Legend by The Lake
MAESTRO ZUBIN MEHTA CONDUCTS A CONCERT FOR PEACE AND PUTS KASHMIR BACK ON THE CONFIDENCE MAP OF INDIA
Maestro Zubin Mehta conducts a concert for peace and puts Kashmir back on the confidence map of India.
At 5 p. m. on September 7, as the call of the muezzin mingled with the first strains of Beethoven played by the Bavarian State Orchestra and a mix of rabab, tumbaknari, sarangi, santoor and matka performed by 15 folk musicians, all the harrumphers and naysayers were silenced. With an imperious wave of his baton, Zubin Mehta made history, reviving the syncretism of Kashmir under 400- year- old Chinar trees, in a garden built by Jehangir for the wife he was besotted by. It was not enough to soothe almost a quarter century of insults at the hands of what Kashmiris like to call an “armed occupation” but it did distract, if not delight.
Indeed, as Union minister Farooq Abdullah said with his love of over- embellishment, “If Noorjehan and Jehangir were alive, they would have been so proud.” Pride was not a sentiment that preceded the international event, which saw guests from all over the world, sweating in their bow ties and their silk saris, under a Srinagar sun that was unseasonally hot. On the face of it, the concert, Ehsaas- e- Kashmir, was doomed. Separatist leader SAS Geelani, in a permanent sulk with Delhi, or as he prefers to call it, India, had called for a civil curfew on the day of the concert. Civil rights activist Khurram Parvez, who lost a leg in a 2004 landmine blast while monitoring state elections, was finding it difficult to get permission from the district administration to hold a “parallel” concert of music, photographs and poetry at Sher- i- Kashmir Park. And worse, just two hours before the concert, four young men were shot dead in Shopian, 55 km from Srinagar, by CRPF in what appeared to be yet another thoughtless or at least needless display of brute force.
Yet, the concert, conceived by former foreign affairs adviser to German chancellor Gerhard Schröder, the colourful German Ambassador Michael Steiner, 411 days ago at a function in Delhi where he honoured Zubin Mehta with the Commander’s Cross of the German Order of Merit, did take off. It was a gathering worthy of an elegant soiree in Delhi or Mumbai. Apart from enough Abdullahs to dazzle Kashmiris craning their necks to look at them trooping in ( from the rarely seen Molly Abdullah, Farooq’s wife, in an orange salwar kameez, to their granddaughter, 13- year- old Tara), there were tycoons such as Pawan Munjal and Nusli Wadia, a trifecta of beauties of indeterminate age Sunita Kohli, Bina Ramani and Dilshad Sheikh, designers such