Kashmir’s funny YouTubers are back

Kashmir’s funny and comedic YouTubers, who went jobless and lost lakhs of their followers after the August 5, 2019 decision to snap high-speed Internet in the valley, are finally back with their jest and jokes.

It has been a week since the J&K administration restored 4G mobile Internet for the first time in 18 months and the buzz is back on Valley-based YouTube channels like the popular ‘Kashmiri Kalkharabs’ (Kashmiri quirks) with 7.2 lakh subscribers.

In fact, the first funny video in many months was titled ‘4G Aaa Waapas’, where a son is convincing his father to propitiate God by offering elaborate feasts to friends and relatives on the restoration of the 4G Internet.

“The snapping of 4G Internet dashed our dreams, and the investments we had made on cameras and laptops in 2019. We were left home-bound. I developed depression for three months. It was tedious to upload a 2 GB on a 2G Internet connection when it was restored last year. Uploading videos would take days,” Yawar Ahmad, 20, whose five-member team started the ‘Kashmiri Kalkharabs’ channel in 2017, told The Hindu.

Mr. Ahmad, a student from Sumbal’s Maloora area, saw the number of subscribers to the channel falling with each passing day, and with it his dream to become an actor.

“In just eight months, we lost over 1 lakh subscribers and the once growing number of views came to naught. My cousin, who is married with kids, was dependent on the channel to feed his family. We failed to switch to any other profession. We were living in utter frustration,” Mr. Ahmad, who organised several street protests against the Internet ban last year, said.

Mr. Ahmad and his five YouTube channel partners, who come from humble backgrounds, were earning between ₹10,000 to ₹15,000 each prior to the Internet ban.

“We used to upload five to six videos per month before August 5, but that came down to zero. It was like living in a bad dream. We pray it does not happen again. We have our fingers crossed though,” said Mr. Ahmad, whose ‘4G Aaa Waapas’ video has already attracted 1.71 lakh views.

There are over 100 YouTubers in Kashmir, mainly from modest backgrounds, who earn a living by uploading comedic content.

Mr. Ahmad said the idea to start a YouTube channel in 2018 was to spread laughter in Kashmir. “It’s easy to make Kashmiris cry but very difficult to make them laugh. It was an effort to keep people, who see tense moments on a weekly basis, happy through jest, and a social message. We derive motivation from the fact that even cancer patients would call and praise our funny videos,” said Mr. Ahmad.

Mudasir Farooq, a video editor by profession, runs another YouTube channel ‘Koshur Kalakar’ from Baramulla’s volatile Sopore.

“Our videos attracted 60,000 subscribers in just two months in 2018. There was a huge potential to tap. We planned to get 5 lakh subscribers by 2021. But we lost 40% of our subscribers, and the revenue too, due to the ban,” Mr. Farooq said.

Mr. Farooq decided to fly out of Kashmir to keep the channel going. “When I uploaded one funny video in August, 2019 it attracted less than 1,000 views despite the channel having 1.84 lakh subscribers. It was very disturbing and discouraging,” he said.

Mr. Farooq and four other locals from Sopore were able to make their channel profitable in just one year’s time. “The email log-ins of most subscribers are down because most people have forgotten the passwords and have had their accounts inactive in the past 550 days of Internet blackout. It’s obvious from the slide in viewers and subscribers,” Mr. Farooq said.

He is hopeful that with the Internet speed improving, the coming months may have Youtube channels back in demand. “We are four persons associated with our infotainment channel. The idea is put across social messages while using gags as a medium,” Mr. Farooq said.

Most of the funny YouTube channels in Kashmir pick from quirky social trends, unusual statements by politicians, and local developments, to make videos, which go viral within minutes. (The Hindu)

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