“Paradise Lost”

B.L. Saraf
The  enchanting   physical and spiritual ambience of Kashmir may have stoked the poetic sense of  Emperor,  Jehangir  to  describe it thus: “If ever there is Paradise on the earth, it is here.”
The concept remained  within the Royal confines for  a long  period, till   the ingenuity of   the  Kashmir  trader and  the    government  promoted the ” Paradise on Earth ”  to   the  hilt      for  the economic purposes.   However, alongside, the  Paradise  had to contend  with  a covetous eye   of  a   neighbour across the LOC    who, nefariously, ensured that it does not retain that character  unblemished. We leave that part to  the  other time. Come September   floods and the paradise  story   gets a new tale. Conditions  turn upside down.
With a  slight improvement in the conditions, the compulsive  travellers and the ‘honey mooning’  couples have started to trickle down to the Kashmir Valley. Of the multiple impressions they carry back, the loss of  “Paradise”  is  in higher in their minds. They  observe, with  great pain and anguish, the transformation of paradise  into    a hell-what the Valley has turned into thanks to the recent floods. They bemoan the plight of the residents who, in nature’s one stroke, got transhipped into a hellish state from  a    heavenly   dwelling. That is our  lamentation, too. But, have we lost the Paradise  now, or  has the feeling of loss   dawned on us too late? Was it necessary for the September floods to remind us about this loss?  Well, they are the questions posed  to none  but to us all. We   have to find answers to  them. It is imperative, if ever we  think of regaining our “Paradise.”
English  poet,  Milton,  wrote  epic Paradise Lost with the purpose of projecting the dealings of God with the human beings. It is  “about fall of a man.” The scope of the theme is about the universe itself . Such a subject – meaning of evil in the universe-applies  to  the  human race also. Adam and Eve tasted a forbidden fruit  and committed a sin,  which  entailed their  expulsion from the Paradise.
What would a paradise look like if  dignity of its dwellers is violated? Here, reference to the epic may not be quite inappropriate, as we, too, are the sinners.
We committed  the  first sin in 1990,  when   a caring nurse was   sawn to the  pieces, a well meaning   septuagenarian poet-thinker  hanged from the tree with eyes gouged; religious leaders, the  Mirwiaz and a grand mufti of south Kashmir gunned down in cold blood; hundreds of thousands  banished from their homes. A situation got created where death reigned supreme and fear replaced   mutual  trust. Kashmiris ceased to deserve Paradise when they  smothered the rainbow settings   and  plucked out all flowers from a colourful bouquet  and painted the Valley with one dull drab   colour. We didn’t honour  chastity  of  the virgins  and, in a highly perverted belief,  bartered   female modesty in lieu of ” freedom fighter’s” valour  to  deliver “us ” to  the  ‘ gods  own country.’  Adam was banished from Kashmir   in 1990.
We committed the second sin  when we mercilessly felled the majestic Chinnar,  caused deforestation, vandalised environment and built on the  water bodies.   The vandilization was condoned in the name of “freedom struggle.” The process  of loss was not sudden .  It  began in late eighties when the communities,  in Kashmir, were made to lose one another  in a slow   but systematic manner.
A choice has to be made. It  must   be  known of which Kashmir  Jehangir waxed eloquent, in a poetic ecstasy. Was it the Kashmir   known for its  pristine snow-clad mountains ,  luxurious  forests  flowing  streams of fresh water (elixir of life), lush green meadows, and above all a place   where  non-discriminating spirituality  filled the hearts of every  resident.  Has that Kashmir been restricted to its present   geographic   dimensions, or  goes beyond Pir Panchal  in the south and extends up to Karakorum mountains in the far north. There  is a need to demarcate Kashmir, both, in geographical and spiritual terms, and then define it in celestial terms like Paradise etc.
The devastation caused by the  September floods can be recompensed. But who can salvage us from the self inflicted moral degradation ?
Milton  tells us, in the epic,  that before their exit from the Paradise, Adam and Eve went to God for His mercy. He ordered    angel Michael to open appen till  the “Great Flood”. Could, then, we take the September flood as “the Great Flood” and introspect seriously  as to  what went wrong with our  Paradise, in the hope  that  things  would fall  in a proper  place for the restoration. Has everything happened that had to happen for us? But then God’s ways are inscrutable. So are of us   Kashmiris, in no less measure. Let us, for a change, allow this time   Almighty His way-which, undoubtedly, is Benevolent and   Beneficent  and do the restoration work  Himself. Amen!
(The author is Former   Principal District & Sessions  Judge)


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