Copyright © Sa Nasreen 2020 — UKAF
All rights reserved. No part of this story may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other non-commercial uses permitted by copyright law.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
“Agar Firdaus bar roo-e zameen ast, Hameen ast-o Hameen ast-o Hameen ast — If there is a paradise on earth, it is this, it is this, it is this”, a famous couplet by the poet, Amir Khusrau, was applied by the Mughal emperor, Jahangir, to describe the breath-taking beauty of Kashmir.
The valley between the abundant Himalayan range and the Pir Panjal mountain range is found in the northernmost geographical province of the Indian subcontinent in Kashmir, the disputed paradise on Earth.
Kashmir is a place known for its simplicity and natural beauty. Kashmir is coloured with unique cultures that keeps the visitors captivated throughout their journey from the largest city and summer capital Srinagar to Sonamarg, Gulmarg, Pahalgam to Jammu, the winter capital.
It was a gorgeously bright and windy afternoon in the bustling city of Srinagar. Fatima Hussain lived with her family in the Hazratbal area in downtown Srinagar. She was reposing on her hammock, sipping on her favourite Kashmiri noon chai while reading and reflecting on the famous Kashmiri poet, Agha Shahid Ali’s composure in the country without a post office. Interestingly, this was her favourite room in the apartment. She considered this as the room where she can depart whenever she was free from other responsibilities to engage in some self-reflection. She also remembered an important event which she had arranged for the coming evening.
“Orphanages are the only places that ever left me feeling empty and full at the same time.” This was a quote shared by John M. Simmons about orphanages which related to Fatima’s objective. Her plan had something to do with the orphans.
Orphans have a high status in the eyes of God. Humanity, as a whole, is encouraged to step forward and bring about positive changes to the world serving orphans by providing them with education, food and other necessities. Fatima had a very befitting idea. She thought of arranging an outdoor gathering for the orphans of J&K orphanage. The idea was to have a memorable evening with the orphans, playing sports, sharing stories and enjoying some delicious food around a crackling fire. Also, as it was the month of agriculture, Fatima planned that she would prepare fun activities in a way that the children would come to know about the importance and appreciation for food.
Fatima contacted the J&K orphanage and shared her thoughts with the caretakers about the outing. The caretakers were highly grateful for this opportunity presented to the orphans. Fatima began to get ready for the evening. She had decided on Shalimar gardens as the location. Any soul who enters the garden is left mesmerised by its earthly utopia. The garden was the perfect example of a wonderful union between humans and nature. Fatima arrived slightly earlier and she was followed by the children and caretakers. The children from the orphanage were namely Zainab, Sakina, Ruqayyah, Zain and Ali. They were all accompanied by their caretakers Seher and Laila. The children greeted Fatima enthusiastically and the evening began.
One by one, they introduced themselves and shared their dreams with Fatima.
Zainab had said ‘her dream was to become an activist’. She wanted to work with various campaigns to bring about many changes especially with regards to orphans.
“Many children are left to become orphans due to losing their parents, who endured tortures by their occupiers,” she had said.
Fatima was moved by Zainab’s wisdom at such a young age.
After the session, everyone played various games. The demonstration of playing was known as ‘Gindun Drakun’ in Kashmiri, as it would mean Gindun — playing, yet also Drakun, which included legitimate absorption and development of the children. Therefore, Fatima arranged intense physical activities such as Dogge Chumet — guess who pinched/punched, Biri-e-Te Thaep — wooden Baal cricket, Teekan — stone-pebble game and Zaangi Taar — jumping game for the children before they sat for dinner.
Fatima planned the night’s dinner with her mother. Her mother had given her the incredible concept of setting up a menu which the children had not tried before to make the experience pleasant for them. Just recently, an organic market in Srinagar was introduced by the Kashmir Agriculture Department. All items used to prepare the dishes were bought by Fatima and her mother from the organic market.
Noticeably, Fatima, making use of her creativity, prearranged for a question and answer session regarding the importance of food.
For every right answer provided by a child, a fresh menu was served. Different foods from different cultures were served to everyone.
Food is an important factor in all of our lives. Food elevates a person’s mood. It ought to be celebrated just the way other occasions are being celebrated.
“Wow! Eating different cultured foods under the moonlight is a beautiful feeling,” exclaimed Ruqayyah.
“How blessed we are”, said Zain.
Next to them, there were a group of teenagers arguing over something. Ali, who happened to walk past them, saw that one of them was refusing to share his food with a destitute child who was standing next to him crying out of hunger. Ali quickly rushed to the child with his food and gave it away to the hungry child. Seeing his generosity, the teenage man was ashamed of his actions and promised never to deprive ever again a poor who seeks his help.
After some time had passed, a man named Abdullah came to the place of their sitting. Seher introduced him to Fatima and the children as a friend of hers whom she coincidentally met at the Shalimar Bagh. As he had spotted them all, Abdullah insisted on treating them to gifts.
Laila told Fatima and Sakina to accompany him on a bus to the gift shop a little distance away. So, both Fatima and Sakina took off with Abdullah. They both did not know what was going to come next. All three of them hopped on a bus which went on a continuous journey. Fatima tried to intervene asking Abdullah where he was taking them. But he insisted on remaining silent, revealing to them that they will come to know soon. Eventually, they reached a place called Mount Sinai. This area was a no entry for common folks. Only the authorised could enter. It remained a secret place for many years and no one knew what was going on there besides a slight hint about farming.
Abdullah led Fatima and Sakina into the space assuring them there will be no harm caused to them.
“This place is so surreal!” Said Fatima in an astonished tone.
There was a huge organic farming area and a whole food paradise. Fatima came to know that it was from this farm that all the items she buys from the Srinagar market hail from.
“I am a farmer here,” said Abdullah, “we have been working here for quite some time now. We aim to make sure that everyone in Kashmir is provided with the basic necessity of food in a way that it is environmentally sustainable. We also aim to provide them with a variety of taste from all over the world. Mount Sinai will be the first of its kind to provide multiple seed varieties that come in many different shapes, sizes and colours.”
Abdullah was explaining all of these to Fatima and Sakina with full of hope and enthusiasm.
He continued illuminating that their secret which makes their farm unique from others is a crystal covering that protects the soil from erosion. Fatima was impressed with the development and said that this farm reminds her of the old times where only green fertilizer was being used instead of chemical fertilisers. What more was the farm even provided horse riding and has a magnificent view of lakes.
Abdullah shared information about this farm with Fatima as he heard from Seher and Laila that when Fatima had called them up to seek permission for the outing, there was truthfulness in her voice, dedication towards the wide topic on the importance of food and farming and her caring nature towards the orphans made them and the orphans arrange this surprise for her in return for the outing which she had arranged for them. Abdullah hoped to have Fatima, the orphans and the caretakers to be present when they reveal the farm to the general public.
Fatima returned with Sakina to Shalimar bagh and met with the rest of the group. Expressing her gratitude, she said that she had thought that she would be the one making the orphans happy but they completely captured her heart. With that their beautiful evening had come to an end. As a cooling to their eyes, a shooting star was spotted at the further side of the sky. Fatima sent off the children back to the orphanage and returned home. She went straight to her favourite room to rest on the hammock reflecting on the amazing events that had occurred not too long ago. Love for her homeland increased within her further and she was more delighted than ever to call Kashmir her paradise on earth.
Genre : Fiction, Fantasy, Adventure/Action, Mystery/Thriller
Submitted on 2nd November 2020.