The thirteenth cup of nun chai


We sat under a sign that read Avenue of Remembrance in the Auburn Botanical Gardens, and Kevin asked, so how big is Kashmir? Could you say it’s something similar to the state of Victoria?

India Occupied Kashmir. Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. China Occupied Kashmir. The State of Jammu and Kashmir. Azad Kashmir. Aksai Chin. Ladakh. The Valley. Jammu. The Northern Areas. Leh. Kargil. Srinagar. Gilgit. Muzaffarabad. Jammu. Siachen. The Line of Control (LOC) and the Line of Actual Control (LAC)….

The answer to Kevin’s question depends upon who is drawing the map. And as lines are drawn and re-drawn, identities formed and re-formed, the way we actually experience space is never going to fit comfortably within the boundaries of a singular line. A year or so back I came across a small article in a newspaper in Delhi that described how the Indian government were recalling all Chinese manufactured globes because China’s version of the world saw Kashmir as a region that was independent of India.

Kevin had recently come across a book titled India. He searched its index for Kashmir and found that in all of its 500 odd pages Kashmir was only mentioned very briefly in a few odd paragraphs. But what Kevin found most significant was that the author described Kashmir, along with places like Israel and Palestine, and India and Pakistan for that matter, as a product of the processes of partition that had characterised the end of Britain’s colonial empire after WWII.

But, it was not so much that any of these places suddenly appeared from nowhere, but that the bifurcations that occurred built distinct geographical lines and formulated identities that caused places and people to begin to exist in different ways than what they previously had. It is almost as if a series of roadblocks were built upon what had otherwise been a busy highway.

Speaking of Kashmir’s history as it is tied to the processes of colonialism across South Asia Kevin, whose wife is of Goan Portuguese descent, began to tell me about the Portuguese colonisation of Goa. I was surprised to learn that it hadn’t actually ceased until 1961, well into India’s wider period of Independence.

We spoke more about the last summer in Kashmir and various forms of post-colonial-colonialism that are taking place in the world today. Kevin mentioned an Australian politician he saw stand up in Parliament and say something along the lines of: When are we going to stop shooting people and begin to speak to them?

It was something very simple, but for Kevin the potency of the statement really hit him when he realised how little he actually heard politicians in Australia say things so straight, so simple and so necessary. He was somewhat embarrassed of the political environment that characterised his own country. Kevin imagined what the world might be like if everyone – politicians, religious leaders, school teachers, musicians, taxi drivers, mothers and shopkeepers – just turned around and demanded When are we going to stop shooting people and begin to speak to them?

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