Sanjay Kaw | Managing Director | Xenious Hotels | Part Two

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Sanjay Kaw, Managing Director of Xenious Hotels, has a deep emotional connection with the Valley of Kashmir, where he grew up. He is nostalgic about the time he spent there and is attached to his Kashmiri culture. In a conversation with Rajesh Prothi, he shares his love for the valley and the memories that stir up his emotions. Despite his professional success, he remains connected to his roots and the place that shaped him into the person he is today.

Could you share some of your childhood memories growing up in a more secular environment in Kashmir?

I have spent my childhood in a Kashmir where there was love and peace amongst people of different cast and religion. From schooling in a Christian school (Tyndale Biscoe School), to playing cricket with friends who were of varying religions, Kashmir embraced people from all caste and religion.

As children we used to gather over the frozen Dal lake and Idgah to play cricket while the temperatures were below freezing point. With everyone wearing the traditional Pherans, the hands and arms of only the batsman and bowler were seen. The rest of the players used to tuck their hands inside their pherans.

Being an avid swimmer, we used to swim across the Dal lake every summer while our loved ones used to be sitting in the Shikara close to where we were making sure they provide us with food or water in-case we require it.

How do you actively preserve and promote your Kashmiri culture in your daily life?

The Kashmiri culture is fast diminishing due to rarity of finding a Kashmiri pandit in your neighbourhood. One of the most important aspects of preserving our cultural heritage is to make sure our children inherit the same. From rituals to food to language, our children need to feel pride if not being immersed in the culture itself.

We still carry out traditions similar to what we used to practice back in Kashmir.But to really make these traditions carry forward, the children need to adapt the same or at least infuse it with their modern cultural traditions.

Which region of Kashmir do you originate from, and what are some of your cherished memories associated with it?

My family belongs to Safakadal in Srinagar, Kashmir. At the time, Kashmiri families used to comprise of everything and everyone around the 30 metre radius of your house besides your relatives no matter how distant they might be in your bloodline.

From living and sleeping with ten cousins in the same room with just a kangdi to warm you to playing cricket with friends and family. The calm before the storm before every India vs. Pakistan match when families from the entire locality used to gather at one house to cheer for the country.

Could you share an anecdote from your time spent in the state of Jammu & Kashmir?

War of passions during India and Pakistan Matches. Also the only one day

International Cricket Match between India and West Indies which was big fiasco

 

What are your thoughts on the true culture of Kashmir, where diverse communities coexisted before the ‘90s?

The true culture of Kashmir was that of peace and prosperity where people of all religions coexisted and came to aid each other in times of need. There is a very minute difference in traditions of Kashmiris from different religions perhaps because the geographic culture took priority over the religious culture in a valley which is cut-off from most of India.

The true culture of Kashmir is in how communities used to coexist and supported each other in times of need. It is still reflected in when a Kashmiri muslim wears a pheran and heats his hands with the kangdi nestled inside it while eating a kulcha alongside kahwa alongside a room full of other Kashmiris be it pandits, Sikhs or muslims.

How has your upbringing as a Kashmiri influenced your career in hospitality?

Culture is a vital part of hospitality and we aim to replicate the brand values in our hotels & resorts. The Kashmiri culture welcomes guests and treats them at a higher pedestal through cultural peculiarities which are unique.

I have personally striven to make sure that this is reflected in the kind of work I do for my clients.

What message would you like to convey to the Kashmiri youth?

We are a unique and rare set of people and we inherit cultural traditions which are significantly different from the rest of India. We not only need to preserve this culture and the traditions that come along with it but also make the rest of the country familiar with the traditions.