What makes Kashmir’s culture of change so reluctant?

The millennials and Gen Z in Kashmir are perhaps ready to take this battle headfirst, but the blame game culture has us questioning everything. 

In the resplendent painting of the societal discourse, we ought to see a recurring motif—one that captivates the very essence of our collective narratives: the dichotomization of societies. 

We talk about the modern vs traditional binary, an axiom that grades places and faces on the basis of flawed developmental plans, be they practical or metaphorical. 

The bigger picture of this dissection draws in not just the political discussions, where we question why the rich ate the parliamentary seats and what money can birth, but also stalks the shapes that thematize the narrative of intersectionality—we ask, what role do we play and what are the requirements?

As citizens first, our role is to adapt. Adaptability is a common theme in the broader narrative, a premier showcased in the big-picture movie for the world to study and understand. But we Kashmiris are at a disadvantage here. The birthplace of political narratives—that intertwine with the personal so dramatically that it becomes hard to dissect reality from brutality—has its fair share of questions about modernity, about leaving behind old traditions, about a jittery sense of evolution, and the answers to all these queries are vexed with a vitriolic spasm. The bells sing a clear song—bring back the “praun zamaane.”

Where does this longing for the old times come from? Sure, we are a society rooted in traditions; we treat hammams as though they are our own, irrespective of how their inclusion transpired. Yet, we find ourselves caught between the complexities of identity and adaptation. On one hand, we want a 9-5 job; an artificial replication of Silicon Valley, and on the other hand, we are afraid to give up on the requirements essential to convert the saffron into silicon.

Kashmiris today exist in a perspective outside the warm Kangris and refuse to acknowledge that these outlooks were imbibed, that we borrowed them centuries ago, that at one point in time, they were modern as opposed to today’s traditional hammam. There’s a sense of reluctance that exists at our very core towards anything and everything that’s not ours, and where we know the answers to why it is so, our approach towards it does not alter—which brings us to a dire problem in today’s cold scape, we want all that’s modern, but we criticize our very own for bringing in modernity.

The on-and-off tangible imposition of malevolent ideology is a common occurrence in our households. Parents, grandparents, and old relatives—the divided age group—have an eye out for all that brings in iniquity, which, in their layman’s definition, is the technology and a move of the younger generation to keep at par with the world. What is ignored is that we exist in a world that is a missive tech silo. You and I, sitting in Kashmir, have access to the world at a touch, and that’s the way of today’s living. It’s impossible to exist without it in the current social age—not because of dependency but because of the evolutionary inclusion of these entities as a parcel of life, just as important as food.

The battles between the ideological clashes have a grander entity at force—problematic thinking. If we look at the concept of nightlife, for example, there exists a criticism in our society for today’s generation to aspire to live a certain way. Nightlife here does not mean the evil notion that we have associated with the concept of night itself but a very nuanced understanding of a change where we work during the nights and embrace a lifestyle that has an imprint of opportunities and employment associated with it. The millennials and Gen Z in Kashmir are perhaps ready to take this battle headfirst, but the blame game culture has us questioning everything.

Another prevalent problematic thought pattern involves the interpretation of shame and gender targeting. If you remember the 2014 floods, you probably also remember why people thought the catastrophe was subjected to us. Our society, regrettably, resists acknowledging scientific truths; there’s a lack of progressive discourse, and we tend to assign blame to what we merely label as deviations.

When the concept of analyzing and approach was first birthed, the Greeks say, at one point, everyone had the same quantifiable knowledge. What later set people apart was the ability of some to explore and create a nation-state, while the rest opted for ignorance and positions under their leadership. 

Placing the thought in the context of the valley, the preaching is a big fervor. The summons conducted by relics are the word of God for a larger populace who ignores the part where it’s all written in our holy book, and instead of merely picking up from someone else’s understanding of the text, we can read and make meaning for ourselves. 

The people who are in power at these summonses take up current world problems, and their approach to dissecting it for the masses is through the form of criticism—the ‘how we were better because’ and ‘how they are bad because’ approach. The concept that is swiftly skipped is the Prophet’s (PBUH) words about the changing world and the imperative for the human race to evolve and adapt. Yet all we see is the criticism of the same notion and the reluctance to accept the reality in the face of a constructive dialogue.    

Another example can be the exchange culture in Kashmir. While we may assert our righteousness in competitions, our wedding ceremonies attract the keenest hawkers who evaluate social standing and celebrations through the lens of modern opulence and the most significant corrupted transactions. Where do our morals go then? Why don’t we question modernity at that point? Wouldn’t traditions be easier to observe? 

Here’s what are left with as the answer to our depreciating social cadence and faulty understanding of modernity: Education and exchange. Our education system does not let us explore what awaits on the other side of the spectrum—the school of thought of people who have been the backbone of successfully functioning societies. Instead constrains us to a limited room of knowledge where the main focus isn’t true episteme but a superficial façade of marks and numbers.

In the present era, the only exchange we seem willing to engage in involves food. The enchantment of French bakeries and Turkish tea shops might lead us to believe that we’ve become open to broader cultural exchanges. However, this notion is inherently limited and lacks depth. While we readily embrace external social heritages, we falter in recognizing our own cultural perspectives. Why do we find the consumption of modern food acceptable, viewing it as a form of exchange not far from tradition, yet hesitate to promote our own culture? 

The key to answering these questions lies in self-reflection and the challenge of breaking free from the cocoons of a complacent mindset. Nothing will change unless we want it to change.


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