Le­gend by The Lake


India Today - - INSIDE - Text by KAVEREE BAMZAI in Srinagar Pho­to­graphs by RO­HIT CHAWLA

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

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