Table of Contents
   Index
   About the Author
   Preface
   Foreword
   Part I: Growing Up
   Part II: Householder
   Part III: More Travels
   Part IV: Reflections
   Family Pictures
   Comments from Critics
   Download Book

Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri

Panun Kashmir

Milchar

Symbol of Unity

 
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Part II - Householder

Peacock feathers, canopy, chariot,
throne, theatre, or a soft bed---
Which of these will endure?
--- Lalla

Section 19

It was now August 1943. We were receiving many proposals for my marriage. Ultimately, the elders decided on Chuni, the fourteen year daughter of Pandit Dama Kaul (Karihaloo) of Fatehkadal in Srinagar. Chuni was the youngest girl in a family of three brothers and three sisters. Mr Karihaloo had made a fortune as a businessman, but he had, more recently, fallen on hard times. The wedding was fixed for the last week of October. Babuji arrived from Kapurthala. It was a gala show. For the wedding feast I purchased six live sheep from Baramulla, and brought them to Srinagar, where they remained tied in the compound until the big day. Chuni and I saw each other for the first time at the wedding ceremony, but before that I had been assured that she was very pretty.

Kashmiris then followed the custom of giving the bride a new name. We chose Sarojini and the formal Satyavati. The third day after the wedding, I left to join duty. Bayaji, Didda, Gauri, and Sarojini stayed back for a fortnight to call on and receive relatives. During our absence the houseboat was burglarized, but we lived so austerely that there was not much to be stolen.

I used to give all the extra earnings from my private cases to Didda. And, until my marriage, Bayaji insisted that I should not pay anything towards the running of the house, and as I had no addictions my savings accumulated. This is what was used for the wedding. After the marriage, I paid half of my salary towards the running of the house. Life continued happily. One day Sarojini was called to Srinagar by her parents. She wanted to take Moti with her. Thinking that she may not be able to look after him properly there, I did not let her. While she was away, I went on tour. In the evening, someone passed the home whistling and Moti, presuming that it was me, came out running. There the local pariah dog seized him and badly mauled him before anybody could reach for help. His kidneys were damaged and death came that night. Next day when I returned, everyone was in mourning. Moti was extremely well trained and good looking and all of us had loved him greatly. Thus ended a long association.

 

Section 20

After three months of marriage Sarojini conceived. In the spring of 1944 we went on a month long leave to Kapurthala and Punjab. We took a bus to Rawalpindi. Our path went through the magnificent scenery beyond Baramulla where the Vitasta river passes through rock passages and other narrow gorges.

Sarojini's sister Aruna then lived in Muzaffarabad, a town 116 miles downstream from Srinagar, where the Vitasta river receives Kishanganga from the north and then sharply turns to the south. Aruna's husband Zinda Lal Kaul was the court inspector. We lunched with them and pressed on to Rawalpindi, where we took a train to Jalandhar, from where we went by tonga to Kapurthala.

For young Sarojini the sights of Punjab represented a new world. Hem and Asha became very fond of her, and for Babuji she was like a daughter-in-law. Later we went to Lahore, where I showed Sarojini my college and the hostel. Sarojini's brother Kashi Nath Karihaloo and a cousin were then in Lahore, undergoing some training in banking. We saw them and my other friends from my student days. We returned to Srinagar via Jammu.

 

Section 21

During my absence, I had been transferred to the seasonal dispensary at Pahalgam, the tourist town in South Kashmir. I left Sarojini behind at Baramulla. The dispensary at Pahalgam was housed in a new building. The annexe to this building, which consisted of two rooms and a kitchen, was the doctor's residence. I wrote to Bayaji to send Didda to Pahalgam, hoping that both Didda and Sarojini would come. Bayaji sent only Sarojini.

Pahalgam is situated on the foamy Liddar river and it is two thousand feet higher than Srinagar. Above Pahalgam, the Liddar valley bifurcates, one branch leading to Aru and beyond a pass to the Sindh valley, and the other leading to Sheshnag and the famous cave of Amarnath. In the month of Shravana, pilgrims from all over India congregate in Pahalgam for their pilgrimage to the cave.

There was no piped water at the dispensary, and the chowkidar would get us a couple of buckets from the public tap for cooking and drinking. Early in the morning we went to the stream to wash. Evenings were spent promenading the bazaar or the river banks. We planned a badminton court in the compound but somehow never got to make it.

Shambhu Nath Razdan and his brother Dwarka Nath Bhat served as my compounder and peon respectively. Their last names were different because Dwarka Nath was given in adoption to a maternal uncle. Dwarka Nath was a saintly person and through him we got to know a Mahatma, Swami Anand Ji, who used to room, free of charge, in a hotel owned by Dinanath Wazir, the younger brother of our Director. Often we would go to see him in the evenings.

One day we were invited by Capt. Prem Nath Kak for dinner and there met some lawyer friends of his from Bombay. Sarojini went bedecked in her jewelry. The next morning she realized that she was missing a gold chain. We looked for it everywhere. Finally, we went to Mahatmaji and told him about the loss. He smiled and asked us to come next day promising he would tell us what had happened to it.

Next evening, he told us that Sarojini never had that chain with her in Pahalgam and that the chain was with Didda. He further said that we will get the chain back after a year and that is precisely what happened later.

Sarojini was always careless about her jewelry. At Baramulla, a few months after our marriage, she once went to the river to wash. There her ring, which weighed more than twelve grammes, slipped out of her finger into the water. The river bank was quite steep and she did not try to retrieve it. When she returned she was smiling and nonchalantly she told us of the loss asking us to forget about the ring. I was quite upset. I took a wickerware basket and started sifting through the river mud. Very soon I found the ring. In years that followed Sarojini lost quite a bit of her jewelry to thieves.

 

Section 22

The Director was planning a tour of the dispensary. On the day of the visit, I sent Sarojini to Dinanath Wazir's house. The Director was displeased that I had not arranged any flower pots around the building, and he did not like my explanation that I had no funds. He wanted to know why the case register showed only eight to ten cases a day, whereas the previous year the doctor, who spent most of his time supervising the construction of the building, used to show about sixty. I argued that the previous doctor's entries could only be fictitious, whereas mine could be checked with the owners in the bazaar. Next he found fault with a particular entry in the register made by my compounder and he angrily suggested that the description of treatment without details could imply embezzlement of drugs. When he would not listen to my explanation, I left the room.

Now Shambhu Nath, my compounder, started pleading with me in the porch that by leaving the room I had insulted the Director and I should apologize to him. Heatedly, I answered that I would not do so since it was the Director who had not listened to my explanation. The Director overheard me, but he said nothing and left for his hotel. Fortunately, the next day he saw me working full speed amongst sick cattle at the nearby village of Ganeshpuri. This must have mollified him because later he complained to my father-in-law that I was quite hardworking but did not know how to behave with my superiors.

Pahalgam has many interesting sites nearby. Across the Liddar is a fine campground on a plateau in a wood of blue pines. Nearby, where the Liddar valley divides into two branches, is the village of Mamal with its spring and a small temple.

South of Pahalgam, down the Liddar, is the village of Hutamar. The mosque here, built on a temple, has in its walls sculptured fragments of great beauty. One mile further down Hutamar, is the town of Bumzu. According to the scholar M.A. Stein, the Ziarat of Bamdin Sahib here is nothing but a well-preserved temple, converted with a liberal use of plaster, into the supposed resting-place of a Muslim saint. He identified the the shrine with the Bhimakeshava temple which Bhima Shahi, king of Kabul, the maternal grandfather of Queen Didda, is said to have erected in the lifetime of her husband Kshemagupta (950-958).

 

Section 23

Sarojini returned to Srinagar by the middle of September. I occasionally went down there to see her. I was spending a lot of time with Mahatmaji. One day I expressed some anxiety about Sarojini. He asked me to prepare roth at Ganeshbal, a place three miles below Pahalgam, and he said he would then give his blessings. Shambhu Nath, Dwarka Nath, and Mahatma Ji accompanied me to the place. After a bath I put sindur on the rock and prepared the roth. Mahatmaji now blessed the roth and did puja. Then he said that I will have a son who would become a scholar. I took the roth to Srinagar and gave it to Sarojini to eat.

In October, Sarojini was taken to the Diamond Jubilee Zenana Hospital at Nawakadal. By the time I reached the hospital, Avinash was born after a forceps delivery. He had a scratch on the side of the forehead caused by forceps. He weighed ten pounds. I remember that on hearing the sound of the opening of the door, he turned his head. Sarojini and Avinash were at the hospital for a week. Devmali, Sarojini's mother, and Chandrani were the ones who took real care of them. After this she was at her parents home for a fortnight and then returned to our Sathu home.

 

Section 24

Now I received transfer orders for Jammu. We rented a second storey flat and Sarojini and the baby settled in. The hospital was at the other end of the city by the Tawi bridge and it took me three quarters of an hour to walk downhill to work and one hour to walk back home. I remember an amusing story about our landlady who lived on the ground floor. Many times we got gifts of waterfowl (duck) from Srinagar. When we cooked this delicacy the landlady's children would come up and ask to share the meal. But when the landlady cooked a special meal, she would shut all doors and windows so that we would not know of it. This galled us but Sarojini could not tell a lie when asked what was cooking. One day, when we received another waterfowl, I asked Sarojini to tell the landlady that it was mandook, a word which means frog in Dogri and Sanskrit that Sarojini did not know. When told this, the landlady expressed disgust as frogs are not eaten in India. After this they showed no eagerness to share our meals.

