You can make anything by writing – CS Lewis
When we talk about the Kashmiris in the capital we have to start from India’s most powerful political family, the Nehru-Gandhi family. Jawaharlal Nehru the first Prime Minister of independent India who is also called the architect of modern India. His daughter Indira Gandhi is the only women and second longest serving Prime Minister (1966 to 1977) of the country. Then comes Rajiv Gandhi who joins politics with the assassination of his mother Indira Gandhi, making him the youngest Prime Minister (40 years in 1984). Now in the line is Rahul Gandhi and things look good with his Italian mother Sonia Gandhi on his side as President of Indian National Congress and Chairperson of United Progressive Alliance. Recognizing the contribution of this family there is Jawaharlal Nehru University and then Moti Lal Nehru College and Kamla Nehru College in Delhi University are named after the family members in the capital.
In the walled city of Old Delhi there is a gate name Kashmiri Gate, history says it was named like that as a road starts from there which leads to Kashmir. Don’t know how many people went that road but today there are many of them in the capital in search for better opportunities and many had to migrate because of the militancy problem in the 90s. Like the father son duo Santoor (Indian classical stringed music instrument) player Pt. Bhajan Sopori and Abhay Rustum Sopori are in Delhi for more than 22 years. “My father was already here working with AIR, I came with my brother and mother in 1990. Everybody has been affected by the events that happened in the past. So now it’s no point griping about it. Rather people should see the positive side, many Kashmiris have spread out and doing well around the globe,” articulates Abhay Sopori. “Delhi gives opportunity to everybody to grow, freely move around, and do your things. But now as things are getting better I regular visit Kashmir, do my concerts and I never felt being alienated from that place. I am a part of that culture and I represent them,” says Pt. Bhajan Sapori who has 5000 composition under his name and awarded with Padma Shree.
One thing is for sure though they have made capital their second home, given on any day they would love to go back to their first home – Kashmir. According to the theater personality Ashwath Bhat, “The moment people hear ‘Kashmiri’ they associate it with violence or trouble which I really don’t like. We are peace loving people. After travelling around world, I feel Kashmiris are really very warm at heart and our hospitality is hard to match. Kashmiri language has so much humor and satire in it. ” Sharing same view national footballer Mehrajuddin Wadoo, “Because of my football I have been out of the state for more than 12 years but where ever I go I tell people to visit Kashmir which is called the Paradise on Earth. If you ask me to tell one best thing about Kashmir, I can’t, because everything about it is good.”
Not to forget when we talk about Kashmir and Pashmina shawls must be mention. “Today you can see Charkha Pashmina everywhere; it has been accepted by all. The artisans have contributed majorly in the shaping of the country by sustaining their art and craft all these years,” says Sanjay owner of Wrap Studio who has fond memories of Hari Parbat where all the religious celebrations took place at the Sharika Temple, Makhdoom Sahib and The Gurudwara Chatti Patshahi. And the first bloom of the almond tree also known as Badam Wadi.
Then comes their cuisine which is incomplete without mutton. There are many joints in the capital where you can try out Wazwan Kashmiri cuisine. Like Chor Bizarre at Asaf Ali road, Kashmiri Food Center at Vasant Kunj, Wazwan at Shri Aurobindo marg and Tarami at Hauz Khas. “Specialties of my restaurant (Kashmiri Kitchen, MG road) are Goshtaba (mutton balls cooked in curd flavored with dried mint powder), Rista (mutton balls cooked in saffron flavored gravy), and Lahradar Kabab (minced mutton chunks cooked into curd mild spicy gravy). In Kashmiri cuisine you have to pound the meat, not grind to get that authentic flavor. It is technically very natural, so somebody who is trained and knows the recipe can cook it. People here in Delhi who have visited Kashmir before 90s knows about the cuisine and also now youngsters are more experimenting. But many a times they end up asking for roti but our cuisine is more of rice,” laughs Pearl Khan.
Today there are many of them doing well in their respective fields. Like current Minister of Health and Family Welfare Ghulam Nabi Azad and Member of Parliament Karan Singh who is also the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir. Vivek Razdan, an ex-cricketer and commentator who has played 2 Test and 3 One-day for the country. Who can forget the caring and soft spoken school principal in Taare Zameen Par, theater director M.K. Raina. There are painters like Veer Munshi who tries to bring out the pain Kashmir has gone through in his canvas and Dina Nath Wali. In the world fashion are Zubair Kirmani and our very own Gudda – Rohit Bal. Well they are good in technology also, Gaurav Tikoo – Global Head Mobility Marketing, HCL and Ravinder Zutshi – Deputy MD, Samsung. Amit Kilam, drummer of one of the oldest Hindi rock band Indian Ocean. Musician Jawahar Wattal who has produced more than 3000 commercials. In journalism names like Rahul Pandita from Open magazine, Rajesh Prothi who has worked with Communication World, Business India, Financial Express and now leading Absolute Factor and Shereen Bhan – Bureau Chief and Executive Editor of CNBC-TV18. There is lawyer and social activist Nandita Haksar and entrepreneur Sunanda Pushkar Tharoor who made more news because of her high profile marriage. There were people like Rameshwar Nath Kao who is the founder of the Research & Analysis Wing, India’s external intelligence agency. Sanjogita Kaul from Indian August, Vice Chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University Prof. S. K. Sopory, Ajay Kaul CEO of Jubilant FoodWorks, writer G. S. Raina and singer Dhananjay Kaul are some to name.
(Published in Society July ’13, Page No. 144)