The cultural identity formation of an individual in exile is a dynamic and complex process that includes retention of their native culture, adaptation to the local culture, exposure to diverse cultures and practices, negotiating multiple identities and a longing for the native land. In this journey, each person’s experiences and choices will be unique and the process of developing a cultural identity is impacted by a variety of circumstances.
In a rapidly growing India, migration of youth from rural and less developed areas to the fast-exploring urban centres in search of greener postures is a common phenomenon. There are several reasons why Kashmiri youth migrate to other states in India. As a result of the unrest in the area, Kashmir had economic and security challenges including high unemployment rates. The youth get access to better work opportunities in fields like education, healthcare & IT by moving to others states. Youth also migrate in order to pursue higher studies in reputed institutions and universities which enhance their career prospects in the long run. They move to a different locations in search of better living standards, improved infrastructure and access to amenities like transportation, communication and healthcare. Another reason for migration is the quest for a safer and more stable environment. Some also migrate to other states to pursue their passions, interests and goals.
So, what are the challenges faced by the Kashmiri youth as they venture beyond their roots into the vast and varied cultural mosaic called India. Let’s find out from the story of Kabir.
In the serene valley of Handwara, there lived a young man named Kabir. Kabir’s father was a carpenter by profession but didn’t have a steady income. The family had been grappling with unemployment for years due to lack of prospects in his village. Kabir was a brilliant student and he completed his BA from Govt Degree College, Handwara. Kabir had trouble finding employment in his hometown despite his degree and talent and the financial strain weighed heavily on his family. Determined to change his fate, Kabir made the choice to relocate to Delhi in pursuit of a good job. Thus, he said goodbye to his family, packed his bags and set off on a journey of uncertainty and challenges.
Kabir encountered many difficulties after relocating to Delhi. He had to adopt to a different culture, language and way of life. He couldn’t find an affordable place to live and had to take up multiple jobs to make both ends meet. Kabir remained steadfast and committed to his goals despite encountering cultural, social and economic challenges. Kabir experienced an unfamiliar and diverse cultural environment during his initial days in Delhi. He missed the ‘swaying poplar trees’ and the ‘majestic chinars’ standing tall and proud in strong icy winds. He missed the rustling sound of leaves while walking over the yellow carpet made by them in autumn. He missed looking at the blue, cotton blotted sky lying flat in his garden. He had fond memories of growing ‘haakh’ and vegetables in his kitchen garden. He missed the stalls of ‘yellow halwa’, the vegetable munchies and the magnificent parathas the vendors toss out of pan. He missed the taste of ‘Wazwan’, the fiery smell of ‘Tujj’ (meat barbeque), the platter of chutneys. He missed wearing ‘Pherans’ and the ‘Kashmiri Chai’. He missed the vast green meadows, fresh air and the evening cricket sessions with his buddies.
So, adapting to a new culture was difficult but not impossible. Driven by these thoughts, he decided to open a restaurant in Delhi. He knew that opening a restaurant without any prior experience and knowledge could be very risky. Therefore, he enrolled himself for evening classes for MBA in Hospitality Management from a local college. In the morning hours, he worked in restaurants, petrol pumps and tile factories. With perseverance and handwork, Kabir slowly started making progress and up skilled himself in his chosen field. He was relentless in his pursuit of success and was willing to put in the extra effort to achieve his dreams.
Kabir’s determination and talent soon caught the attention of his teachers and he began to climb the academic ladder. He became a better individual because of his diligence, dedication and problem solving skills. He finally got his degree and earned a reputation for being a reliable and competent professional. He decided to take a loan to turn his dream of opening a restaurant into a reality. He named his restaurant ‘The Chinar’ that specializes in Kashmiri Wazwan. As Kabir’s career progressed, he also found time to give back to his community. He actively participated in social causes and worked towards the betterment of his fellow Kashmiri who had also migrated to Delhi for employment. He encouraged and mentored young Kashmiri’s to never give up on their dreams. The things he missed in life actually helped him to get success. Kashmiri Wazwan became an instant hit amongst the Delhi youth. ‘The Chinar’ became the talk of the locality. Kabir’s hard work finally paid off as he was able to make a mark in the competitive food industry. He was also able to provide financial support to his family back home in Kashmiri, helping them improve their living conditions.
When we reflect upon his journey, we realize that it was his unwavering determination, resilience and hard work that had brought him success. He can be proud of his Kashmiri roots and values instilled in him by his family and community. Kabir still remains committed to empowering and uplifting his fellow Kashmiris. This is the case of many Kashmiris who have migrated beyond their confined spaces, both mental & physical spaces and continue to inspire others with their remarkable story embracing diversity and change with an open heart. Kabir’s journey was a special one where in he navigated multiple cultural identities, adapted to new environments, preserved his own cultural heritage and evolved into a better human being.
Ideas, Opinions and Views expressed in articles are Writer’s own and may not be in accord with those of The Morn