Strains Of Homeland, On Hello Kashmir
11 April 2006
The Indian Express
Srinagar: Air waves have become their only link to their homeland. For migrant Kashmiri Hindus, Radio Kashmir's Hello Kashmir-a phone-in programme- is a bridge that connects them to their native land which they left 16 years ago. At 10 pm every Saturday, when anchor Mohammad Hussain Zaffar, a local Kashmiri Muslim, airs the messages, it is all nostalgia and tears that constantly interrupt the voices. There are messages of longing, but unlike the polarised landscape of Kashmir politics, there are no villains for this pain as common Kashmiri Hindus put 'unfortunate happenings, bad times and destiny' to be responsible for their migration. In his message from Faridabad, UP, 95-year-old Kashinath Koul of village Ratnipora, Pulwama says that he misses the shade of the mighty chinar tree of his village. 'I miss sitting with Ghulam Kak, Mahad Joo, Salam Dar, with whom I would chat under the chinar. I was a teacher and I am proud to have taught 2500 students. Most of them were Muslim,' Koul says in his message. He concludes with the Persian prayers that were a regular feature at his school assembly and says he remembers all his neighbours and students. The programme plays messages from all over India and majority of callers are migrant Hindus now living all across the length and breadth of the country. Zaffar, who is also the devisor of Hello Kashmir, says the programme runs on 'emotions and personal efforts. Radio Kashmir often gets the messages recorded personally. We also collect phone numbers and make calls from the studio'. The most touching message he has received so far, Zaffar says, is from a Kashmiri migrant professor MA Kaul from Habba Kadal, Srinagar, who rang up Hello Kashmir and talked for half an hour about his life in the valley. 'He was nostalgic to the extent that he was crying during the whole conversation.' To Zaffar's astonishment, at the end of the call Prof Kaul revealed that the corpse of his wife who had died on the same day was lying before him. 'He could not hold himself when someone asked him to talk about Kashmir.' Zaffar says at that time even he had burst into tears. 'Such is the emotional bond that makes Hello Kashmir possible...Separation is part of the human destiny. Circumstances beyond our control force us to move ahead, leaving behind people we love, things we cherish, and times we spent together.' The first programme was aired on 15 August 2002 and since then it has received an overwhelming response. Major publicity campaigns are carried out in all major radio stations of the country. Arrangement is made for Kashmiris residing in north and south India to get their messages recorded at any of the local radio stations. 'This is the only programme that has zero financial investment. The programme is talked and discussed in every board meeting of All India Radio,' says Zaffar. He ends every programme on a signature line: 'We meet and part, to meet again.'