Another incident relates to the then common false sense of dignity of Kashmiris. It was common to look down upon those who admitted eating chapaties, which are made of wheat flour. This was because Kashmiris traditionally ate only rice, which was more expensive, and to eat chapati was to admit poverty. But we ate chapati in the morning and rice only in the evening. When Sarojini told this to some women who had called on us, they sniggered. Sarojini was still quite innocent of the ways of the world and so she asked me later why this had happened. To expose the truth I took leave from office and we set out for the house of the snootiest of the ladies to reach at exactly nine, the time of the morning meal. There in the kitchen we found the two daughter-in-laws making chapaties for the family. Their hypocrisy was thus exposed.

My confrontation with Wazir at Pahalgam was still rankling him. He asked Allah Bakhsh, my senior colleague at the hospital, to keep close watch on me. But Allah Bakhsh assured him that I was one of the best doctors around, because after this Wazir was never rude to me, and neither did he ever ask me to do any unethical thing.

Once it rained heavily for three days in Jammu, and on the third day the roof started leaking everywhere except for one corner in our bedroom. I took Avinash in my lap under a blanket with a kangri. The heat under the blanket caused Avinash to get a bad rash.

 

Section 25

At the end of winter I was again transferred, this time for six months to the summer health resort of Gulmarg with the dispensary at Tangmarg. Gulmarg is a high flowery hollow at 8500 feet surrounded on all sides by forests of silver fir, plue pine and spruce under a high mountain. One can see a large portion of the valley through these forests and at the far end the stately peak of Nanga Parbat which is 26,260 feet high. Above Gulmarg is Khillanmarg, where one can find slopes covered with snow even in summer. Beyond is the Toshmaidan plateau and pass, which in ancient times provided one route into the valley. Directly below the Gulmarg heights is the town of Tangmarg.

The dispensary was in a shop in the centre of the bazaar; the residential accommodation was at the top and the kitchen was in the basement. Prem Nath was our cook and peon. My job included inspection of meat and milk and so we got the best supplies. Tangmarg was the terminus of vehicular traffic and it's bazaar was crowded with riding and pack ponies.

Babuji and family came to stay with us for a month during August 1945. Didda came for two months. September was the month for the overnight Pushkar pilgrimage about ten miles from Tangmarg in the mountains. We invited Kamala and my aunt Bendidi to join the pilgrimage. I carried Avinash and Nannaji (Kamala's son) in my arms by turn. For poor Bendidi it was the only outing and pilgrimage of her life.

In the evenings, I took Avinash on long pram rides. One day an Englishwoman came to the dispensary looking for me after office hours and she was told that I was out with my son . Next day when she met me she said it appeared that I was only showing my baby around rather than attending to my work. I retorted that I did my professional work only during the posted hours.

Avinash had lovely curls and so I did not want to have his hair cut. But he developed boils on the head which covered large areas of the scalp and matted his hair. Reluctantly we applied scissors and soon all his hair was gone.

One day Sarojini was served some sag (greens) brought by some pony owners and cooked by Prem Nath. She was so furious at the poor quality of the sag that she threw the thali with rice and sag, like a frisbee, out of the window. Prem Nath was very scared, but fortunately the thali did not strike anyone. Sarojini had done this playfully, in mock anger. In reality Sarojini was very kind to servants and the episode of the thali thrown out of the window was a solitary one.

All in all we spent six wonderful months in Tangmarg.

 

Section 26

In October 1945 I was asked to move to Shopian and on tenth November we reached there. I was to establish the new dispensary here. This was done in a shop by the bus stand. The upper flat served as my residence.

Didda and Gauri spent the winter and the next autumn with us. In 1946 Babuji and his family and Jeevan Rishi came. It was then we decided on the name Avinash, having used Kakaji until then. We visited Aharbal falls and other scenic meadows. From a neighbour who cut down a walnut tree we purchased a big sack of walnuts. It did not snow the winter of 1945-1946 and the Banihal pass remained open throughout the year.

I had the charge of a number of breeding centres in the area, the farthest of which was ten miles away. I was expected to inspect each centre at least once a month. I left early in the morning with my lunch in a bag, visiting as many centres as possible on the same day. During this time one Vid Lal introduced himself to us and stayed overnight. He overheard Sarojini talk about the need for fresh supply of rice. The next day, without telling us, he brought several bags of excellent rice. We were impressed by this and we thought that such a responsible man would be invaluable in arranging the marriage of my cousin Prithvi Nath, whose mother Bendidi had asked Sarojini to look for a girl in the Shopian area. We mentioned this to Vid Lal, and he volunteered to help. A couple of days later he informed us that he had arranged a marriage in a very poor but good family. He wanted an advance of one hundred rupees (a considerable sum those days) to make further arrangements. I paid him the money but that was the last we saw of him. On inquiries we discovered that he was a con-man. Thus our marriage making endeavours came to naught.

The winter of 1946-1947 was very severe. Sarojini was again expecting, so it was decided that she should spend the cold months in Srinagar. I was alone in the house. It was so cold that I lay all the mattresses on the charpai on which I slept under two quilts. In the evening I heated up the room with an iron stove. It had snowed and the roads were frozen hard. One such morning, I heard someone walk in the street on clogged shoes. The sound drew my attention and I opened the window. It was a forest guard who told me that he was walking all the way to Srinagar. I decided to join him and so asked him to wait for me. I dressed hastily and went to the home of the chowkidar to hand over the keys of the dispensary. The two of us lunched at Hawal at the home of a Pandit and then walked on to Pulwama. The buses then came only upto Pulwama in bad weather; the extension on to Shopian was only a fair weather one. Darkness was fast descending and there were more passengers than seats. Eventually a driver, who knew me, offered to take me with him but the forester did not get a seat and had to stay back. I reached Srinagar quite late. In our home at Sathu, everyone was happy to see me.

That night it snowed heavily and all the roads in the valley were blocked by snow by the next morning. Since I had come to Srinagar without permission, I got anxious about how to get back. I went to the bus stand. There I found Dr. Madhusudan Jalali, the veterinarian from Pulwama, and Badri Nath Jalali, Naib Tehsildar of Pulwama making inquiries; these gentlemen had also come to the city without permission. The bus company people had no idea when the traffic would restart and we were very anxious to return. So on the third day we decided to return on foot.

 

Section 27

The distance from Srinagar to Pulwama is about twenty miles and we decided to do it in two days. Our plan was to proceed to Kakpore, which is fourteen miles away, on the first day. The next day we hoped to reach Pulwama from where Shopian is only ten miles. After morning meals at our homes, we met at the bus stand. I bought four big telwaroos (bagels) from the baker. We chose the bus stand for our meeting in the hope that some bus might take off. On enquiry we were told that none was expected to leave that day. So we marched off. There was some hazy sunlight.

After we crossed Pampore about eight miles away, we heard the hum of approaching vehicles. There being no governmental arrangements for the clearance of snow, a few enterprising bus drivers had arrived with shovels and labourers to clear the road to Anantnag. The lead bus, when it would slide off the road, was pushed back on the road pavement by the labourers after clearing the snow in patches. The caravan proceeded slowly.

The day was sunny. We got a lift to Letapore. but we made a mistake by not getting off at the spot from where the river bank for crossing to Kakpore is nearest. Instead, we got down at Letapore and walked to the riverbank. The boatmen assured us that the village at the other end was Kakpore. By the time we crossed over it became pitch dark. On reaching this village we found that we had been fooled. On that dark snow-covered winter night we found no one who would tell us the direction. We took one of the beaten tracks which we thought was the right way. In that dark the only light was the fluorescence of the snow. In the first half hour of this trek Dr. Jalali had two falls. Being on the heavy side, he now lost his will to walk. The other two of us kept on either side of Dr. Jalali to steady him. After an hour in the dark, knee-deep snow, and on empty stomachs, we reached a village but it was not Kakpore. The Naib Tehsildar knocked at the door of the first house and with the assistance of the houseowner we found the village chowkidar. The chowkidar got us a kerosene lamp and guided us to the Kakpore patwari khana. Fortunately, the patwari, who was a Pandit, was in. He lighted up a big fire in the fire place. We were so exhausted that the removal of the outer clothes was an ordeal. The patwari gave us hot tea and woollen wraps to warm our frozen bodies. After an hour or so we were served hot meals.

The night was restful. Next morning Dr. Jalali expressed his inability to walk the six miles to Pulwama. We summoned several horse owners but they refused to rent horses due to the hard frozen and slippery roads. They insisted on a guarantee of safe return which none of us could give. So after hot meals we started on foot. The sky was overcast. In Pulwama, I had to choose between staying with the doctor or the Naib Tehsildar. I could have also stayed with my mother's family that was from here, but then leaving early next day would have been rude. The doctor's wife was a consumptive whereas the Naib Tehsildar was alone. This fact, and the Naib Tehsildar's stronger insistence, drew me to his place. But the bed that was made for me had insufficient covers and I froze and kept awake the whole night.

