Sunday, 17 November 2013

A Walk In The Woods


How many times has somebody else tried to make a life changing decision for you? People who think that they know your aspirations from life but are oblivious to your real needs. We all have. Yes. All of us. The play touches a similar note. A walk in the woods is an anecdote about a Pakistani and an Indian diplomat. How the two interlocutor from two warring countries want to make peace in a disputed territory sitting in serene Switzerland. Jamaulludin the incorrigible, cynical and the veteran Pakistani diplomat dismisses the whole idea as a farce and instead wants to become friends with his Indian counterpart keeping the pressing issue aside. Ram Chinappa, the rookie Indian diplomat is full of zeal and enthusiasm and hopes to turn his very first meeting into the stepping stone for progress on the Kashmir issue between the two countries. The play is essentially about two different yet similar characters. Jamaulludin's cynicism about the success of such peace talks stem from years of witnessing missed opportunities, deliberate or otherwise. His heart wants peace for the people he has never met, for their sufferings her has never felt but is unsure how sitting miles away from that place would help them reach a consensus. He, in fact, takes a jibe at the government for choosing a place like Switzerland. The very setting of the round table makes mockery of the entire process. Ram Chinappa, on the other hand, is a novice in the game of negotiations. Full of ardour and fervour he wishes to cut ice  in his first meeting itself, unlike his predecessor who couldn't taste any luck. How the two hold there own is an absolute delight to watch. At one point in the play Jamaulludin remarks that how is that history is baiscally geography written over time. How else do you justify Pakistan's history being different from India's. This I think is something worth pondering over. In my opinion, the script is a little weak which beats the same drum of how politicians are like the real war lords. The execution, to say the least, was brilliant. I liked how the change of costumes reflected the transition of characters. The background score was soulful. The set, however, was bit of an eyesore.

In the midst of the talks between Pakistan and India to resolve the Kashmir issue, it is ironical how we rarely have a Kashimiri representative on board. There seems to be a severe disconnect between the people of the state and their rulers. This brings me to the recent hanging of Afzal Guru. Whether or not he was involved in the Parliament attack is another aspect of the story. However, the callous attitude with which the center treated the entire issue is extremely condemnable. It just flared anti-India sentiments amongst an already discontent population. It was not just one of the lowest point in the history of this so called democratic country , but also one of the lowest hours of the Indian legal system. And the proletariat which celebrated the execution of one Afzal guru, I would like to remind you that the masterminds and the  others are still at large are still at large. The backlash in Kashmir brings us to a bigger question- why so much of support for him? The answer lies in the fact that every Kashmiri household could relate to Afzal. They have all seen a kin being taken away by the security forces to never see him again. They have suffered humiliation time and again at the hands of the Indian forces. This is exactly why the militants enjoy local support in the valley.

The only way to win this battle is through economic prosperity. The economic divide between the Muslims and the educated, better off Kashmiri Pandits was exactly what the radicals exploited to turn the locals against the Hindu diaspora living in the valley in the late eighties. Instead of anointing this issue and developing the region, the government responded by sending the army and enacting the SFPA. The icing on the cake was Nehru's rule which prevented any Non-Kashimiri to buy land in the region, thereby, annihilating the scope of any investments in the valley . The only people this ruling helped were the fanatics. with no jobs and army, it wasn't really challenging for a Maqbool Butt or a Geelani to take charge.

The problem with Pakistan is that it still, somehow, cannot give up on the two nation theory despite the formation of Bangladesh. The problem with the local Kashmiris is that they are living in some kind of a fantasy world where they feel that a country, in turmoil and unable to manage its own people, will sail them to the harbour. And the problem with us "Indians" is that we blame every thing that happens in Kashmir blindly on Pakistan. The jingoists of this country need to understand that Kashmir was never really a part of India. For a population which is religiously similar to our neighbour, we need be more tolerant and understanding. This battle can be won only by creating jobs and means of livelihood in the valley and not by arms and ammunition or round table conferences.

1 comment:

  1. The views on play flow quickly from the script itself to the author's view point on the Kashmir issue. In part I would definitely agree with the author's view point on Indian stand and policy on Kashmir, but certainly not the opinion stated that Kashmir was never part of India. Overall though the thoughts have been expressed well and was worth the read.