Much needs to be done to realise Sogami saheb’s dream of making Lolab a prosperous and progressive tourist destination which can attract people from all corners of the world, Saadat Nasir Wani Sogami writes.
No headphones to hear Sia scream into my ears! Instead, lovely motley of random birds chirping around the lush-green paddy fields of Lolab.
The sky today wears a colour I have never seen before. It is a shade of blue melting placidly into green, giving rise to a totally new blend.
I see women with head-loads of wood walking from one side of the fields to another. I see anxious men rushing to check if the soil in paddy-fields was moist enough to allow the nature to flourish. I love people recognising me as the great-grandson of Ghulam Nabi Wani Sogami saheb, a great leader who represented them for a long time.
I find scooting out of paddy-fields, walking on the many roads that connect far-off villages with the mainland. A web of roads exists in Lolab which was laid down by Sogami saheb even in the far-flung areas back then. I see a group of children dart along the road, cheerful and full of life.
I have been walking for two hours now but, surprisingly enough, each and every cell of my body is still yearning to continue this beautiful morning walk. I move on and on and on. I see children very closely. They somehow seem to be interested in the camera slung round my neck. I smile at them and feel them catching it and sending me a pleasant one back.
Time passes. Now I am tired. I have to find a place to rest and a companion to talk. At a distance, I see an old man (Baba) with a hunched back heading towards the shade of a large tree. Selfishly, I sit besides him. We greet each other and soon plunge into a discussion. He tells me about the time when Sogami saheb served the people of Lolab, and how Lolab actually transformed from being a far-flung cut-off-for-six-months area to a startling tourist destination.
Sogami saheb joined politics at a young age of 14 years. It was a time when India was still under the British rule and our State was fighting against Autocratic Dogra rule. He was a legendary politician who fought alongside Sher-i-Kashmir and his other colleagues. He was part of the Quit Kashmir Movement too.
After Independence, he was member of the Constituent Assembly and served the state as an MLA as well as a Minister. The old man still remembers him for introducing the concept of rainwater harvesting to the people of his area by creating water reservoirs which was how people started cultivating rice in the Kandi belt of Kupwara. Sogami saheb also dreamt of getting beautiful Lolab valley on the tourism map. He got Rest Houses and Dak Bungalows built all around the Lolab Valley.
Since Lolab has a great tourism potential, the previous government headed by Mr Omar Abdullah created a dedicated development authority to tap its potential and Sogami Sahib’s own grandson, Mr Nasir Aslam Wani Sogami, was instrumental in furthering his dream.
I feel the dream of Sogami saheb sparkling when I see people visit Lolab valley with their families which a traveller from far-off lands once termed as Land Of Love And Beauty. I remember how in every political gathering my father Nasir Aslam Wani Sogami quotes his grandfather and assures people of a better Lolab where people can live in prosperity and happiness. Despite many transitions, however, I personally don’t feel that Lolab has reached a point where it should have been. There may be hurdles to cross and many landmarks to reach, yet a lot has to be done to take it to the level which a great leader of his time, Sogami saheb, had dreamt of.
The old man and I are still deep in the conversation. A tear is about to roll down my cheek. I am trying to hold on but I can’t. The man tells me about the incident when Sogami saheb was part of the Quit Kashmir Movement and was jailed. He says Sogami saheb was so young that when a handcuff was tied around his arms, it slipped out since the hands were too small to hold them. Then Maharaja’s army men came up with some straw which was tied around his wrist and he was sent to jail. He was introduced to the people for the first time when Sher-i-Kashmir Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah held a political rally for the first time in Lolab. There is a folklore that a child spoke in the rally and the Sheikh, while placing his hand upon the head of the child, declared that one day the child will become a great leader. His words were prophetic indeed!
It is 12 noon now. I have been out since six in the morning. The sun is getting harsh. The old man kisses my forehead and departs. I return to my ancestral home in Sogam. This conversation struck a chord and strengthened my bond with this land and its people. It brought a strange feeling of oneness. For now, I see the huge burden of responsibilities mounting on my shoulders to turn the dreams of my great grandfather into reality. This is a responsibility which can be easily achieved if people unite and contribute their opinions and efforts to make Lolab a better place to live in.
I assure you, my people of Lolab, that I will contribute every bit from my end to make it happen.
I am ending by what Sir Allama Iqbal once said:
‘Paani teray chashmuun ka tadapta hua seemaab, aye vaadiye Lolab‘.
The author is grandson of Ghulam Nabi Wani Sogami.