara Zara”

Posted in 2010 Summer Public Service Program, Aya by kashmircorps on June 29, 2010

“Bloodbath.” As I opened my eyes, trying to avoid the fact that today was another day lost in this magnificent city, I read those words on the front page of the newspaper.

“2010: YEAR OF TEENAGE KILLINGS,” said the headline in the June 29, 2010 newspaper “Greater Kashmir.”

Out of some 15 people who have been killed this year, apparently 11 have been teenage boys. And nearly 10 of those deaths have taken place in the past two weeks.

Just yesterday it was 9 year-old Tauqeer Ahmed Rather. His picture, along with that of first-year college student  Tajamul Bashir Bhat, was posted on the front-page.

Without needing to look outside, I could feel this was an unusually gloomy day. The sky was indeed grey and the streets seemed like a vacant filmset where the actors and directors are off shooting somewhere else.

In fact, that is more realistic than figurative. The actors in this case are stone pelters. Young boys idly watching their youth fly by as schools are shut-down and roads are too dangerous to pass. Old men are directing the strikes, calling on people to follow a program published in the papers.

A schedule of events for the community appears in the papers on an almost daily basis. But this isn’t the kind of schedule that announces graduation dates, or dates for a play, or dates for a festival. These are dates for the male protest, dates for the female protest, dates for strikes, dates for processions. There was even a day for painting slogans on walls and store fronts.

Kashmir Valley from above. Taken as we arrive by plane.

In random parts of Srinagar, protests today sprouted with no intention and no direction. These protests were a site for young boys to act out their frustration. Frustration at what seems to be the most used and abused word of the Kashmiri language, hartal. A hartal means a strike. Since I have been here, I have worked three and a half days.

The rest have been strike days. On these hartal days, the entire city shuts down. Restaurants, banks, grocery stores, doctors’ offices, shopping districts are closed. To drive along the roads on a hartal day is to see iron garage doors, the kind you might expect to see in New York City’s Harlem District at night when the stores have closed and the garage doors have come rolling down.

No coffee shops to meet with friends, no bookstores to kill the time, no pharmacies to provide for the ill, no milk to buy for the tea, no bakeries to provide for the sweet tooth. At best, you might be able to buy phone credit from a small stand. But even that seemed inconsequential because all text messaging systems were blocked.

So when I needed to change my dollars to rupees in order to buy food from next door’s hotel, I wandered the main Boulevard Road with Sara and Tabir in hopes that this touristic area may have just one money exchange open.

Instead what we stumbled upon was a man with a cellphone standing next to a closed Western Union. He asked my friend Sara and I if we needed to change money.

After little hesitation, we shook our heads “yes.” We were desperate. My 10 rupees surely wouldn’t get me even biscuits.

He said, “Follow me.” We did. We sat by Dal Lake, when a man appeared. I think he came off of a boat from the lake. He had a black bag strapped over his shoulder. He pulled out 1820 rupees for each of us at a competitive exchange rate. If I split that with my brother, that should hold us over for the next few days, I figured.

As I sat there counting the money, holding up a few bills to the sky to ensure that Gandhi’s head would appear with no hair, which is how you know if the bill’s real or not, I felt almost transfixed by his hologram.

We are all surviving in our own way. The constant backdgrop of mountains in the distance continue to breathe life into Kashmir Valley.

I have never before in my life seen Mother Nature more upclose than here. Yesterday, I visited the Islamic University of Awantipora. It is situated on a hill, just high enough that the clouds nearly kiss the top of its buildings on cloudy days.

The drive to and from the university felt like watching the earth unwrap its silk sari as it turns from the emerald green of saffron fields before bloom, to the yellowish-green of rice patty fields. Her scent, almost minty and dizzying, from the  cannibas that naturally lined the lakes for long stretches, growing unprovked in the most breathtaking of drives.

As we drove back, trying to find the safest route since new protests had sprotued somewhere along our path, I dozed off with the wind grazing my face and the radio carrying this song.

Tinka Tinka, Zara Zara,” refers to the tiniest of molcules and pecks, said Monisa, the hazel-eyed young professor who hosted me in her class that day.

Aya graduated from the University of South Florida with with a double-major in history and broadcast journalism in 2004 and earned her MA in Middle East Politics/Media Studies from SOAS, University of London, in 2007. She currently freelances for radio programs from Cairo, Egypt. Currently, Aya also teaches journalism at the American University in Cairo (AUC) and is working as a Senior Program Specialist for Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women’s Entrepreneurship and Leadership scholarship in Egypt. While in Kashmir, she will be developing and implementing media workshops for youth.
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3 Responses

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  1. malika said, on July 1, 2010 at 2:28 am

    those strikes pop up out of nowhere! and they’ve thwarted me from visiting at least twice now. yet, it’s hard to begrudge them, since they’re such a notable form of resistance it seems. thanks for sharing aya – here’s hoping I can make it to kash while you’re there…

  2. kim/ohradiogirl said, on July 3, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    Nicely written. You definitely gave me a feel for what it is like there. Be safe.

  3. Monisa said, on July 8, 2010 at 9:08 am

    Beautiful transformation of thoughts into words…
    thanks Aya, for feeling what we feel.
    Insha Allah, I’ll host u someday in Kashmir of our dreams…without having to look for the safest routes or days…


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