Count your blessings! Say ‘Alhamdulillah’

By Uzma Showkat. Dated: 9/7/2020 10:59:23 PM

“Oh Kashmir, how do you sleep?”
The question recently posed by a thoughtful writer, which made the entire valley insomniac for many days until they ploughed out the entire background of the incident to satiate their collective conscience. “A man collecting food from a trash can in Kashmir”, elicited a shocking response from everyone, which otherwise is a common thing elsewhere in the neighbouring states. We all live in a belief that no Kashmiri can die of hunger or thirst. Our resistance to atrocities of conflict and our stories of survival through natural disasters bears witness that the belief is not false either. We see everyday how even a short lockdown can crumble economies and bring any nation to its knees in days. Yet we stand still, surviving some of the longest lockdowns of the world with grace. I can’t say I understand how the concept of barakah operates on this land of faith, but I see it working every day, with or without being realized by the people. Here, I see people welcoming their blessings with utter thanklessness and still being showered with many more of them.
Few months ago, when every local outside Kashmir was as restless as the sea to somehow reach back home, I too got on my evacuation merry train of hopes, which was organized by the state government of J&K. It was a journey from scorching far south, through the plains of all intermediate states to far north in the lap of mountains. It was going to take quite few days and we all armoured ourselves well with the best of masks, sanitizers, water, dry eatables and of course power banks. Since the train was specifically going to Udhampur, it was a treat to eyes to see the station full of fellow Kashmiris and I was reassured that I will just do fine even if I am travelling alone in a train for the first time. Kashmiris are generally very helpful and I saw people selflessly sharing dates, bread, fruits and water for iftiyari at the station. I’ll take a moment to thank two unknown gentlemen who helped me with my heavy luggage until the journey started.
We heard the horn first, followed by the angry engine noise and then the sound of claps and whistles overwhelmed the chhukh chhukh of our merry train. I had just start to enjoy the bliss and the blessed company of my Kashmiri folks when the train stopped again. Surprise! Free food! On one hand, the management knocked our windows for distributing the food while on the other hand, the reality knocked at the door of my happy mind with a brutal realization. People accepted the packages with great excitement but started throwing them out the windows as soon as they realised that the biryani does not have chicken in it. Wait what? “We are in the middle of a pandemic and the journey has just started. There is a complete nationwide lockdown and a zero chance for any shop to serve you on subsequent stations. Can you not respect this food and save it for the difficult time that we might encounter later?” I asked in my mind. But the satisfaction on their faces replied, “No, we are Kashmiris, nothing can go wrong with our food”. The merry train started again leaving behind the wasted food, decorated on both sides of the railway track like flowers, colorful and fresh. Some time passed and the next realization arrived at the door of my mind, now fatigued and disappointed. Ever-granted barakah in food for Kashmiris, oh!
The faith that I mentioned earlier presented itself in all the colors and tastes, as we traversed through the different states of the country. It seemed like every train station was eagerly waiting to present the delicacies of their respective states, to the thankless travellers of the merry train. People not only kept trashing the pride of those delicacies onto deserted railway tracks but skeptically kept complaining about the taste as well. Some were sarcastically insulting the generosity of our care takers by exclaiming things like “how do these people survive on a food like this, huh”.
I thought this special treatment was meant for only non-local servings, since we are not used to that sort of food. But hey! How dare I consider a Kashmiri being biased or selective when it comes to ungratefulness? No ways! The actual drama began when we were handed over to the state authorities at Udhampur. First, as expected, we were welcomed with very nice non-vegetarian food, cold water bottles, juices and what not. But unfortunately because of a sudden landslide, the bus got stuck near khooni naala. Oops! Who is going to save the respondents from the upcoming heck load of criticism now? “Look at their audacity to arrange only biscuits and snacks for Kashmiris. Tell them, we only eat barbeque and elite foods on a beautiful mountain of a valley like this. We are a resistant generation, qualified enough to make a picnic out of this crisis situation”. Rightly so, the survival instincts jumped in. It was not just us, stuck alone. The truck loads of fruits, live lambs and chickens were also on their way to Kashmir from Jammu. Jackpot!
People started bon fires, barbeques, cooking lambs on fire, cutting fresh watermelons, while our Ladakhi friends kept playing guitar in the background. Good lord! Somebody remind them of the pandemic. Finally, we all made it alive, except one, who was engulfed by the depths of the mighty naala. We happily reached Srinagar exactly on the blessed day of Arafah, but that was not the end of it. There had to be a screening, fulfillment of a quarantine period at a luxury hotel and of course the most important thing, arrangement of food! This all was offered to us free of cost but again, many people were quite disappointed after opening their lunch packages in my hotel, at least. Apparently there was just goshtaba and yakhni on the eve of Eid-ul-fitr. “How disgraceful, there is no full wazwan?”
High time to introspect, nature bestowed us with such abundance of palatable water that people even have been washing their roads with drinkable water. As a result, so many people from specific areas are now complaining of water shortage almost every day. Let’s take a moment to acknowledge our blessings before people here actually start complaining about hunger. Allah SWT is the most gracious. If He showers you with abundance in answer to your ungratefulness, imagine your fate after saying “Alhamdulillah” a little too often.
(The author works in process development in Sanzyme Biologics, Hyderabad. Feedback: me.uzmashaukat@gmail.com)

 

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