RN Bhat

Table of Contents

   Profile
   Kashmiri Writers

Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri

Panun Kashmir

Milchar

Symbol of Unity

 
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Cosmic Design: My Destiny

by Raj Nath Bhat  

The Childhood memories

It was a sunny Sunday morning. My mother Dulari woke me up. My father Jagan resented. Being the eldest among siblings, I was supposed to learn good manners. The sun was up in the sky - a pleasant, breezy morning. I came down the stairs into the compound, thence to the river bank that flows behind our house. Crystal-clear, shallow river water invited me in. I rushed back home, got my towel and innerwear and had a bath. This pleased my mother. My siblings, three in all, got up and followed me to the river. I did not allow them to bathe. They washed and went back. Together we had salt-added-tea and phulka. I was asked to follow cows and calves up to the big river bank where the cowherd would tend them till dusk. I did the job. I was the last boy from the village following our cattle. The job irritated me every morning because despite owning cows there was no milk at home. On occasions I or my younger brother R would go to the milk man’s house to fetch milk or curd. The tradition of owning cows (Kamadhenu) and considering it a sign of affluence (gavdhana) stuck with us.

Kids used to be beaten up frequently in the villages and kids readily invite elders’ wrath. Being the eldest I used to beat up my siblings for any or none of their errors! I remember distinctly hitting R who ran after me in the village lane when I had returned home after over a week from my high school town where I stayed with my maternal great grand parents. I was wearing a steel bangle, a novel acquisition from the town- that hurt R. He rushed back home crying. On another occasion I beat up our sister D, who was hardly three years old, so mercilessly that I felt that her bones could break. She was too tiny and delicate. I do no remember why I did that. I cannot recollect any such incident with regard to K, the youngest brother, who suffered a polio-attack at three years which scar continues with him.  

It was a monotonous life style that showed little change of pattern, if any. Morning one had to follow cattle to the big-river bank; back home it was a simple breakfast, then food- rice with knolkhol, school and back. Evening one would play or help family elders in the kitchen garden. It was real fun during summer months in the kitchen garden where we grew vegetables, especially knolkhol, beans, cucumber, spinach, green chilies, for family consumption. Our father used to make gardening interesting by fetching new spades and other iron implements that interested and motivated kids to do gardening. We would compete with one another with the size of plod that one raised. Our father was a lover of flowers. He had planted a large variety of flowers that would flower in different seasons, March to November. Our garden had the distinction of growing wild yellow ‘pitambar; during summer months that flowers at sunset and withers at sunrise. We used to observe and enjoy pitambar sprouting in the evening. Kids from some other families (if allowed by their parents) used to join us in the fun.

Kids of the families that tilled their farming lands had little time to do other chores. They used to be busy with their family elders in the paddy/mustard fields. The village had a mixed population of Hindus and Muslims.Hindus were in a miniscule minority. Hindus worshipped at the Bhuteshwar temple every morning as well as in the evening. There was an idol of Kali that disappeared suddenly in 1986 whenKashmir was brewing inside. There was a thousand-faced Shiva temple a KM away from our village that was blasted off in the nineties. Muslims offered namaz, five times a day, in the village mosque. Both the shrines are located at stream banks.

Bhuteshwar - a Shiva temple - is located across the little stream that flows at the back of a few Hindu houses including ours. Most of the Hindu houses as well as the temple faced west whereas Muslim houses faced west or south. No house faces north. Three Hindu women, including my mother, used to compete with one another to reach the Bhuteshwar temple in the early morning hours. Not many people in the village knew about it. My father, his cousin brother Radha, and Sham were the only men who worshipped Bhuteshwar regularly. Sham is the only person who worships at the temple now. I visited Kashmir in 2008 summer, nineteen years after our displacement and my travelogue has appeared in a community e-journal ‘Har’van’ edited by MK Raina from Mumbai and also in the community magazine ‘Naad’ published from Delhi.