I started in the morning before breakfast for Shopian. The main road looked no better than a footpath because of the heavy snowfall. Three miles down the track forked out and by mistake I took the one which carried me to Aribal, a village which is endemic with goitre. There is a saying about this place that it leads to {\em dag rostaya rag phyala}, or a painless tumour. I met a man emerging from his house who directed me back to the fork. But I decided to cross the fields without realizing that they were terraced and uneven. It was hard walking and I sprained some tendon or muscle in the groin on the right side. I reached Hawal by about two in the afternoon. My host there treated me to tea and meals and looking me over advised me to spend that night there. But I decided to press on. In the beginning the going was easy but after crossing a bridge a climb began, and I felt too exhausted to lift my legs. By now I had a shooting pain in the groin and I had to take a long rest. The last mile was steeper. My breathing became very hard and after every two steps I rested to recoup my breath. When at long last I arrived in Shopian, I found a butcher's shop open. I bought meat and went home. There I lit the stove, made the room hot, and cooked rice and meat, and rubbed iodex on my injury.

All this exertion turned out to have been in vain as the election to the assembly seat, which prompted us to hurry back to Shopian, was not held due to the withdrawal of the opposition candidate.

 

Section 28

The earliest extant Kashmiri history is the Rajatarangini, written by Kalhana around 1150. It appears that the list of kings goes back to the beginning of the second millennium BC. We are on sure ground with the emperor Ashoka who established a new capital. Later, during the reign of the Kushan emperor Kanishka, an important Buddhist council was held here.

One of the greatest of the Kashmiri kings was Lalitaditya, who ruled from 724 to 761. He was a great conqueror and he is believed to have extended his rule to most of north and east India as well as west Tibet. He built a magnificent temple of Martanda at Matan. Another great king was Avantivarman (855-883), during whose reign great building activity continued. These kings were also patrons of the arts and literature.

One of the most fascinating characters of Kashmiri history is Queen Didda who, directly or indirectly, ruled during 950-1003. She was ruthless in her pursuit of power. She began as the powerful queen of a weak king and then she was the queen regent during the nominal reigns of her son and grandsons. The last twenty three years of her reign, she ruled in her own name.

Kashmir passed into Muslim rule in 1339 when a mercenary named Shah Mir, who had come to Kashmir from the south, deposed the widow of the last Hindu king. Fifty years later the iconoclastic king Sikandar ascended the throne. A merciless campaign to destroy temples and convert the Hindu population followed and according to tradition only eleven Hindu families survived this persecution. Sikandar's son Zain-ul-Abidin (1420-1470) was a great ruler, however, and many of those who had fled the valley returned during his reign. The sultans who followed were weak and, under the influence of fanatical Muslim preachers, the persecution of Hindus continued.

In 1589, Akbar's forces incorporated Kashmir into Mughal India. The period that followed saw good administration. During the reigns of Jehangir and Shah Jahan, magnificent gardens in Shalimar, Nishat, Cheshma Shahi, and Achabal were built. Aurangzeb (1658-1707) appointed fourteen governors during his reign. One of these, Iftikhar Khan (1671-75), wished to convert all the remaining Hindus to Islam. The Hindu leaders approached the Sikh Guru Tegh Bahadur. He said they should tell the governor that the Kashmiris will embrace Islam if Tegh Bahadur did. Guru Tegh Bahadur was arrested on orders from Aurangzeb and brought to Delhi. He was given the choice to convert to Islam or death. He chose to be martyred. It was in reaction to this act of Aurangzeb that Sikhs under Govind Singh became militant.

The Afghans seized Kashmir in 1753. What followed was a series of rapacious and cruel governors. The Muslim rule in Kashmir ended in 1819 when the Afghan governor Jabbar Khan was defeated by the Sikh general Dewan Chand. Kashmir became a part of the Punjab State of Ranjit Singh. But the Sikh rule, that lasted twenty seven years, was not much of an improvement on the Afghans. With the defeat of the Sikhs at the hands of the English in 1846, the Jammu and Kashmir State passed under the rule of the Dogras, who themselves belonged to Jammu.

The story of the founding of the Dogra state is a fascinating one. The Dogra kings traced their lineage to Ranjit Deva who ruled in the Jammu region during 1742-1780. Gulab Singh, who belonged to this family, was born in 1792 and he distinguished himself as a sixteen year old soldier defending Jammu against the Sikhs. Maharaja Ranjit Singh now took Gulab Singh in his service. For his services as a soldier and leader, Ranjit Singh rewarded Gulab Singh with the rajaship of Jammu in 1820; his brothers Dhyan Singh and Suchet Singh became rajas of Poonch and Ramnagar. But the brothers remained tributaries to Ranjit Singh and amongst the three Gulab Singh, the eldest, was considered the primary ruler. Dhyan Singh remained in Ranjit Singh's court to protect and advance the interests of their family, advancing to the position of chief minister.

Gulab Singh had maintained neutrality during the wars between the Sikhs and the British. After the Sikhs had lost, the British signed a treaty with Gulab Singh in 1846 ceding Kashmir to him. The Maharajas who followed were Ranbir Singh (1857-1885), Pratap Singh (1885-1925), and Hari Singh (1925-1947).

Sheikh Abdullah became an important political leader in Kashmir in 1932 when he founded a political party called the Muslim Conference. In 1939, an attempt was made to make the party broad based by renaming it the National Conference. But Muslim Conference continued its existence amongst the Muslims of the Jammu province. The National Conference now worked to obtain political reform in the State. Its manifesto was markedly left-wing like the policies of the Congress party.

Politically, events were moving very fast. Ram Chandra Kak was the prime minister of Kashmir in late 1946 when Sheikh Abdullah launched his movement against the Maharaja. Ram Chandra Kak, a distant relative, started his career as an archaeologist. His administrative abilities eventually led to his appointment as the chief secretary of the Maharaja, a position he held for many years. Abdullah and his supporters were arrested. Jawaharlal Nehru, to show his solidarity with Abdullah, entered the State although he had been ordered not to do so. Ram Chandra Kak had him arrested too. Fortunately, the Congress Party prevailed upon Nehru to return to Delhi.

These events made Nehru unremittingly hostile to Ram Chandra Kak and the Maharaja. It appears that Nehru did not understand the political complexities of the Jammu and Kashmir State. His politics in general was determined a great deal by ideas of Russian communism and English socialism. He viewed history in terms of class struggle, so he failed to understand that the ethnic and linguistic diversity of the State required a delicate balance. Sheikh Abdullah was a sectarian leader of the Kashmiri Muslims, who constitute just a third of the population of the State. Nevertheless, Nehru decided to support Abdullah completely. It was the unconditional support of Nehru for Sheikh Abdullah that was responsible for the reluctance of the Maharaja and Ram Chandra Kak to accede to India.

Mahatma Gandhi visited Kashmir now. Soon the pressure from the Abdullah forces and the Congress party in Delhi caused the Maharaja to dismiss Ram Chandra Kak as prime minister on August 10, 1947. Sheikh Abdullah was released from the jail on September 29.

Subhash was born in March 1947 in Sathu at home. I saw Sarojini and him as soon as I was able to return from Shopian, which was two days later. In six weeks Sarojini and the children accompanied me to Shopian. The house by the bus stand was not large enough for the family, so we rented a house in Batapore from one Madho Ram Kichlu. There was plenty of room for Avinash to play and run about.

In summer, Babuji with family arrived from Kapurthala to spend a month with us. We decided to go to Aharbal falls for a picnic. While on the hard granite ledge of the falls I slipped and was saved from a certain death by the arrest of my fall at a crack in the ledge.

I remember the summer as hazy and without cheer. Although the talks for independence were on, there were threats of carnage being made by the Muslim League, which insisted on a partition of India based on religion. It was clear that political freedom would be messy. But in spite of these alarms nobody had an inkling of the holocaust to follow. Perhaps the weather was a foreboding of things to come. The newspapers were full of rumours.

On fifteenth August, India was declared a free sovereign state and holocaust on either side of the Punjab border began. Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistani Punjab, and Muslims in Indian Punjab, were butchered.

Kashmir was linked with the plains via Rawalpindi and Sialkot. Both these cities were now part of Pakistan and so it became easy for Pakistan to pressure Kashmir by stopping the export of essential items such as petrol, salt, sugar, and tea. The Indian Independence Act gave the rulers of the Indian states the freedom to choose either India or Pakistan or to remain independent, if the geography of the area so permitted. The Jammu and Kashmir State borders with the Central Asian nations of the Soviet Union and Tibet on the north and east, on the west it has Pakistan, and on the south it has India. With the lapse of the British overlordship, Kashmir was independent and it could stay independent if Pakistan and India permitted. The Maharaja wished to have time to resolve his predicament. He entered into an agreement with both Pakistan and India for a status quo for the present to enable him to reach a decision.

In spite of this agreement, Pakistan applied its economic blockade on Kashmir. Petrol and salt, two most essential commodities, disappeared. Meanwhile we heard stories about Pakistan sponsored eruptions in Poonch, Kotli, and Mirpur. The State forces were rushed there to quell the uprisings. In late October, Pathan tribals from Pakistan descended on Kashmir massacring Hindus and Sikhs as they advanced. From the border areas, the Kashmiri Hindus started fleeing out of the valley to Jammu. The tribals were guided by Pakistani army officers and mullahs. They could not have easily crossed Domel had not the Muslim soldiers of the State army there gone over to them. Soon they were pillaging northern Kashmir and threatening Srinagar. The Maharaja was compelled by this attack to accede to India. The Indian government flew forces to Srinagar on October 27 and saved it from falling into the hands of the Pakistanis.

