“Our Moon has blood clots”- Exodus of Kashmiri Pandits written by Rahul Pandita
Shades of KASHMIR’S Red
— By Rashmi Talwar Rising Kashmir RK
Color red surely must have emerged from Kashmir–no one has ever returned from there without being fascinated by its red apples, reddest of cherries, tulips, red flower bells or strawberries on a reddish ride. When its dusk spreads that rare crimson, soothsayers in Kashmir are known to predict of bloodshed somewhere. Is it then a natural corollary that Kashmir’s waters be ruddied with blood through generations, just as the red appled cheeks of its light skinned people?
If that be the case, how could Kashmir’s legendry tales of a robust composite culture, deny the blemish and clots of red blood, on the fair face of its moon, and call it a flaw-less beauty. The stains come in the form of its belief and make-belief, its truth and half-truths, its faith and its faithless, which comes across boldly through Rahul Pandita’s book ‘Our Moon has Blood Clots–The Exodus of Kashmiri Pandits’.
The book reminds me of a famous couplet of Allama Iqbal:
‘Jis Khaak Ke Zameer Main Ho Aatish-E-Chinar,
Mumkin Nahin Ke Sard Ho Wo Khaak-E-Arjumand’
(The Earth that enshrines in its bosom, the autumn red fire of a Chinar tree,
It is impossible for that celestial Earth to cool down).
Iqbal too has recognized the red in Kashmir. Perhaps the Almighty in painting the beautiful picture of this Glorious vale, sought the brightest contrast of red and white, like the frothy white streams, waterfalls of its rivers and the snow blankets that make it so picturesque.
If Basharat Peer’s ‘Curfewed Night’ could blaze and awaken the collective consciousness of all with its painful episodes, Rahul’s book sears and tears through the shroud that had till now ‘burqaad’ the plight of the Kashmiri Pandits and becomes a must read to get to the bottom of the Kashmir’s maze of problems and puzzles.
‘Our Moon….’ races through two decades of mayhem and also touches the landmark of Indo-Pak partition of 1947-the partition that tore apart Kashmir and Punjab, yanking and wrecking families, dividing hearts and territories, then ripping apart the fabric of composite culture and bracketing them into Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Sikhs.
Bringing to the fore the history of the evolution of this land of Rishis, Rahul has unfolded the bands of blood, in episode after episode, relating to the helplessness of Pandits who faced the recent fiery militancy in Kashmir, as also the blazing tribal attacks of 1947 engineered by Pakistan to grab Kashmir. How Pandit families had fled then, during partition from marauders who spared none, not Sikhs and not even Muslims, and in recent militancy when even friends turned foes, is heart wrenchingly narrated in the book.
But militancy of 1989 was different, it targeted a soft community and Rahul’s extensive research has bared the lies, opened the cans of truth, the same way as majority community’s story was told by Basharat in his book.
Rahul’s book could have easily got colored by lenses of ‘my side, my coin’, but many episodes mentioned in the book have already appeared in newspapers. Some merely as four liner news reports and relegated to the corners in what appeared to be a covert immunity to the plight of a minority community when roaring guns and raging gun-battles had caught the headlines.
In the entire narration there is only one instance in the entire book when I laughed unabashedly and that is Kashmiri-Hindi ‘gobar-guss’ goof-up . But then the writer too has called it laughable, despite the creepy circumstances. The writer’s brother Ravi’s killing and their ‘tippi-tippi-tap’-bosom pal brothers remind me of another set of Kashmiri brothers, when one day the elder one suddenly died in a freak accident, I know how excruciating is it to see the shouting pain in the flooded eyes over that irreparable loss, as if the forlorn eyes were speaking thus:
Badley mein koi bhi imtihaan ley le
Kahe toh meri Jaan ley le
Bas ek dafa mujhe bataa de,
Kahan tu hai, kahan hai tu.
(In exchange put me through any test.
Or even take my life
But tell me just once
Where you are, where are you?)
The author, a 37-year-old Associate Editor with Open Magazine, says –“I wanted to write this book since I entered college”. The book’s beauty is also in the inclusion of several rituals and traditions followed by Shaivites, which many of us had heard in passing as per our acquaintances, friends and relations. Specks of poetry by Agha Shahid Ali and the famous poetess Lal Ded have aptly enveloped and developed the striking situations.
Some of the most chilling and moving lines and incidents in this book are about an old Kashmiri who lies dead clutching a pack of chilled milk against his cheek- his last ice pack, to ward away the heat of the plains, unbearable for Kashmiris, who have never seen a fan in any room of their homes; the author as a 14-year old, holding a half tomato in the relief camp food distribution and recalling the times when unripe tomatoes of their vegetable garden became balls to play cricket with; the obsession with the tale of 22 room house by Rahul’s mother who is unable to come to terms with the exile.
Rahul lays bare the stark truth about vicious ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits from their hearth and homes wherein not only militants from across the border but also some from the majority community in Kashmir played a cruel role out of personal grudge or by getting swayed by the hate-wave of the time. But the author has been careful in his writings not to add his own feelings to the inquiry and injury. His book is informative and thankfully devoid of chest-beating narratives.
Having met the new generation of Kashmiri Muslims, born after the exodus of Pandits, I have noticed that they have very little idea about their co-existence with Pandits or living with other communities, except in some pockets where Sikhs in a good number reside in and around the surrounding villages. This is not the only reason to have enlarged the gap between the two communities, Muslims and Pandits, but the fact that even Kashmiri Muslims hardly talk about how the Pandit exodus took place in its right perspective to their younger generation.
“In every home, someone has died; maybe he was a militant or died in an encounter, bomb blast, picked up by security forces, gone, disappeared,” says Rahul -“I remember all the names of people killed, where they were killed – it keeps playing in my head. I sleep with it at night. It’s a part of who I am now. Like the old newspaper which carries the headline of my brother Ravi’s murder.”
This book comes as a strong equalizer to the alternate tales woven around vicious militancy nurtured from across the border and atrocities attributed to security operations, the guile of some in the majority community had been carefully hidden and the real stories of exodus of Kashmiri Pandits had remained shrouded in mysteries and ever changing testimonies that bore little resemblance to reality.
Standing in the snow in Srinagar, lost in thought about those who must have played with snowballs and created snowmen, plucked the icicles hanging from their roofs through the windows, thrown them into a glass and poured sherbet on it or maybe just jutted out their tongue to lick the icicles as they remained suspended, I am about to fall. I grab to hold a nearby Deodar tree to hug it and help me break my fall in Kashmir’s snow. Rahul Pandita’s book is like an icicle that instead of giving you pleasure, pierces through your heart and leaves you bleeding forever and there are no Deodars in the story to hold on to for support.
FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR BY RK : http://www.risingkashmir.in/news/shades-of-kashmiracutes-red-43822.aspx