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Panun Kasheer

Posted in 2010 Summer Public Service Program, Farheen by kashmircorps on July 12, 2010

I have visited Kashmir almost every summer since I was born and some things never change. No, I am not talking about the

Traditional Kashmiri embroidery, known as "ari" at the Inderhama Centre

undending hartals of this season. More like the spectacular view when you drive by the Dal, traffic bottlenecks at Rambagh and Dal gate, constant honking, and bumpy roads. The murkiness of the Dal Lake might have worsened but the crowd every evening does not thin. Hartaal or not you will always find boys on their bikes enjoying corn at ‘Bhutta point’ and ‘sikh-tuj’ aka freshly grilled kebabs. It’s weird when I hear of a mall opening in the city with possible a KFC or Mc Donald’s! Suddenly, CCD is the new spot to chill and not Shakti sweets. It is it a good or bad thing? I don’t know. I guess commercialization will bring more jobs, more money etc. Just that, the Kashmir I have known since childhood is different from any other city, it has its own identity, Panun Kasheer.

Women making "var," traditional Kashmiri chili

INTACH the organization that invited us to dinner a few days back mentioned the uniqueness of Kashmir especially in its architecture. For example Kashmir is one of the few places in the world with no high rise buildings. I also learnt about a beautiful Pathar Masjid in the downtown area which I really want to visit.

Nigeen Club, where the dinner was held is breathtaking with a lake of its own and the ‘Mughdam Saab’ fort in the backdrop. I spent most of the time clicking amateur pictures and would definitely like to visit again given the situation gets better. The dinner was cut short due to the ongoing protests and worried parents urging me to get home as soon as possible. It was still a lot of fun and I am really grateful to Sarah and her INTACH team for being so hospitable.

Last Sunday was my birthday, the best so far. There was no cake. I spent most the day with the ‘special’ children in Inderhama. I got there around 11 am and found the boys performing a skit. One of the boys was a teacher and he was scolding the students, calling them ‘buddhu’ (stupid) just like you would find in many schools across Kashmir. Later I found out the boys were divided into groups of three, each with a different theme and about 2 minutes to decide on a story, direct it, come up with dialogues and act. Another group had come up with a skit based on the recent kidnapping and murder of a girl in Anantnag, the theme being sadness. Overall the performances were very entertaining and we all had a good laugh. Some of the children have great potential and HELP is doing a wonderful job by training them in theatre and arts. Very few schools in Kashmir have such facilities and it is a great way to not only build skills but rehabilitate these children.

I also met with Dr. Kishwar, a clinical psychologist who has been working with the boys and women of Kashmir for the past 10 years. I asked her what changes she had seen in the boys and she immediately replied that they are a family now. She said the biggest problem people here face is the fallout of trust in the community and it is homes like Inderhama that help the children of the conflict to build trust within each other and get away from the recreation of the trauma at home. Later we met with Mr. Tareq Abdullah a journalist who is making a documentary on HELP foundation. It was a really good chance for highlighting the work that HELP is doing and I hope that this documentary, once it gets out there will further their cause.

If the curfew is lifted I am hoping to go back and meet with Dr. Kishwar again since she has good insight on the psychological state of Kashmiri women affected by the conflict. She already gave me some good tips which will help with the project I am working on. For now I am praying that the ‘weekend’ goes by smoothly and this uncertainty of whether or not things will work out tomorrow is lifted.

P.s- If you haven’t already, please read a piece by Zahir-ud-Din in Greater Kashmir (1st July) titled Reconciliation or justice. It’s a great read and raises some important questions.

Although born in Kashmir, Farheen has spent most of her life abroad. She recently graduated with a BSc in Human Biology from the University of Toronto. Farheen has a deep interest in public health which she will explore further working with the HELP foundation on a project focusing on women’s mental health.

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