A lil’ bit of Me…


wrote this one for a bulletin of a club i was part of last year. the rotaract club, to be precise. it’s a neat concept, the rotaract. but ya gotta have the right ppl in the club or running the club, otherwise, it might just be a waste of time. i’m done marketing the club. the article follows…

The problem in Kashmir rages on. Terrorist camps, bombings, shootings, atrocities by the army, civilian casualties, and recently the earthquake; everything in the papers make Kashmir out to be quite an unfriendly place to live. But I do not wish to join the mass of people who rue opon the problems in the valley. Let others talk of politics, of terrorism, of religion; these do not inspire me at this point of time. I would much prefer to write about my limited but fruitful contact with the valley, and this occurred right here in Maharashtra, when the Rotaract Club of Pune Ganeshkhind hosted 10 Kashmiri students and took them to Shrivardhan in the Ratnagiri district for the Rotaract Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) organised by the Rotarians there. To be very honest, the prospect of hosting students who were likely to be to members of quake-affected families was not very encouraging. I was concerned that the students may have been psychologically dented after that massive calamity, and I was apprehensive of whether I could handle them in the correct manner, without being too emotional, excessively sympathetic, nor too distant. It’s hard to know what to do before a guy who’s literally seen his world come crashing down. But the students we met were mostly shy, yet capable of having a good time and quite co-operative and enthusiastic. Of course, with a club President like ours, most men would trip over each other trying to gain her favour, and so it was relatively easy to make them see the ‘brighter’ side of life.

The RYLA was organised by the Rotary Club of Shriwardhan in November 2005. It was the first ever ‘Coastal RYLA’, meaning that it took place in a coastal area and was concerned with a lot of things connected with the sea, like pearl culture, prawn farming, etc. At this point I must commend our club President for her idea to take the Kashmiris to this RYLA. One of the most gratifying things that one of them told me is that this was the first time they had seen the sea. Well, we not only showed them the sea, we also took them into it; first to bathe, then for a speed boat ride where they even managed to see dolphins! Quite an unforgettable experience for anybody, what say?

Ups and downs are the way of life and that’s what Azhar Bhai, one of the Kashmiris, discovered when he decided to join a bunch of us in a tanga ride on the beach. The horse which was pulling the tanga must have been pretty perturbed by all the “Chal Dhanno” cracks we were throwing at it. But I guess it was the last straw for it when we began singing the tune in ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” and rotating our hands over our heads cowboy-style. It suddenly accelerated its stride and the whole tanga broke! Azhar Bhai experienced a momentary feeling of weightlessness before he crash-landed flat on his backside, being reminded just why the firma is in term ‘terra firma’. I was sitting right next to him when it happened, and I too remembered my reasons for not taking up the job of stuntmen in films when the otherwise soft but wet sand made its mark on my rear quarters. Too bad no one caught that one on film!

Another highpoint of the trip was the campfire song-and-dance session which we had on the beach. As usual, the Rotaract Club of Pune Ganeshkhind rocked the crowd with some cool numbers played on the guitar and sung. Hey, what do you expect when the President, Director for Club service and Director for Professional Development are all members of a band? Anyhow, everybody was impressed and were grooving to the tunes, but none more so than the Kashmiris. One of them, Bilal bhai, finally broke out of his skin and began singing some really cool Hindi and Kashmiri numbers in his sweet pahadi voice. Of course, he had the ladies swooning over him, and it seemed for a while that finally atleast one of the Kashmiris had found favour with our President (poor Azhar bhai had been trying the hardest. He even began calling Amruta, our President, by the name of Ruksana, because he liked that name more).

It’s been a constant complaint of mine that nobody looks at the guitarist (of course, when ‘Ruksana’ is singing, who cares about the guitarist?!). But there was at least one of the guys, Manzoor bhai, who found my guitaring more interesting than the members of the opposite sex (now that’s a compliment, considering that we had some rather breathtaking specimens of the opposite sex in our contingent!). For a while he made it his mission to click a photograph of me playing the guitar, but somehow the time just didn’t permit us to do so towards the end.

After an exhausting 2-day RYLA, it was finally time to head home to Pune, and I am proud to say that our effort in taking the Kashmiris to Shriwardhan certainly wasn’t wasted. Along the pathway of life, one often meets friends who walk along with you some distance before parting ways. But even then, it is not necessary that such companionship will be meaningful. But given the right circumstances, even the shortest journey with a companion can produce the most remarkable of and enriching experiences. The Kashmiris were really sad that they had to leave, and Azhar bhai was confident that they would not have the same amount of fun and enjoyment at any other place in the India tour which the organisation ‘Sarhad” was taking them on (after all, ‘Ruksana’ won’t be around for the rest of the time!). We all embraced, and Bilal bhai sang us a last farewell number before we saw them chugging away in autorickshaws into the night.

A short story is never that. It is a prelude to a bigger one, a saga or an odyssey perhaps. In May, our Club has plans to join ‘Sarhad’ for a trip to Kashmir where we will help in the counselling and rehabilitation of quake victims. All the guys who came to Pune are as eagerly waiting for us to go to Kashmir as we are. It will certainly be some reunion.

Manzoor bhai, I’m coming to Kashmir in May.

And I’ll bring my guitar.


One Response to “Konkan-E-Kashmir”

  1. hey, wow i had no clue you were involved in something like this…
    da you never fail to amaze me man…
    must say, it must be quite an experience to be working with them huh???
    and hell, im surprised you didnt get much attention with the guitar… all the best for the next time!!!

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