Recently I got an opportunity to conduct a faculty development program on Entrepreneurship. The place J&K EDI – Srinagar. Initial reactions from everyone at my side were: Is it necessary for you to go? What about safety? Will there be others? How sure are you that you won’t be alone? and so on.. Discussions and queries were more around the anxieties than the program design. I would be lying if I said these did not affect me to reconsider the decision to go atleast a couple of times. However, the passion to teach enhanced this time by the intrigue surrounding the place, made me accept the opportunity.
How many would actually attend a training program that too on Entrepreneurship, and how enthusiastic that handful of people would be, how prepared must I be to do justice to the program were all the thoughts that I had as I embarked on my travel. But many of these thoughts were themselves questioned when I boarded the Mumbai –Srinagar flight. Where I was expecting a handful of travellers, I encountered a full flight. And a flight filled with not just business people who take risk for their livelihood, or government officials who have little choice; but a flight filled with families – happy families who were staying there. The flight was noisy with chatter and prattle the way any other busy sector would be. The first questions that the anxieties around the travel could be much hyped crept into me at that moment.
This was just sealed and all queries we all had about the place vanished the minute I stepped out of the airport. The first sight that greeted me on the streets of Srinagar was that of couple of school vans filled with children returning home. This scene could have been from any other small city in India, barring the military presence. As I drove down to the place of stay, I encountered many familiar sights. Despite the army, I found a sense of tranquillity descend on me due to the fresh air, lovely mountains, simple folks and warmth that I was able to sense. As I sat down with a cup of steaming tea in the guest house looking at the mountains far away, I began to question the very source of the fears and doubts that were there on the place, people and training. I realised it was from what I was hearing and reading.
How many times have I or others around me set out to know more about this part of India for ourselves? How many times have I or others willingly offered to understand what is happening in the valley and what one can do to bring relief to the situation? How many times have I viewed Kashmir as a place other than one that is under dispute? How many times have I viewed Kashmir the way I would view any other city in India?
And then slowly the doubts, the questions and the fears in my mind about the place, people and training were replaced by hopes and expectations, just the way it would before any other training. And this week, I will share with you my experiences there – so that you can see Kashmir the way I saw it. So that you can experience Kashmir – the way I experienced it. A way that is different and at times diametrically opposite to what we read and hear!
To give you an idea, after the training, I cannot wait to get back for another interaction with this beautiful place and with these wonderful people!