February 27, 2006
The discussion about Playboy magazine somehow had brought strange dreams to me. I dreamt of some Indonesian girls wearing traditional transparent kebaya dress, unbottomed, half-naked, and … . Hmmm …. Somehow, living too long time in Pakistan had made me more wilder in sex fantasies.
Next to our camp there was a rubbles of collapsed school building. There was another blue tent with huge Chinese characters: For Disaster Emergency Use. This is the temporary school tent for the students. The students started their class at 8:45, singing a chorus outside the tent, and then got into the big blue tent.
Today I started to visit the project of the NGO with Mr Ijaz Gillani and Mr Manzoor. Our NGO, an NGO from Denmark, bearing the name ‘Danish’which might be hated by the fundamentalists due to the red hot Danish cartoon issue. We prefer to spell ‘Danish’ as DUN-NISH, to avoid misunderstanding, as ‘Danish’ with this spelling is a popular Pakistani name as well. The NGO project is to build 500 shelter homes in these mountainous areas. Now some projects were finalized and our work was to make documentation of the homes. The track up the hill was not easy, slippery due to the rain, with some climbing and jumping. Compared to this, the Annapurna trek was almost nothing.
On the top of the hill, there was another school. The school building and teacher office building was completely collapsed. In adjacent playground, there were two tents as used classrooms. And the headmaster office now is merely a layer of bricks with some broken tables and chairs, scars of the disasters. The headmaster told us that there had been 85 boy students (no co-education – schools where boys and girls study together – in Kashmir), but after the disaster, the students were spread away and now only some 30’s left. The boys were studying outside the tents, under the sun. There were two different classes, some boys of the younger class had to site write on the ground, doing their mathematic work, due to lack of tables. The school fee itself is cheap, only 12 Rupees (less than 2000 Indonesian Rupiah) per month.
One of the teachers was coming from Indian side of Kashmir. Pakistan call Indian Kashmir as ‘Occupied Kashmir’ and its side of Kashmir as ‘Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJ&K)’, of which ‘Azad’ means ‘Free’. The word ‘free’ might be debatable here, but Pakistan still considers AJK as its colony with its own president, prime minister, government, and even flag. Only AJ&K flag was raised in the school yard, and no Pakistani flag. AJK is called as POK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir) by the Indians. The man was moving from Indian side as refugee with his family in 1999. He said that Indians were ‘dzolim’ (English translation please…). He wanted to go back to Indian Kashmir, but he emphasized that it didn’t mean Pakistan was not good. “Home is home anyway,” he said. His family and relatives were all still in India, and as a refugee with no nationality, he could go nowhere now. There are many Kashmiri refugees from India, some thousands in Kharkar, and more after the disaster.
The history of Kashmir, as everybody might know, suffered the partition due to the partition of British India to Pakistan and modern India. At that time, the people of Kashmir, majority Muslim, might prefer to join Pakistan, but the Hindu Maharajah were thinking of having an independent state, but then he was forced to join India. The Pakistan troops arrived and occupied one third of the area, what is now called as AJK. The problem of Kashmir was always the main topic of Pakistan – India relation, and referendum promised before was never held. The Kashmir, with its strategic and rich location also attracted interests from other countries, as Bush was going to visit this area in March this year to help to solve the problem (hmm… Quite skeptical about this good will).
The headmaster, another Syed Gillani (I met at least 6 Syed Gillanis up till now, the Syed itself means the descendants of the Prophet), told me that Kashmir was always attractive to everybody. The land was fertile, the people cultivated rice (chaval), and Kashmiri chaval was famous. But the drought came some years ago, and people moved to Lahore and Karachi. I asked about what future of Kashmir he was wishing to have, to be re-united or preserve the status quo as a divided nation, but he didn’t give me direct answer. We were standing on the rubbles of the school buildings, watching the children playing cricket in the ground surrounded by high soared, green-bodied, and snow-capped mountains. Imagining how the mountains collapsed and flowing like water to the villages, buried everything it passed, was very scary. The helicopters of relief teams were busy of flying the areas, bringing food to the unreachable villages up the Nilam Valley. We were quiet for some time.
I continued the journey with Mr. Ijaz and Manzoor to visit the houses of the people they provided shelter homes. The people were very welcoming and hospitable, almost every family offered us tea and food, distinctive of Muslim hospitality, despite of their hardness and poverty. Mr. Ijaz was playing cricket with the children, and it was in the top of a hill, where the cricket ball may run away far down, and picking the cricket ball is another hard job. He said he was exhausted. So today we only visited some houses up, and went back to camp.
Nobody was in the camp. Everybody was going to the Haji Shahab house. Today was the third day after his death, and the third day is prayers day for the dead. I went to Haji Shahab house with Mr. Mahmood. The daughter of Haji Shahab asked me to show her the face picture of Haji Shahab before the funeral. Tears flowed out of her eyes when I showed her the photos in my digital camera. She was in Rawalpindi, and came late on the funeral day, so that she couldn’t witness her father face for the last time. In Muslim tradition the dead is buried immediately on the same day, so that relatives who live far away may not have chance to attend. I didn’t expect that my camera that captured the whole process of the funeral could bring satisfaction to this poor daughter.
In the third day of funeral, visitors were entertained with food. Our famous cook who had spent some years in Greece was asked to make the food. The family of Haji Shahab provided everybody who came with endless rice with mutton curry. Meanwhile the females of the family gathered in a separated room, and I could here cries and sad mourning from the room. Haji Shahab was also one among the people who received the assistance to build the shelter homes by the NGO.