Winters are harsh. Elders as well as kids used to confine to the ground floor, adjacent to kitchen, wearing a long and broad woolen ‘pheran’ with a kangri (brazier) underneath. Since most houses had roofs of hay, expert youth used to remove the snow from the roofs with an oar-like wooden pole. This would fill the compound and the house-eaves with meters-high snow. Kids or elders used to remove snow with spades to make walk-able space from the house porch to the stream. Winters with little snow-falls used to be a matter of joy for kids because it gave them ample space and time to play. The village kids played cricket, Kabbadi and some rural games.

My eldest maternal uncle informed me that he used to go to Anand’s house even as a child because his maternal aunt Sondar was married to Anand’s second son, Ganesh. It was a huge household where a large number of children would assemble to have food- rice with knolkhol; one could hardly see who all ate in the evening under the traditional wood-light- a special burning wood used to be hung on the wall to provide light to the whole ‘hall’! Electricity reached the village in 1970-71.

During spring, Hindus shifted kitchen to the second floor that was quite airy. Mosquitoes (non-malarial) would invade during summer months that were warded off by burning cakes of dried cow-dung whose smoke brought tears to one’s eyes. Kids enjoyed this kind of ‘crying’. The bed-rooms were located at the first floor. The Muslims preferred constructing two floored houses. Their kitchens were on the 1st floor; the ground floor had bed-rooms. Things have changed now.

My paternal grandfather Anand was a pious Brahmin well read in the Veda-s and Purana-s. He used to perform an annual yagya where devotees from far and wide in the area used to join to seek Goddess’s benedictions. He expired at the age of 100, nearly a year prior to my birth. His wife died fifteen days later. And Sona’s wife (Sona was Anand’s younger brother) followed a month after. My father Jagan was Anand’s youngest son (5th) who had been given in adoption to his widowed paternal aunt Sati. She had lost her husband, Maheshwar, at a very young age.He was in the postal department who drowned in south Kashmir nearly 20 kilometers away from our village. His dead body was brought to the village at mid-night. His young widow lost consciousness and had to suffer rude treatment for nearly a decade whenever she fainted.

There perhaps was no provision of pension for the family of the deceased then. The young widow lived on what her dead husband’s brothers’ families offered her. She also had her share of land etc. that enabled her to live comfortably. After adopting my father, she became livelier. She along with her brothers became the disciple of a spiritual Guru at Durganag, Srinagar. Her brothers had been poor shop-owners and the last Hindu family in a locality at Kadipora, Anantnag, They were so badly harassed that they migrated to a tiny village near then unknown Pahalgam. My grandmother died some six months after my birth. She used to take little-me in her lap and feed sparrows and other birds with uncooked-rice at the window during the whole winter. My birth had pleased her a great deal. Since I was born less than a year after Anand’s demise, my father and several others in the extended family considered me as Anand’s rebirth.

My maternal grandfather Kanthram was a clever but lethargic businessman. He had become a widower at the age of 29. He died at 75 three years after our displacement from Kashmir . My maternal grand mother had died of tuberculosis. My mother and her brothers were later taken care of by their maternal grand-parents, Tarachand and Deyd, and maternal uncles. My mother, Dulari, was given in marriage to my father when she was only 12 years of age, my father was 28 then. The marriage ceremony was solemnized at her maternal grand parents’ place. I was born five years later. It was a great event for my mother’s grand parents as well as her father and brothers. My younger maternal uncle, Avtar, took me to Pahalgam and seated me on horse-back when I was eight months old. Such was the excitement in the families. The elder maternal uncle, a post-graduate History teacher, was a detached person who snatched all ties with our family when I was around seven, a year or two after his own marriage. My parents had shifted our ‘household items’ to their village-home- several months before his marriage to ensure that everything went well at the ceremony.He reestablished the ties with my mother a year after the demise of my father who in fact had always been their benefactor and well-wisher. My father was a pious Brahmin well read in the Purana-s. He used to perform puja every morning in the puja-room at our house.  

