This must have happened to every other Kashmiri… As I said, Kashmiri’s can recognize another Kashmiri by facial recognition. A long nose, a specific angular jaw line, a certain cut of the brow or a tone of skin – there is always something that makes a Kashmiri go ‘S/he must be a Kashmiri’ – Pandits or Muslims alike.
And at times, your face is such a give away – that in spite of trying you can’t hide the fact that you are a Kashmiri.
More than a decade ago – I was at a training program in Mussorie. Among my group of friends – who were also attending that same event – was Harsh (from Jaipur) who had just recently become a proud new uncle. His nephew was barely a year old and he wanted to take back home a special gift for the kid. Somehow he had got fixated on a fur coat with a cap which he had seen in a “Kashmir Art and Handicraft” shop on the
Alarmed by the fabled tales of how Kashmiri traders dupe unsuspecting tourists by charging them 1000/- for a 100/- buck item, I warned Harsh against buying anything from the Kashmiri shop lest he was ready to get duped. But Harsh couldn’t find anything else as interesting and apt for his nephew – so he was adamant on striking a bargain. In all my naivety, I too became a silent partner to the adventure – agreeing to help him evaluate the right bargain by using my Kashmiri expertise. However, we strongly admonished Harsh from making it known to the dealer that he had a Kashmiri friend along with him to ensure that he was being asked the right price. As per plan, I and another friend decided to enter the shop only once Harsh had selected the piece he wanted to buy and the bargaining was to begin – coming in as customers unrelated to Harsh and give an opinion on the bargain – without revealing the Kashmiri identity.
But as luck would have it – the moment I stepped into the showroom, the patron there had a loud – “Aslaam waleykum!! Pandit ji yapaer kithkaen” to greet me.