I was trying hard to focus on something at my desk when I heard soft voices downstairs. Ah, that must be ‘the shawl seller’, I thought to myself. As always, I didn’t go downstairs till mum called. And she did, when she wanted me to select something from amongst the beautiful collection on display in the drawing-room. And I was swept away by the exquisiteness in embroidery. Such moments make you realise the importance of the five senses. The world would have been a rather morose place without them, because colours and materials suddenly become somebody’s livelihood. I saw that he was accompanied by his brother. They were speaking to each other in a language I could not decipher :Kashmiri. There was something different about their dialect and pronunciation. It was as if I was listening to a dialect straight from hindi movies which have Urdu dialogues. I was travelling through the beautiful valley of Kashmir, but I soon came back to the drawing-room. I did not want them to think that I was mute, so I asked them after what must have seemed like a long pause after a short smile, “Aap wapas jaane wale hain ab?” The seller who knew hindi then told me that they had come to Delhi in November and had planned to stay for four months. Their mother had taken ill, so they might leave earlier than planned. And he had exams to give. I wanted to ask more questions but I could not. But thankfully, my mum asked him if he studied. He answered in the affirmative. He told that he studied in 1st year. The snowfall had made life come to a standstill in Kashmir, thus the temporary migration-for-sale to Delhi. “Kahin kuch ghumne ko nahi, jaane ko nahi, karne ko nahi, barf ki wajah se, isiliye hum yahan aa jaate hain”, he said. I was mighty impressed by my mother’s bargaining skills, and the guy’s salesman skills. He seemed a natural, and most importantly, an insightful person. He said, “insaaniyat pehchaan mein aa jaati hai”, or something along those lines. I was waiting for his brother to smile atleast once, and finally my wish was fulfilled when my mother quoted a price that he thought was funny :P.He said that the cost of living in Delhi was too high. They were living in a 2BHK flat for 12,000 a month as rent. In addition to that, they had other expenses like transportation. He gave us a sweet invitation to Kashmir. And told us about his family. His sister, who was just as young as I was. His father, who himself did all the artistic work. His mother, who spent a lot of time in the kitchen. And that the family practiced farming as well. He also told us that it was important for them to do good sales and make profits before they started for Srinagar. He showed us his earnings since morning. Not much, if one saw the ‘amount’ they were carrying on their shoulders.They were both carrying 1 huge bundle each. I saw them carefully fold their stuff with utmost precision. This was a rare observation, as far as men were concerned.
Maybe responsibility makes us grow up early, and take things in stride. It makes us mature. Work is something that helps us tide over anything. Snowfall is a natural phenomenon, but life goes on even if it appears to come to a standstill. There are so many nuances to a situation that could be perceived. Agreed that they were selling stuff and it requires them to be well-mannered, but even then it is not everyday that we see Hindus and Muslims cooperating with each other.After all, he greeted us with a Namaste, and I found myself instantly praising the first thing I liked with the word ‘khoobsurat’ instead of the usually spoken ‘sundar’. They say that it has become routine for people in Kashmir to live in fear. But I feel that some of them live above fear. It’s not about being overly optimistic, in fact it is about facing adversity, it’s about taking the bull by the horns. Some of them might not be literate enough to read Keats’ poems, but they surely know that a thing of beauty is a joy forever. And when one would be surrounded by so much beauty, tangible and intangible, why would one want to think about ‘what’s going on?’ Or maybe the people of Kashmir have taken it upon themselves to take hardships as they come. It’s become a way of life there. They get up after every ‘fall’.