During my childhood, our family stayed at Anantnag in a rented accommodation when our sister was to be born. She was born in mid-Dec. when it was fiercely cold. I was admitted to a School in the town. I had completed 4th standard when our father decided to shift back to the village. My mother’s maternal uncle, Laxminath - a post-graduate school teacher - arranged my school leaving certificate from somewhere that showed that I had passed 5th standard. Thus I was admitted to the 6th standard at an adjoining village-school after our family shifted back to the village. This ‘saved’ one year for me and I could learn to walk the distance to the school along with two boys, Omkar and Daya, from the neighboring families.

At the age of twelve I was admitted at High School, some 8 Kilometers south to our village. My High School town is a renowned place. A splendid Sun temple had been built here over two thousand seven hundred years ago by a legendary king. The temple is in ruins now because it was destroyed by the Central Asian invaders during the 14th century. The town has the distinction of producing literary stalwarts with spiritual inclinations. Parmanand, the first Krishna devotee in Kashmir , who composed and sang wonderful Krishna Bhakhti bhajans belonged to this town. Besides, it has a sacred spring with crystal clear water gushing out of ‘windows’ at its bottom. Matan Nag, as it is known, is itself located at the bottom of a hill. There is a temple of the goddess at the hill-top. The town being away from our village, one could not walk the distance. I was initially made to stay at the house of my maternal great grand parents where from the school was nearly two Kilometers away. All the village children walked the distance to the school.

Children of my village normally attended the High School at another township, some 6 KMs north of the village. And each one walked the distance to and fro. The concept of vehicles was non-existent then. Villagers had the habit of walking long distances. Horse-rides were also uncommon, although there were a few horse-driven carts (tonga-s) on the road. The bus service was quite erratic and least frequent. One had to wait for hours together at the main road to catch a bus. The main road is nearly a kilometer away from our village. There was just a primary school in our village. Beyond 5th standard, kids had to walk to the school anyway.  Vehicle rides could not be afforded. The village primary school has now been raised to high school status nearly a hundred years after it was founded. The primary school in our village had been opened due to the efforts of my great grand father Prakash, who was a senior revenue official during the then King’s reign. He died young leaving behind four sons and two daughters. His eldest son Anand left his studies and managed to join the postal department. This enabled him to support the family. Although the family had ample lands, yet the production those days was too meager, one could hardly support the family on it. Those who did lived in penury. Prakash’s father Ram had migrated from Srinagar after his marriage to the only daughter/child of the village landlord. He had two sons, Prakash and Aftab. Aftab had one son Sarwanand. Sarwanand had two daughters. The elder Sharika was married to Sham who was invited to settle in the village to take care of the agricultural land that the family had. Sharika’s family is the only one that stayed on in the village after the 1990 displacement of the Hindu community.

Prakash managed to get a decent job in the revenue department. He added more land to his name. But his untimely death gave a severe blow to the family. The properties were divided among his four sons Anand, Sahaj, Sona and Maheshwar. Anand’s property was further divided among his four sons whereas the share ofremaining three was not divided further because each one had only one son; my father, Anand’s 5th son, had been given in adoption to Maheshwar’s widow. Of the four Anand’s sons three were married, the unmarried one, Dina, spent his last years under the care of my parents. He had suffered from paralysis. He was quite affectionate. Anand’s brother Sona - Radha’s father was a snuffer. I have a faint memory of his: he used to allow me to smell the powder and I would sneeze profusely to the amusement of the families. I was three when Sona died.My brother R was born a week or so before his death. My mother was in bed with the little R and I was sitting at her bed-side. Suddenly there was a huge and loud cry- Sona’s three daughters might have arrived from their homes, I guess. My mother removed a corner of the window-curtain to look down into the courtyard. I too got a glimpse and I remember men-folk doing something in the courtyard with their jeneyv-s--the sacred thread- dangling right and left. My mother prevented me from looking down.

