The next day was better. Terry, bassist of the Pakistani band Junoon, was on the stage and he had a familiar sight before him: thousands of youngsters screaming and cheering, singing along and swaying to popular Urdu numbers. What was unusual was the setting.
In the heart of a ‘war zone’, the rat-tat-tat of the AK-47 was replaced by the thump of percussions on Sunday evening as something unimaginable until now played out: a Pakistani band playing in Kashmir by the Dal Lake in the presence of a frenzied audience. In the crowd there were also people from outside Kashmir who have experienced conflict — and worse: former Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga and Afghan Minister H.B. Ghazanfar.
There were schoolgirls in headscarves; young women in jeans and designer glasses. There were students in school uniforms. Behind them, the Dal Lake looked dreamy in a film of mist, flanked by the lofty Zabarwan range. It was as picture postcard as it could get in the Kashmir Valley.
One young man laughed and said, “Why didn’t these guys come 20 years ago? We wouldn’t have had had to take up guns!”