As the roads into Kashmir were now blocked and passage through Pakistan was risky, Babuji could not leave for Kapurthala. We went to Srinagar to see him off, but as he was unable to leave we stayed on.

Considering the situation of the stranded tourists and the refugees, the government of India issued orders that the planes bringing in the soldiers could ferry out these people. Actually this decision was taken by Sardar Patel, the deputy prime minister, who was visiting Kashmir, over the objections of the Army who argued that the boarding by the civilians lost them valuable time. Given the possibility of the fragmentation of the family, Babuji suggested that he would take Avinash with him to save at least one of the descendents of my family. Babuji himself had no son and he felt especially drawn to Avinash. We agreed, and on the last day of the arrangements to transport back refugees, Babuji and his family and Avinash were flown to Delhi where they were lodged in a refugee camp for two days. Then they took a passenger train north and they arrived in Kapurthala after a further two days.

As the local administration collapsed, I did not return to duty and joined the militia that was formed to defend the valley. We were provided with three-not-three guns and all the ammunition in my unit was stocked with me. We marched during the day and nightly we kept vigil of sensitive areas.

But I never saw any real action. The only exciting event was when one night I sent a couple of volunteers on the round with a loaded gun. The gun was to be fired in case of danger to alert the rest of the group. After they returned, they relaxed by a bon-fire. Someone was now fiddling with the gun and it fired accidently. The bullet hit the logs and it splintered, and one of these splinters hit a volunteer in the knee. A make-shift stretcher was made out of a charpai and he was carried to the hospital. There the splinter, which was embedded very superficially, was removed and in half an hour this volunteer was out smiling.

Meanwhile some neighbouring pro-Pakistani Muslims appeared at their windows and hurled curses at the Sheikh and the Indian Army. They were screaming at the accession. Next day we reported the incident at the Militia headquarters set up at the Palladium cinema hall, where I worked during the period of my leave. When my leave came to an end, I requested to be drafted into the militia for the duration of the war and to be sent to the border. But this was not approved.

So I went back to Shopian. The atmosphere was full of tension. I was alone and I used to attend the National Conference party office daily. When I was at Srinagar, a large number of bakarwals assembled in the mountains across the river and it was rumoured that they planning to raid the town. Mr Trilok Nath Muttoo was the munsif magistrate. He devised a stratagem. He typed out a letter to the garrison commander telling him to visit Shopian in force as the tribals were lurking across the river. He also typed out a reply on a different typewriter detailing what would be coming and how much they would need by way of mules and accommodation for officers. A peon was sent with these letters to Pulwama. The whole day he lay concealed there and when evening came he returned to Shopian and delivered the reply to the munsif. The munsif immediately sent it to the range officer to reserve the forest rest house for the officers and to the Zaildar (a Pakistani sympathizer) to ask the pony owners to assemble in the Shopian town bazaar. This information frightened the Zaildar, who fled the town and the tribals (bakarwals) dispersed and by morning the threat was gone.

 

Section 29

Since there were no newspapers, nor radio, rumours were aplenty. The town had only one radio receiver that worked on a generator attached to a water mill. I was the only one who knew many languages and could transcribe news in detail. To avoid the tedium of writing out the news reports in Urdu for distribution to villages, I announced that I could only write in Devanagari which could be transcribed into the Urdu script by a number of schoolboys.

There was an acute shortage of salt and it was strictly rationed. Supplies were flown in from Delhi until the road connecting the state with Pathankot was established. My work entitled me to a special quota of salt.

One day, my peon sought my agreement for the staff to announce that all the medicines in the dispensary were used up. He had been asked by my compounder to approach me. I asked them to do as they liked without telling me. In those disturbed conditions no animals were brought to the dispensary. At the same time many tinctures and medicinal salts vanished from the market, and so sale of the dispensary medicines must have been a source of extra money to my staff.

One day while sitting in my dispensary, a neighbour brought me a pair of shoes that fitted me very well and he said that they cost thirty rupees. I told him that I would not pay more than fourteen rupees for the pair, he did not agree and took away the shoes. An hour later he was back and he handed over the shoes to me at my price. I had no money at that time and the compounder paid the man telling me that he would collect it from me when the monthly salary was distributed next. At the next salary distribution the compounder did not ask for the fourteen rupees, nor did I pay him the money. I reasoned that the compounder had made quite a bundle in selling the dispensary supplies and this money would be of no consequence to him. A thief had entered my mind. Then one day I went down to Srinagar in those shoes where on entering the house I saw that Subhash down with an attack of pneumonia and that he had been prescribed medicines worth fourteen rupees. This incident made me superstitious; I left the shoes in Srinagar and never wore them again.

 

Section 30

Meanwhile, in India, the states were reorganized and as a result Himachal Pradesh was born. It needed to set up its veterinary department. A position of a veterinarian was advertised at the same salary and working conditions as in Punjab, where the salaries were twice as much as in Kashmir. I applied directly and I requested the director for a transfer to Kathua in the Jammu province. I talked to my landlord, Madho Ram Kichlu, about the job in Himachal. He checked my horoscope and told me that I would be unable to accept the offer.

Those days Kathua was considered a difficult posting because during the rainy season the connecting road from Jammu would be unpassable and it was highly malarial and full of snakes. The director was pleased at my offer for this transfer.

The war with Pakistan was going on. Poonch was cut off by the Pakistanis. Now an outbreak of rinderpest occurred in Naushehra, which was the base for military operations against Pakistan in that sector. My transfer order came with the condition that, before joining at Kathua, I should tour Naushehra and immunize the livestock there. After leaving Sarojini and Subhash at Jammu with some relatives, I met the deputy director of the Jammu office (then designated inspector), collected the cases of serum and took them to the transport office. Convoys of trucks and buses were escorted by armoured vehicles since a stretch of the road was within the range of enemy gunfire. On that stretch I stood hanging on the safe side of the vehicle. I finished the vaccinations within a week and sought permission from the garrison commander to return to Jammu. This permission was not granted as the civilian officers wanted more non-military officers in the area. When I promised them that I would return with new stock of medicines to set up a dispensary, I was put on an army vehicle bound for Jammu.

At Jammu, I left the crates of empty bottles at a shop near the Inspectorate with a note to the inspector about my return. Next day, I went to Kathua from where I sent my tour diary to the director mentioning that the administration at Naushehra wished for a veterinary doctor.

In Kathua, I converted a portion of the dispensary building into my residence. After about a week I heard from the tehsildar at Basohli about the outbreak of a contagious disease in the hinterland of Billawar. I packed medical supplies and left for Basohli by bus which was the oldest registered in the state with the license plate J&K 1. The bus could not do the curves on the mountain road easily and it took five hours to do the distance of twenty five miles. Next day, I asked the tehsildar to arrange for the transport of the medical supplies and equipment. It took him two days to arrange a pony to carry the load. After I reached the village it took me four days to provide medicinal assistance to all the sick animals and then I returned directly to Kathua by a route which was only twenty miles by foot.

Meanwhile, several towns in the Jammu province had been surrounded by Pakistani troops. The Hindu populations of these towns had been swelled by the refugees from the nearby villages. The outgunned Dogra troops and the citizens sent frantic requests for reinforcements that never arrived. The first to fall was Bhimber, this was followed by Rajauri and Mirpur. Knowing what was to be their fate, many women committed suicide, others were kidnapped with their children. After each of the towns had fallen, the menfolk were put to the sword. Many of the abducted women were sold in the bazaars of Rawalpindi and Peshawar.

The situation was very depressing. I wrote to the Shimla government inquiring about my application. Within a month of this inquiry I received an appointment letter that awarded me six increments in my salary and a posting at Shimla but this appointment required my release by the J&K government. I sought this release but it was declined; I was told that the government could not let technical personnel go at that critical time.

Gopi Nath Qazi's recently wedded daughter and son-in-law came to pay their first visit together to her parents. Qazi asked me to give his son-in-law company. We spent many evenings at the Qazi house. We Kashmiris have an old tradition of drinking kehva at all hours. In Lahore I discovered that caffeine kept me awake but tell that to a Kashmiri host! In the Qazi home I drank a lot of kehva and I was sleepless at nights.

Subhash developed acute and persistent diarrhoea which weakened him so much that he could not even sit. Everyday three doctors, the district medical officer and his wife who the lady doctor, and another junior doctor checked on him trying various medicines with no results. I was worried and felt guilty as everybody had advised me against the transfer. During one kehva induced insomnia, as I was pacing the roof of the house, a voice told me that I should give Subhash simple lime water. I checked with the doctors at the hospital if this would harm him. On their assurance that it would not, I obtained a couple of ounces of lime water and gave one spoonful to Subhash. After this he started getting better and the listless face started brightening up. Later when I consulted my books I realized that he had developed acute acidity due to teething and the treatment was right.

In spring Pandit Dama Kaul, my father-in-law, came from Shimla to visit us and he stayed for a couple of days. Since the buses did not come to Kathua then it was a lot of trouble for him riding ramshackle tongas from the main road to the town.

 

Section 31

Babuji wrote now that during the summer vacation his family would be at Dharmashala with Jeevan Rishi, who was a lecturer there. He also asked me to take back Avinash for he was not happy amongst them and that he missed his mother very much. Those days the Kashmir government had put in place a permit system to monitor the entry and exit of people at the border. I obtained this permit without much trouble.

