When I started out from Delhi I had all kinds of thoughts in my mind. I was nervous, I knew we were going out there to cover the elections, and there will be plenty of action to follow, but I still wanted to explore my roots.
At the airport I spotted MK Raina the actor (he was the headmaster in Taare Zameen Par). We chatted as we waited for the security. Mr Raina was going to Srinagar… he spoke of the culture bandhpather folk theater of J& K how it is dying
While chatting with Raina I spotted the PDP leader Iftikar Ansari in his white kurta and salwar and KARAKULLY HEAD GEAR. From his expression I could tell he was deep in thought possibly about the elections,suddenly I saw him taking out his fancy blackberry phone and started talking. I walked up to him and said 'Adab' and that's it we got talking. I learnt that he was going to Poonch for a party meeting before the first phase of polls began. We talked as the shuttle crawled towards the aircraft. Ansari ji blamed the central Government for scheduling the election dates of the J&K polls for winter, when I asked him. He invited me to meet him in Poonch as we will also be going there.
The flight was not full, the first stop was at Jammu after which the aircraft would head for Srinagar. It was a short flight, one hour five minutes to be precise. (Yes, I was that excited.)
I couldn't believe it, I was actually in Jammu, my birth place. I was born in a rented house in Panjtithi, father was posted in Poonch at that time. Because the winter in Kashmir was harsher my parents had preferred Jammu.
The Jammu airport turned out to be a small one.
No, Jammu city had not changed that much since I last saw it --- back in the 90s. It took us half an hour to reach to hotel, we dumped our luggage and set out looking for stories.
It is of course a different matter altogether that we spent greater part of the day trying to get an internet connection.
I was in my final year at the Fine Arts College the same time when the militancy problem escalated I had to leave the Valley and migrate to Jammu. And there are the Art College I completed my degree. After 18 years I was walking down … You know, it didn't feel like I had been away. In fact, I was so overwhelmed with all kinds of emotions that for a second I thought I was going to attend class.
But then I saw the actual students, boys from the first year who had just finished their classes and were on their way to do some sketching, their assignment. I stopped to chat with them.
The building was the same as I remembered it, only much faded. A broken table in the middle of the entrance, one sculpture lying in a corner…to be honest it looked like something out of a horror film.
At the college I met Saraf Sir who teaches painting. I had remembered him as someone with lots of energy so I really quite surprised to see how grey and old he had grown.
I also discovered Abhinav Kemu, whom I had known in Kashmir, my elder brother and her brother were good friends. When I was a Fine Arts student she was the classical music teacher. Now she was the principal of the college. It took her a few minutes to recollect my name but it came to her eventually.
It turned out that the Bollywood actor Kunal Kemu is her nephew. It is from her that I learnt that the number of students was growing less and less with time. She mentioned something students' preference for western music instead of their classical heritage. She seemed worried about the trend. Was she interested in the elections? Would she cast her vote?
She didn't appear to care instead continued to grieve about the musical instruments she had had to leave behind when she migrated.