Kashmir and Kashmiris are a bit of a paradox. Our private persona is at odds with our collective public persona. In our private lives, we are hospitable, generous, kind and caring. However, our collective personality undergoes a metamorphosis and change in public. We can be rude, pushy, aggressive and even abusive in public. The metaphor which best encapsulates this is our traffic. Just a couple of days before Eid Al Adha, it seemed that a Tsunami of traffic inundated and choked our city centers and our Central Business District, Lal Choke (pun intended here). Traffic snarls and road rage were the order of the day. Badly parked cars, bad driving and mismanaged traffic led to such traffic jams that many who could, preferred to walk rather than use private or public transport. Rude behavior, aggression and road rage was in abundant display today.
All this was complemented and overlain by reports of unscrupulous selling activity in markets. There were reports of price gouging and over charging across a range of products. Even sacrificial animals for Eid were not spared with some reports suggesting that certain unscrupulous traders had taken recourse to fattening sheep and goats by injecting them with chemicals. Amazingly, all this did not deter people from buying. A certain fury defined the markets across Kashmir vale today. What does this tell about our collective personality and attitudes?
The answer is multi pronged: first, given what has been referred to as the Kashmir Syndrome- wherein the conflict, its overtones and undertones, negativity and opinionated and unnecessary criticism defines our outlook- makes for a gloomy life in Kashmir. Festivals and events like the Eid are a welcome departure from a psychological point of view for Kashmiris and we then go berserk- shopping till we drop and eating or socializing with gay abandon. Second, a new moneyed class has emerged in Kashmir which wants to flaunt , display newly acquired wealth and take recourse to conspicuous consumption. Third, demographic change and attendant population pressures have led to stresses and strains on our creaky urban infrastructure- more cares, more people etc. This leads to situations that were visible in Lal Chowk and elsewhere.
But what explains the anger and aggression that we display publicly?
One major reason can be isolated from a whole host of reasons: there is bottled up rage and anger in Kashmir. This bottled up rage comes to the fore under conditions of stress and a charged environment like a traffic jam or even small isolated traffic related incidents. What the source of this pent up rage is unknown but it calls for a deeper understanding of this anger. Fortunately, on the positive side, this bottled up anger has not yet led to widespread incidents of crime and egregious non political violence. Well and truly then we Kashmiris are a paradox.
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