There was no vehicular traffic between Kathua and Pathankot and the road connecting Kathua to the Jammu-Pathankot highway was a fair weather road. I borrowed a cycle from a friend in Kathua and did the seventeen miles to Pathankot in about two and a half hours. There I went to the Kashmir trade agent's office where a friend of Babuji was the accounts officer. He took me home for lunch and then put me on a bus to Dharmashala. We went over the picturesque route along the Ravi ghat and reached Dharmashala in the evening. This town is on a hill and the houses are on sloping terraces and the streets are very clean. Avinash was overjoyed to see me.

Next day Asha told me that she was suffering from tertiary malaria and the doctor had prescribed half a tablet of a certain medicine. I told her that when she next felt the onset of shivering she should take two tablets, instead of the half tablet, and the fever would be gone. She did the same and she got well. The doctor had been coming every alternate day to collect his visiting fees. Next day when the doctor came again he saw Asha was well. When he learnt the reason behind this quick recovery, he beat a hasty retreat.

On the third day I returned to Pathankot with Avinash. After lunch I rolled a blanket around the cycle bar for Avinash to sit on and pedalled off toward Kathua. On the way I took several breaks to allow Avinash to overcome the fatigue of riding on the cycle bar.

Avinash's arrival brought a lot of cheer. Sarojini was very happy to see her son after an absence of more than two years. I remained very busy as I was on tour practically every other day.

 

Section 32

After some time Sarojini received an invitation from her sister Aruna in Delhi, who was expecting a new baby. We all decided to go. After crossing the Ravi we hired a tonga to Pathankot. There we boarded a very crowded train to Delhi. I asked Sarojini to sit opposite me so that I could keep an eye around her as she was wearing gold jewelry. Next evening, when we arrived in Delhi, Sarojini discovered that her necklace was missing. But later when she was undressing the necklace fell out of her bodice. Evidently the pickpocket on the train had, in spite of my vigilance, managed to snip the chain at the back, but being heavy it slipped into the bodice.

A couple of days later we went to Chandni Chowk for shopping. We were warned about pickpockets here too. One of these followed us very closely as we shopped, and I had to warn him to get off.

In two or three days, I developed a fever in Delhi and I decided to return. From Pathankot I came by tonga to Dinanagar, a town on the bank of Ravi and crossed the river on foot. The cold water of the river brought down my temperature. I had no appetite and at night my temperature rose again. I took anti-malarial medicine but that did not help. I went to the hospital the next day and was told that I had typhoid. I asked a vaid to prepare me a concoction based on barley water. Suraj Khullar, an overseer in the irrigation department, was a good friend. He had heard that I had returned and when he came to visit me he found me in a bad shape. Next day his wife Shanta came to see me and till I recovered she came every day with barley water and other things. My temperature finally came down in the next seven days, but physically I felt very weak.

A week or two later, Maharaja Hari Singh visited Kathua and people from the far corners of the district came for his darshan. Amongst these was a group of carpenters who came from the hills in Jasrota across Ujh river about fifteen miles away. After the darshan they came to me asking to accompany them to control an outbreak of hemorrhagic septicemia in a herd of buffaloes. My legs were not strong enough for this journey. Fortunately, the villagers had brought a pony with them. When I agreed to go with them they purchased some vegetables for me and put me on the pony. We reached the village in the evening and they put me up in a guest house. Next four days we vaccinated the animals in and around the village. With the rest, the ghee, the milk and the care at the village I regained my energy. On the return there was no animal for me to ride so we walked upto Hiranagar in the hope of getting a lift there. But we only saw a stream of army trucks on the road. No civilian vehicles were to be seen and we walked the entire distance to Kathua. Bua Ditta, my peon, was completely exhausted at the end.

My supervisor, A.C. Gupta, came on an inspection tour of twelve days in the rainy season. Those day the custom was for a boss to stay with a family as a guest. But in the absence of Sarojini it was a great inconvenience. I was irritated with his sponging off me for so long. Nature came to my rescue! It rained so hard for the first four days of his trip that Kathua was cut off from the adjacent areas and he did not get the feasts that would have been his on his inspections. On the sixth day, the sun shone and a butcher's shop opened. But Bua Ditta who did the cooking messed up that day. The meat was watery and tasteless and A.C. Gupta thought that this was done deliberately at my behest. After he left I asked Bua Ditta why the meat was so bad. He told me that after he cooked the meat the saucepan spilt over on the stove and he picked up the meat pieces, washed them and cooked them again. After this incident I got a letter weekly from the inspectorate as to why I was living in the dispensary. I did not enter these letters in the correspondence register. These letters continued till the next visit of the director.

The director telephoned me from Hiranagar that he was coming on his annual tour to Kathua and he wanted arrangements to be made for his stay in the rest house. When he arrived, I introduced a couple of the town bigwigs to him and this pleased him. Since I was living in the dispensary, I invited him to have his dinner there. Next day, during the inspection, he was very angry when the compounder was unable to answer some technical questions. And he did not like it when I tried to prompt the compounder. Later on his return from a trip to Basohli, he told me that some people were objecting to my stay in the dispensary. Perhaps he had tried to suggest this by being short with the compounder. In any event, I now rented a house in the centre of the town.

 

Section 33

Sarojini and the children went from Delhi to Shimla, where her family now lived. Sarojini's brother Kashi Nath Kaul, and his wife Chandrani and daughter Nikki, had moved there some time ago when he began working for a bank there. Now his parents and brothers, who were at college and school, also lived with him. My eldest sister-in-law Kamala and her husband Pushkarnath also lived in Shimla.

When I received a letter from Sarojini in Shimla asking me to bring her back, I took one week's leave and left on the Pathankot-Kalka-Shimla train. The picturesque mountain train ride from Kalka to Shimla went through about one hundred tunnels. The train arrived late at about four thirty in the afternoon. I was wearing very worn pants and a sharp edge of the train seat ripped the bottom and I walked from the station to the house on foot with the shirt out to hide the tear. On the way I saw Kamala and Sarojini walk on a lower road on the hill and, since I was in a hurry to change my trousers, I asked them to shout the instructions to reach the house.

The return was uneventful. Towards the close of that summer, Bayaji informed me that Gauri's marriage was fixed and he wanted clothes, material for suits and other paraphernalia to be purchased. I went to Pathankot to do the shopping. Bayaji wanted me to ask Sarojini to contribute some of her personal gold. Sarojini offered her brand new ten tola gold bangles. At devagun, Sarojini put the bangles on Gauri in the presence of all the relatives and they were dumbfounded that she, a young bride herself, could sacrifice so much of her stridhan. Meanwhile, Didda returned the chain with the locket to Sarojini; this was the piece that had been presumed lost but had been lying in Didda's safe custody. Sarojini put this around Gauri's neck.

 

Section 34

Because it was near the highway connecting Punjab and Kashmir, Kathua assumed great importance. Officers and ministers passing thro\-ugh the town stayed with Ghanshyam, the deputy commissioner.

Feeling self-important, Ghanshyam assumed the airs of a feudal lord. He purchased a horse from the Maharaja's stables and he asked me to come to his compound to examine the horse. But when I arrived he tried to order me around and so I asked him to send the animal to the dispensary. Ghanshyam was treating other officers in the district shabbily as well. My friends and I often played badminton in the compound of the subjudge. Whenever we found Ghanshyam wanting to join us, we would pack up and leave.

Afzal Beg, the revenue and animal husbandry minister, paid several visits to Kathua, but I kept away from these functions. The main reason was that I did not wish to invite his attention to me so that he would not think of a subsequent visit to the dispensary and discover that I lived on the premises. Ghanshyam asked me why I had been absent and if I disliked the minister. I gave some excuse.

The director soon wrote about a new visit. I borrowed a nice bed from a friend and got a room ready for him in the dispensary. When he found this arrangement rather than the usual one at the dak bungalow he appeared pleased. He liked my explanation that I had moved from the dispensary on his explicit advice.

He dined at our home. Next day he visited the dispensary and told me that everything was above reproach. In the evening we went out for a walk and he was pleased when he saw most people were greeting me.

A.C. Gupta's telegram arrived one day saying that he would be passing through Kathua that evening. Since the information arrived late, we fixed up the same room in the dispensary for his stay. Fortuitously, Sarojini had cooked meat that evening and she put together a few more things. Gupta liked the food. He asked Bua Ditta privately about my income. Bua Ditta explained that my rent was thirty rupees a month (actually it was only ten rupees) and that I was able to maintain my standard of living on the money order of one hundred rupees I received regularly from relatives in Punjab. (Actually I received no such money.) Bua Ditta explained to him that I had moved to this expensive house as desired by him; A.C. Gupta now expressed remorse. The story is to highlight that the palate rules the mind.

 

Section 35

In October 1949, we went again to Srinagar to participate in the mekhala ceremony of Kamala's sons. I was made the caretaker of the house and so everyone but me had fun.

In April 1950, transfer orders arrived for me to join a travelling unit that would work in Kashmir in summer and in Jammu in winter. There were two such units. My unit operated out of Verinag, which is where the river Vitasta originates from a spring. The emperor Jahangir built a fine stone enclosure around this spring. We were to tour villages and provide medical assistance. I was assigned a Hindu peon, who cooked my food.

