Song from the Valley

Anjali Jhangiani
Friday, 21 June 2019

Boston-based writer-lyricist Sunayana Kachroo reminisces about her native place Kashmir in her track Yumbarzaloo

In a conversation with her worried mother, a young girl is shown to arrive in Kashmir. The video follows this lone traveller through the picturesque state. It’s not breathtaking views, but also the warm and kind people that make her journey so special. Giving viewers a peek into Kashmiri culture — the way local families eat, shop and spend time together — the video features veteran Hindi British actress and film director Soni Razdan in the role of the mother and British Indian television and film actress Anisa Butt as the daughter on an adventure. 

“The story is about a girl named Sonia, a travel enthusiast who arrives in Kashmir without telling her family about this trip. She meets a tour guide who introduces her to the beautiful sights and sounds of Kashmir. Sonia is awed by its beauty and people. She visits the Babareshi shrine looking for the answer to why her father used to call her ‘Kashmir Ki Kali’,” says Kachroo, who belongs to the Valley. “The bigger philosophy of this song is also about being able to find your personal story. Our life is full of these smaller puzzles that slowly fit into place for our story to make sense, some of these mysteries of our life are waiting to be unraveled. Sonia finds a part of her story in Kashmir. Who knows, tomorrow my son, who is raised in the US, may find his connection with Sadashiv Peth, Pune because we talk so much about it in our house,” she says. 

Sharing more information about the title, Kachroo points out that Yumbarzal is the Kashmiri term for the Narcissus or the Nargis Flower. “The flower holds a lot of relevance in Kashmir as it’s the first one that blooms after winter, signalling the onset of spring. I just used this term yumbarzaloo as a call-out to all those who belong to the Valley, who have connections to this place, or those who have a stake here, like a spring flower returning to its land after a hard and long winter,” she says. 

The lyricist was born and raised in a small quaint town tucked away in the outskirts of Srinagar city, but she came to Pune to pursue her graduation and post graduation degree. “If Kashmir is maa, then Pune is mausi for me. I started writing at an early age, my poems were published in the newspapers in Jammu, however after I moved to Pune for education, I kind of stopped writing. I moved to the USA in 2000 for work and have been living here ever since,” says she, adding, “I started writing again in 2010 and published my collection of poems Waqt Se Pare- Beyond Time in 2013. Two of my poems were sung by Jasraj Joshi and Hrishikesh Ranade.” She has also written a song that was sung by Sonu Nigam for the film Half Widow, and penned the dialogues and lyrics for a movie titled Illegal starring Suraj Sharma of the Life of Pie fame. 

“I visited Kashmir in 2014 with my parents, my brother and my son. I had extreme anxiety as we were visiting home after more than two decades. However, the story took a different turn as we got caught in the floods. In some ways, I can relate to Sonia’s story. When we went to the Temple of Kheer Bhawani Tulmul, all my childhood memories came flashing. This pursuit to go back to my roots has helped me find myself and that feeling was very liberating and healing at the same time,” says she. 

The song resonates well with youngsters from the Valley. “Many Kashmiris who live outside of the valley have this constant longing to go back home, and this song has a nostalgic effect. The line Hai yakeen ye zameen se waasta mera alludes to the connection of umbilical cord that one has with their birthplace,” says she, adding, “I was tasked with writing an original song including a new Kashmiri chorus which is not a recreation of an old song. Throughout the narrative, I have reiterated what every Kashmiri believes in – mehmaan-nawazi.”

She shares that she received a message from a Kashmiri Pandit who hadn’t visited his home in 27 years and never felt the need to, saying that this video made him rethink.

In the minds of people living in different states, anything related to Kashmir is painted in political colours. But Kachroo believes that we live in a world full of perceptions fuelled by misinformation. “Since I live in the US , I see how people have these preset notions about everything. For many people here, Mumbai is only what Slumdog Millionaire showed them. Similarly, there is more to Kashmir than its politics, and we hoped to bring that to people’s notice. As educated people, we should never lose our sense of objectivity. Eventually what matters is the intention. Whether it is a politician, an artist, a musician, a writer, a scientist or a busy homemaker, when they are talking about a certain issue, is it just to create a divide or are they expressing concern or is this their own experience? We should always be open to listen,” she points out. 

With all its problems, Kashmir is trying to catch up with the present times and this song reflects that. “The young vibrant artists shown in the video, the guitar strumming youth, painters, writers, book stores also brings this young vibe of Kashmir. Whether it is tragic or not, Kashmir is home for me. My personal concern is the loss of culture and language. Those places where my grandparents lived, my father lived or that ground where I ran around as a child don’t exist anymore. I don’t hear many Kashmiri words anymore. It is a tragedy that I can quote more of Rumi than Lal Ded (mystic poetess of Kashmir),” she says. 

The writer believes that the cast and crew of the video also did a fantastic job. “The director had a vision to stay away from the clichés of what is shown in the videos focused on Kashmir usually. How many videos do you see of women traveling alone? I wanted to end the song on a spiritual note as a tribute to the great sants, fakeers who have walked the mystical land of Kashmir. There is no melodrama, just subtle emotions that tell you a lot. The composer and his whole team created a beautiful melody to bring out this vision,” she ends.

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