rachelmanija: (Default)
( Sep. 12th, 2004 02:06 pm)
I was in Kerala, a tropical south Indian state in early September, 2001. This is pieced together from an email which I wrote on September 10, saved in draft, but never ended up sending:

I bought a Kerala silver-inlay dagger from Fariq, a young Muslim man with a shop on the beach. He offered to sharpen the knife for me, but I said if he did that, Customs might think I was a terrorist. He laughed and said that he kept them dull for exactly that reason and, since he was from Kashmir, they tended to think he was a terrorist anyway.

That caught my attention. For those not up on Indian politics, Kashmir is at the far north of India, supposed to be the most beautiful place on Earth, and has terrorism at a level comparable to Israel for about the last 20-15 years due (simplifying wildly) to the fact that Pakistan thinks it should be theirs.

Fariq and I started talking. His family had moved to Kerala to escape the terrorism, and it was hard going from the snowy mountains to the tropics. He'd been in Kerala for over ten years, but when I said I was planning a trip to Padmanabhapuram Palace, and it came out as "Padmana... Um," he helpfully said, "Yes, Padmanabha... Er..."

It was late, the dagger was fairly expensive, and the touristcs had mostly gone home for the night. He made me Kashmiri tea, clear gold with strands of orange saffron at the bottom, and cardamom and cinnamon stick floating on the top.

I asked him about Kashmir, and he said that he thought that ninety percent of the people there were so fed up with Pakistani terrorist infiltrators blowing up buses and throwing acid in women's faces to terrorize them into wearing veils, and Indian soldiers who were thugs and no better than the Pakistanis, that they wanted to become an independent nation and be rid of both of them. But since Kashmir was squeezed between two big powerful countries, it didn't look like that would ever happen. So his family moved to Kerala, the only place in India that was divided equally between Muslims, Hindus, and Christians, and a mosque and a church and a temple might all occupy the same block.

We talked on about terrorism and international affairs until long past sunset, and I had to get back to my hotel. We exchanged emails, and I said I might come back to the beach before I left the city. But I never did. A few days later, I got this email.

DEAR RACHEL BROWN,
hope you are alright with the grace of almighty God.i
am also fine here, but very sad about the attack in
NY.where are you now.how was the trip to
'kanyakumari'and the Palace on the way.did you enjoy
it.i was waitting for you the next day ,i thought that
you will come.did you gave the knife to your
friend.rest everything is ok,pay my best regards to
your friends and take care of yourself.

FARIQ
__________________________________________________
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