Then, in August, I was asked to accompany a VIP group to the Amar Nath yatra. I was provided with a riding pony and three pack ponies for tent and medicines and a cook. Bayaji and Tika Lal (Bayaji's son-in-law and Kamala's husband) accompanied me.

With the start of the yatra I sent my baggage ahead and followed the animals to see if any pony was lagging behind due to any ailment. I did not care to ride the pony myself so I let it be used by any struggling yatri. The first stop was at Chandanwari. Next day, starting early, we crossed a snow bridge and began ascending the steep incline of Pissoo Ghati that took one and a half hours. Next was a relatively flat track, along a stream, to the Sushramnag lake now more popularly known as Sheshnag lake.

Sheshnag is an emerald lake topped by five pinnacles that look like the multiple hoods of the mythical snake on whom Vishnu lies between dissolutions of the universe. Huge chunks of ice float in the lake in which the devotees take a dip.

The plateau on which the camp is placed is called Vavjin, Vayuvarjana in Sanskrit, meaning demonic wind in popular etymology, and it blows very hard there. From Vavjin we went up the Bumsin pass at 13,000 feet and went down on the other side to cross Panchtarni (Panchatarangini), a high valley drained by five streams. This crossing took us to a fine plateau where tents were struck. On the fourth day the yatris went to the Amar Nath cave, bathed in the Amarkantak stream outside the cave and then had darshan. By eleven in the morning we were back at the camp. The next day we returned to Chandanwari. On route my job was to examine the sick animals and register the dead ones for insurance claims.

The sixth day we were back in Pahalgam. Two more days were needed to settle the claims of the pony contractors and tent suppliers. When I returned to Srinagar with my travel bills I was asked to pay a cut to the office staff. As I refused to do so, I never received this money due to me.

The day I arrived in Srinagar, Sarojini was in labour and was admitted to the Rattan Rani hospital where Shakti was born. In October, our camp at Verinag closed for the winter. I was given ten days at Srinagar to join the winter camp in Jammu.

Sri Aurobindo died in 1950. He had foretold a great future for India, a reawakening. But all signs made it clear that the path to such a renaissance would be long and hard. We had hoped that Aurobindo would provide spiritual guidance to a resurgent India. But it was plain to see that Indian politicians had abandoned their oft-repeated ideals and they were behaving like feudal lords.

The passage to political independence had been a journey through rivers of blood. Although partition of India had been done on the insistence of Muslim League, Britain was responsible in not having set up an orderly transition and ensuring the safety of citizens. The Congress party agreed to a division of India without understanding what such a division entailed. Pakistan considered itself as the inheritor to the long lost Mughal empire and the focus of the aspirations of the Muslims of the entire sub-continent. The Congress party was in such a hurry to strike a deal that it sacrificed the interests of the minorities in the region that became Pakistan.

Kashmir soon became a pawn in the larger struggle between the West and the Soviet Union. India was perceived as an ally of the Soviet Union, therefore the West turned a blind eye on the condition of the minorities in the new state of Pakistan. The Congress leaders in India were naive administrators; there was a lot of talk of creating a modern, secular India but the politics of the party encouraged class and religious divides.

Section 36

We arrived in Jammu and, until permanent arrangements could be made, we got a room in the half-built Gandhi House. This was common practice to help the employees who moved to Jammu with the transfer to the winter capital. I reported to the deputy director for my next posting but he kept putting me off. On the fourth day I told him that I had exhausted my rations and that I had no choice but to shift to his house till he issued my posting orders. On hearing this he called the head clerk and issued my posting to Billawar, a very undesirable station. The other party was sent to Katra and Vaishno Devi.

To reach Billawar we had to go through Kathua where we hoped to hire ponies to carry our tent equipment and personal goods and, if possible, ponies to ride. But no saddle ponies were available so Sarojini rode on a pack saddle which was quite painful. Shakti was carried in a backpack by one of my attendants. We had started late and we had to spend the night at a shop front after we had gone just a quarter of the way. Sarojini cooked meals for everyone.

We set out early next morning. On route, while negotiating a boulder strewn riverbed, the girthband of the pack horse carrying Sarojini loosened and started sliding on one side. On a cry from her, the ponyman rushed to help and he broke her fall. She was lucky to escape injury. We reached Billawar in early afternoon. Tents were erected in the Chaugam (open space), meals were cooked, and we went to bed.

Next day the attendants got busy with the cooking out in the open. One was kneading flour when a large monkey alighted on his back and, at the same time, another monkey snatched the whole kneaded flour off the dish. The whole place was swarming with aggressive monkeys. We could not wait and so I went to the local numberdar who arranged a house for me and a room on top of a shop in the bazaar for my three staff. We hired a woman to wash the dishes and fetch water from the spring.

My frequent visits to the surrounding villages attracted the attention of farmers. The department decided that the animals should be vaccinated, free of cost. I sent the vaccination with two of my staff instructing them to report to me every week. When these fellows failed to return for ten days, I sent the third attendant to look for them. The following day the first two guys returned. Later, that evening, the attendant who went to search for them came back complaining that the first two fellows had sought rice and dal from the farmers for the vaccination and they would not share it with him. When I questioned the staff about it, they explained they were not charging the farmers for vaccination and the rice and dal was each family's gift to them. As there was no way to return the rice and dal to the farmers, Sarojini asked that it be brought to my residence where it was divided among all the staff.

Billawar's monkeys were very bold. One evening Avinash insisted that I buy him fresh semnies from the bazaar. The halwai put these in a big leaf cup. After a few steps a monkey leapt into the middle of the street and grabbed the free end of the cup. Avinash and the monkey pulled at the different ends until the monkey bared his teeth and Avinash let go.

The town dogs were scared of the monkeys. As pups, the monkeys would pull hard at their ears or tails and this memory put a fear in them. Iron grilles on the windows prevented the monkeys from attacking the property of the residents and the shopkeepers.

The farmers guarded their grain with the help of mountain dogs who were not afraid of the monkeys. The monkeys recognized these mountain dogs as being different from the local cowardly breed.

I am reminded of an incident that shows how smart these monkeys were. Our dispensary room, which was above a shop, overlooked a courtyard where corn cobs were spread out to dry. These cobs were being watched by a ferocious looking dog on a leash. Somehow a young monkey strayed within the reach of the dog, who grabbed him and pinned him under his leg. A troop of monkeys started screaming and threatening the dog, who positioned himself against the wall with the young monkey still pinned under. For some time it was a stalemate. Then an older monkey climbed the roof of the building and rolled a log about five feet long and half a foot in circumference. The log fell on the back of the unsuspecting dog, who was so frightened and hurt that he let go of the monkey, who was swooped up by its mother and taken to the safety of the roof.

First winter rain:
the monkey also seems to wish
for a little straw cloak.
--- Basho

 

Section 37

Before the advent of the Dogra rule, Billawar was an independent principality. The town had a high wall around it and, in the middle, on raised ground was an ancient temple to Shiva. The rampart was broken in places. The residents of the town believed that within the ramparts scorpion stings and snakebites, even those of cobras, were harmless. The harmlessness within the enclosed town was attributed to the power of the Shiva temple.

As it got hotter, we were certain snakes were crawling all over our house. We thought they were seen even on the ceilings, which were made of branches pressed down with mud. Sleeping in the rooms was now sheer terror. We were advised that we should pour some milky water at the Shiva temple and collect the run-off and sprinkle it around the house. This is what Sarojini did and, miraculously, for the rest of our stay we never saw a snake in our house.

Once we had an unbroken spell of heavy rains. The town was cut off and the markets, lacking new supplies, shut down. The townspeople believed that rain would stop when the water started flowing from under the feet of Shiva's battered statue. I think on this occasion the rain did stop as predicted. No wonder, there was great veneration for the temple.

Behind the temple was a wall of chiselled stone blocks. It was said that at the death of the ruler a loosened block would fall out. Because of this there were instructions that any fall of a stone block should be reported to the deputy commissioner at Kathua. I am told that when Maharaja Hari Singh died in Bombay, a stone did fall, although the information of the death had not yet reached Jammu.

On thirteenth April, the Baisakhi day, a great three day festival took place around the temple. Shops and entertainment stalls were set up for dancing and singing. This year the medical unit was without the doctor and the compounder was not skilled. A patient with a case of blocked urine came to the dispensary. The compounder sent for me. I tried to introduce a catheter but the blockage prevented it, and it led to considerable bleeding. The patient had an enlarged prostate caused perhaps by arsenic tonic, popular amongst the villagers as aphrodisiac. It was late at night and drastic action was called for. I told the patient and his attendants that I would take out the urine that night and in the morning, provided he checked in at the Kathua district hospital the next day as soon as possible. When promised so, I introduced a twenty cc record syringe needle into the bladder from the abdominal side and withdrew urine. The patient was greatly relieved. I repeated this operation in the morning. During the procedures the local quacks and lay practitioners were in attendance. I forgot all about the case. But four or five days later I saw the patient loitering in the town and asked him if he had returned from the Kathua hospital. He told me that the quack opposite the dispensary had dissuaded him from going and was treating him with some local medicines. The quack had apparently used a large record syringe with a fractured glass barrel kept together with strings to take out urine a few times until it started coming out spontaneously.

Sarojini became a celebrity when she assisted a neighbour's wife in the safe delivery of a baby. From the next day simple villagers started bringing their ailing children to her for treatment which caused her a lot of embarrassment.

Our stay at Billawar came to an end on May 1, 1951. The tents and the other paraphernalia was taken to Kathua for storage.

 

Section 38

In Srinagar, Dr Anwar, who was the head of the second travelling unit, accompanied me to pay our respects to the director. On being seated in his office, the director turned to me with a red face and started ranting and raving for having quarrelled and misbehaved in the field. I was piqued because the whole thing was uncalled for and asked for his permission to leave. Next day I learnt that the director actually wished to admonish Anwar but he was such a coward that he could not do it on his face. This was a time when people did not always speak directly!

I was posted to Baramulla and was asked to conduct rinderpest disease vaccination in the Pattan and Tangmarg area. Pattan is a town midway between Srinagar and Baramulla that was founded by King Shankaravarman who ruled during 883-902. It has ruins of old temples.

I kept my camp equipment at Baramulla and toured the area travelling light and fast. I would spend the nights in Pandit villages while my Muslim staff would spend the nights in nearby Muslim villages.

In this area is a cluster of villages inhabited by Shias. They were more prosperous than the Sunni Muslims and they had the reputation of being good hosts. One of my Sunni attendants spent the night in one of these Shia villages. Some celebration was going on in this house and so the attendant was treated to a feast. Now there are some baseless rumours that the Shias torture and kill Sunni Muslims, and this belief was deep rooted in the mind of the attendant. It turned out that this fool believed that the Shias treat their non-Shia guest with great hospitality but during the night they pass stakes into his body. The attendant's fears were magnified by the good dinner so that, at the first opportunity after the meal, he fled the house and hid himself on a tree during the night.

The next morning he came to me with the story of his supposed narrow escape. I was very upset and accompanied him back to the village, where people were already searching for him. The situation became so tense that I reported the matter to the authorities and he was dismissed at the end of the season.

Now I received orders to conduct the vaccination in areas beyond Baramulla and a camp at the dispensary became my base. I directed my staff to work without accepting any money in return. The days I accompanied my staff things would go fine, but the days I remained at the camp the staff would ask for money for early release of the animals to the owners; I was unaware of all this. When the nearest region was covered, I crossed the river and set up another camp eight miles from Baramulla.

One day a messenger arrived from the deputy director asking me to return to Baramulla. As the previous camp had been infested with lice, I decided to go to Srinagar to delouse myself and get a new bedding before doing so.

At Srinagar, I found out that my two vaccinators had been suspended for having charged money for their work. I was asked to conduct an inquiry. I toured these places again and met with the numberdars and the chowkidars, but now all these gentlemen gave me in writing that no money had been paid. I sent my report to the deputy director and awaited the revocation of the suspension of the staff. But nothing happened for several days. One of the suspended staff now took matters into his own hands. He sent telegrams on behalf of the village officials (by forging their signatures), claiming no wrong-doing. The reinstatement letter now arrived.

We restarted our work, but not with the same zest. Then, in October, rains came and there was heavy flooding. The river broke through its embankments at many places. The Wular lake swelled up and its waters reached the Pattan area. I saw big paddy stacks float down the swollen rivers. Mercifully, after four days the deluge stopped and people began salvaging what they could of their crops. What remained of the paddy plants was spread on either side of the highway to dry. The prices of vegetables shot up because the vegetable growing area around the Dal lake was submerged.

In November, our unit was closed in Kashmir for the winter. I went to the director and requested a regular appointment reminding him that the second unit had six-monthly changes of the staff. I told him that if my transfer would not come, I would like to take leave for four months to do a course in poultry management techniques outside the state. He promised to transfer me after I took my unit to Jammu. With my hopes up, I went with my family to Jammu and set up camp at Gandhi Bhawan. Within half an hour of our arrival, the director and his wife were also there; they had also been assigned a room there. For two days, Sarojini cooked for both families. On the third day, the director and his wife moved out when they were allotted regular accommodation. We were the only family left in Gandhi Bhawan.

The director now told me that my transfer would need some more time. I was not prepared to take my family to Billawar again, so I left them at a friend's house with instructions that, if they did not hear from me within a week, they should go to Kapurthala.

 

Section 39

So I was back in Billawar. Sheikh Abdullah was touring the Jammu province. He was scheduled to visit Billawar which had been made into a Naibat, with a Naib Tehsildar in charge. Ram Lal Khajuria was the district vice president of the ruling National Conference party. The Naib Tehsildar and Khajuria approached me for contribution to a fund for the reception of the prime minister of Kashmir. I told them that I could not ask my staff to contribute anything as they were in transit, a hardship appointment, and personally I had no money to spare.

Since the reception expenses were being underwritten by the Tawaza, department of home ministry, I contacted some teachers and encouraged them not to contribute. The National Conference party had no grass roots organization in the area but to make it appear that the high school students were all party volunteers, they were asked to wear red caps at the reception, red being the party colour. I made discreet inquiries and found that the monitor of the student group was not a National Conference worker. I advised him that they should wear their red caps only until just before the arrival of Sheikh Abdullah. The boys did just this and the organizers were embarrassed.

In his public address, Sheikh Abdullah brought up the question of sectarian killings after partition. But his analysis was one-sided and he only berated the Hindus. His speech did not go very well with the audience.

Sheikh Abdullah set in motion policies that were dividing the population of the State. His politics was based on exploiting class and religious conflict. And he had no vision of a modern, secular government; his policies were transparently motivated to help his constituency of Kashmiri Muslims at the expense of the other communities.

In the suburbs Hindu nationalism was very popular and since I could, unlike most Kashmiris, speak excellent Hindi, Punjabi, and Dogri, I was accorded a warm welcome and my schemes for the welfare of the livestock were immediately successful. After two months, I received word of transfer to Basohli.

After checking my accommodation at Basohli, I crossed the river Ravi by boat to reach the Dalhousie-Pathankot road and caught a bus to Pathankot and Kapurthala. After a week there, we started back accompanied by Asha who wanted to come too. At the road stop where we crossed the Ravi river, people were drying mango juice to make aam paapad (mango juice rolls). Our boat had about forty people on it. The river was quite fast and the crossing was full of boulders. The full boat was tugged a way up and then let loose, the ropes being withdrawn on to the boat. The start was quite good and the boatmen were maneuvering it with long poles as it neared the other end. The ropes were now thrown over to the other end to be caught by the pullers on the bank, so that the boat could be pulled in. The first rope caught by the puller snapped and the boat started drifting down very fast. The boatmen now frantically used the poles to arrest the drift and, miraculously, one of the ropes thrown now was caught and the boat was finally hauled in.

We walked the one and a half mile from the river bank to the town in about an hour because it was all uphill. On the way up we passed a temple dedicated to Kali. It had long been dilapidated until a mahatma, recently arrived, declared that the temple had a Shri Chakra and the decline of the town was to be attributed to the decline of the temple. He repaired the temple and soon it became popular with the townspeople. He started teaching Hindi to students and to prepare them otherwise to pass examinations for admission to the Punjab university. A little ahead was a big gushing spring, which was the source of the drinking water for the town. The town had an old masonry water tank, but this water was used for washing only. Asha got tired of the place in a week and I had to take her back.

Basohli was also an independent state before the Dogra Raj. The ruined palace still showed beautiful frescoes of renowned art that had escaped the ravages of weather. A massive tank of stone masonry used to be the source of water for the town. In its heyday the town was quite big and prosperous and a centre for Pashmina weaving as was evident from scores of weavers' shops. These shops now lay abandoned because the weavers, who were Muslims, had migrated to Pakistan.

I heard the following story about how the migration was precipitated. It appears that some radical Muslims prepared to strike on Dussehra day when the Hindu population of the town and the surrounding areas congregated in the Chaugam for celebrations. Bombs had been made. The peon of the tehsildar was the ringleader. Providentially one day before Dussehra the tehsildar needed him in the office. But the peon was not to be found anywhere. The tehsildar sent another peon to his house to call him. The wife told him that he was on the roof. On the roof he saw many balls being dried which the peon tried quickly to hide. With the discovery of the bombs, the Muslims thought it prudent to emigrate.

 

Section 40

As Baisakhi came, we started seeing snakes in the town. Our house had three rooms in a line with the living room on one side and the kitchen on the other. Our bedding lay stacked for the day in the middle room on a cross bar. One day, at dusk, as the children and I were sitting on a charpai in the courtyard, a big snake, with vermillion marks, came through the drain and crawled along the wall. Sarojini was heating milk to make yoghurt in the kitchen. When she saw the snake she rushed out to check if our feet were safely tucked up on the charpai. The wall of the kitchen was very rough and it slanted slightly towards outside. The snake crawled up the wall and Sarojini raised an alarm. This brought our neighbour, a tehsildar, to the courtyard with a torch. He saw the snake enter a hole in the roof and he declared that it was a sinduri and quite harmless and the folks who die of a sinduri bite die of fright and not poison.

Next day when I looked into the drain I saw the same snake in it. I poked it with a stick but it would not budge. Eventually it crawled out. In Basohli snakes are not killed because they control the infestation of rats in the houses and in the fields.

Baisakhi was celebrated on the river Ravi. Everybody went to the river early in the morning. The village women took just a couple of hurried dips in the water, for they believed spending too much of time in the water decreases the sexual urge. The fair at the Chaugam had a lot of fun rides for the children.

 

Section 41

In May 1952, I was transferred to Udhampur. This is a largish town that was founded by Udham Singh, the eldest son of Maharaja Gulab Singh. The town is on a plateau, 2400 feet above sea level, and the river Tawi flows below. The district hospital was in the back of an old palace and it had four rooms for the dispensary and six or seven stable rooms. The first of the stable rooms housed the breeding bull, and the last was for the chowkidar to keep watch. I used the other stable rooms as the indoor hospital. The official residence of the veterinarian had been recently converted into the inspector's office. So both the inspector and I had to look for private accommodation.

The house I rented had two pucca rooms, a kacha kitchen and a dirt compound. It was near the bus stand which, in turn, stood on an open area of dirt surface because of which there was a great deal of dust in the air. We lived in this house for a year.

In July, Babuji dropped in for a week. It was during this visit that Jaishree was born one evening at home; the lady doctor arrived after the event.

Life was quite hard. There was tension all around. The Praja Parishad party wanted the special provisions of the Article 370 of the constitution to go and it wished for the Jammu and Kashmir state to be completely integrated into India. Its slogan was: EK VIDHAN - EK NISHAN, one constitution and one symbol (flag). In the rest of India the Jan Sangh party was agitating for integration.

The movement of people was regulated by a system where a permit was required to enter the State; this rankled the nationalists. As the Praja Parishad movement strengthened, the government repression was let loose. A battalion of J&K Rifles was stationed in Udhampur. All the entries into the town were sealed and any innocent villager coming on business was beaten and deprived of his valuables. In the town, the leaders were arrested but there were others who went underground continuing the movement, sending parties headed by women. The agitation remained peaceful until the government agent provocateurs initiated violence.

On the first day of the intensive agitation, a procession marched on the Deputy Commissioner's office. The police encircled the marchers and would not let them pass. Mr Kaul, the sub-judge, was the magistrate on duty. Soon there was violence and Mr Kaul was injured by flying rocks. The march was thereupon broken up by the police. Next day when the summary court took evidence, Mr Kaul deposed that the march had been peaceful until a rock was thrown from the side of the police which is when the marchers retaliated. Mr Kaul had a reputation for honesty and fearlessness. The government pressured him to change his account without success. Thereafter this magistrate was never again put on such a duty. He was greatly respected by the public and the people went to his house to express regrets for the rock throwing incident.

Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, the famed nationalist leader, led a march to the J&K border at Lakhanpur and he announced his intention to cross it without a permit. The border was sealed and Dr Mukherjee was arrested and his companions were lathi-charged. He was now whisked away to Srinagar and kept in detention in Gupkar. He had been ailing, but the Kashmir government made no arrangements for his medical care. It appeared that they let him die so that an inconvenient thorn in the side was removed. The news of his death was suppressed for some time so that security arrangements could be made to forestall riots. Although the death was announced more than twelve hours late, it created an uproar. The central government was forced to drop the system of permits for travel between the two parts of the same country.

Sheikh Abdullah was acting more and more like a Sultan of Kashmir. He spoke with a forked tongue; within the valley he spoke against the central government whereas in Delhi he repeated slogans of Hindu-Muslim brotherhood. Next he began transferring the Kashmiri Hindu government employees to the Jammu area thereby blocking the advancement opportunities of the Dogras. This policy was one of the sources of discontent in the Jammu region. There was tension everywhere in the state. Dreaming no doubt of an independent Kashmir, the Sheikh became strident in his criticism of the accession. Abdullah did not have the temperament to be an enlightened, just administrator. His favourite response to political opposition was to extern the person from the State. Many politicians including Ram Chandra Kak were not allowed to enter the State. Ultimately the government of India was compelled to dismiss him and he was detained in Udhampur.

Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed became the new prime minister of Kashmir in August 1953. After Section 144 was lifted, the movement around the town became normal. Bakshi turned out to be an extremely corrupt politician. Law and order in the valley was now maintained by hoodlums and goons, paid enforcers of the National Conference party.

One wondered how Jawaharlal Nehru viewed the events in the State. We thought that corruption and sectarian politics based on quotas were peculiar to Kashmir; later we discovered that the administration in several other parts of the country was also corrupt. Were Nehru's hands tied due to the hostility of the United States and other Western powers?

And what could I do as an individual? My career was a hostage to the quota politics of the National Conference governments. I could not resign my job. It appeared that my children would not get jobs in the State. But we are patient folks; our ancestors had seen worse oppression. I decided to dedicate myself to the education of my children and other young people. Perhaps all one could hope to do was encourage people to question the new style of government. Perhaps we could only wait till a new generation built a new system based on common sense and universal truths.

 

Section 42

Meanwhile, I was busy in the cantonment attending on the small animal pets of the officers. My inspector assumed I was making a lot of money in my field practice. He never brought it up in our conversations but he used all the official methods to harrass me.

The ministry issued an order that each veterinarian should be on tour for ten days in a month. Villagers were busy with their own affairs unless their animals were sick; so going from village to village without funds to cover all the expenses made no sense. The ministry would reimburse at a rate that was ridiculously low; when animals were sick the villagers would provide free hospitality so one could afford to do it. Many veterinarians prepared fictitious travel programmes and then drew the travelling allowance which they split with the inspectorate in Jammu and so no questions were asked. This I refused to do. I came up with my own method to beat the ten day rule. As my district was hilly and lacked proper roads excepting for the highway, I needed to show considerable time for travel. I would get travel itineraries approved from the inspectorate that covered trips of about three days each week. The day of departure we would all stay home. The next day we would leave at 4:30 to 5:00 in the morning and visit the village numberdars in our itinerary, giving them medicines for animals, and then set out late in the evening back for Udhampur arriving at night making sure nobody in the staff, that had been left behind, saw us. The third day, the day of supposed return, we would report at work at noon. This system continued for a good number of months.

I toured the hinterland of Chineni that leads to Sudh-Mahadev, where an ancient temple of Shiva exists and a great festival is held on Shivaratri.

In October 1952 we went to Srinagar to attend the wedding of Radha Krishen (RK), my brother-in-law. He was married to Shanta of the Shangloo family; she was a schoolteacher.

On my return to Udhampur, I heard that my staff was harassed by the inspector who had checked the stock register and discovered many shortages in the stock of toxic drugs. To please the inspector, my compounder sent the inspector a gift of almonds, apples and other Kashmiri fruit. This further whetted the appetite of the inspector. Hoping to receive a bribe from us he did not write his report on his finding. When I returned and heard the story, I was able to show the compounder that the books were not balanced because all entries had not been made. Now the inspector arrived for his shakedown of me and he was surprised that the compounder did not appear to be awed by him any more. And he found that the books were actually balanced. Looking sheepish, he lamely argued that I had used the drugs recklessly. I repied that it was my prerogative as a physician to use drugs the way I thought fit.

The inspector now asked the director to send me to Kishtwar for some time to control a cattle epidemic. This was in spite of the fact that Kishtwar was 160 miles from Udhampur, and the doctor at Bhadarwah was a hundred miles nearer. Perhaps the reason was that my little hospital was caring for a sick patient on an indoor basis and he wanted make sure that I did not receive the customary doctor's fee. The inspector said this to the animal's owner, who related the story to me.

The year was 1954 and Sarojini was expecting. The due date was quite near. I boarded the bus to Kishtwar with a heavy heart. These buses took one to Doda and the rest of the distance had to be covered on foot. Our bus reached Doda at noon. On this bus I had struck up a conversation with a Kashmiri Pandit who was an overseer at the construction of the road being built to Kishtwar. We agreed to march together and we spent the night at his campsite half way to Kishtwar. Next day, I accompanied another party and we reached Kishtwar by ten in the morning.

Kishtwar is a charming little place that is often called little Kashmir. It has the same altitude as Srinagar and so its climate is somewhat similar. The town is situated on a plane that is about four miles by two miles. On three side of this plane are mountains, and on the west is a ravine 1300 feet that has been cut by the river Chenab. The Kishwari language is a dialect of Kashmiri.

For a proper diagnosis, I conducted a number of post-mortem examinations. My strategy was to recommend several preventative measures. By the sixth day, I heard no new reports of sick animals. Actually, the disease had almost petered out by the time I arrived and I did not see very many sick animals. I had no work now, but I could not leave because my orders were to stay until I heard from the inspector. I had about decided to defy orders, when on the evening of the tenth day I received a telegram from the higher office at Jammu that I should return. I left at four in the morning and by ten we were half way to Doda. There I got a lift on a bus. By eleven we were in Doda. Two buses were departing, one was almost full and the other was hawking for passengers; I got into the second bus. The driver looked quite flush with liquor. He started ahead of the full bus but within a mile he twice lost control of the steering and then he rammed into the hillside. The bus that was following picked us up and somehow we squeezed in. I got down from the bus at Udhampur at six. The inspector happened to be passing by and when he saw me he was furious. I showed him the telegram and he went on his way without further talk.

On fourth of July 1954 Neeraj was born. It was soon after this that department was reorganized and the post of inspector at Udhampur was abolished. Our pay scales were raised from 150-10-250 to 250-25-500. I was transferred to Kulgam in the valley as the incharge of the dispensary. We were returning to Kashmir after several years in the extreme heat of the Jammu province and now we had five children.

Autumn Leaves

 

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