The Hindu women-folk those days had such-like names as Poshi maal (flower garland), Kongi maal (saffron garland), Gonu maal (skilled garland), ambravati-name of a sacred river, leelawati etc.

Our village, situated close to the majestic river Lidder, has plenty of water that flows down from Sheshnag and several other natural springs en route the holy Amarnath cave. The older generations have cleverly brought small streams from the Lidder close to where the village houses have been located. This must have been done to prevent destruction of houses due to floods in the Lidder. There are streams bordering the village settlements. The same water irrigates lands down-stream. The Hindu houses were well covered with clay/stone walls around their compounds. The walls have disappeared now and the Hindu houses are reduced to heaps of clay after the 1990 exodus of the community.  There are more details on it in my travelogue mentioned above. The folks divide the village into three sectors: Upper, lower and central. We come from the lower sector that had nine Hindu households and nearly a hundred Muslim families. The central sector with a distinct name after a community surname had only one Hindu family and over fifty Muslim familes.; the upper sector had eight Hindu families and eighty Muslim families. Not a single family from any community was homeless. Muslims owned large segments of land in comparison to Hindus. Agriculture was the major occupation of both the communities. Hindu parents persuaded their wards to go to school regularly. Muslims were least keen on schooling/education. My friend Dar was the first Muslim graduate from the village. Two more youth have joined Dar’s class over the last 35 years.

I spent the first year of my High School (8th standard) under the protection/patronage of my maternal great grand parents/uncles-aunts. Ample paddy and a milking cow were provided to them. My maternal great grandfather, a retired school Head-master, was quite proficient in English and Mathematics. He used to give me lessons in both. His memory was very sharp. During the second year 1969, my parents decided to hire a house at the town itself; my father shuttled between his office town -Anantnag- and my school town every day- a distance of 5 KMs. The house where we stayed belongs to my younger maternal uncle who had shifted his family to a village adjacent to his work place. My father cooked early in the morning and in the evening for both of us. We used to go to our village every Saturday evening. This arrangement reduced the walking distance between the residence and my school by nearly a kilometer. The third and final year at school was different. I used to travel by a bus every day along with my father. The bus plied between Anantnag and a village named Logripura some 8 KMs ahead of our village. I had to wait for the same bus in the evening because my father took the same bus back home. This saved bus fare. Being a small boy, bus fare was not required to be paid separately when one accompanied an elder person. We used to eat brunch before8 am , rush to the main road-nearly 1 KM away- to catch the bus. I would reach school around9 A.M. That year I spent two winter months at the house of an acquaintance Sri Krishna in my school town because I sought special guidance (tuitions) from one of our school teachers, Motilal, at his residence. At the end of my school I had succeeded in obtaining a good grade at the 10th standard.

College

There was only one college at Anantnag, the District headquarters that admitted students to the Pre University Course (PUC) from the whole region from Banihal to Pulwama. Five Districts have now been carved out of the former District Anantnag. My school teacher favoured me to take up Mathematics in place of Biology. My parents preferred otherwise. They desired me to become a doctor! I managed to pass the PUC as a mediocre. During the B.Sc Ist year I became friends with Koul and Gul who were from Tral town. Koul senior to me was doing B.A., Gul was my classmate. We occupied rooms in the same house and used to go to the college regularly. Koul was quite affectionate, an advising well wisher. I spent the winter months that year at his place in Tral. In the process my visits to Gul’s house became more frequent. Gul’s father, Subahan, was a known political leader of the area. He was gunned down during militancy, so were Gul’s two younger siblings.  Later on Gul won elections to the state assembly, thus managed security for other members of his family. I met him last several years prior to the exodus of 1990.

I barely managed to succeed at the B.Sc1 examination. Gul was placed in compartment. The results those days used to be broadcast on air. Proper programme announcements/alerts used to be made prior to such broadcasts. I cried like a child when Gul’s roll number was not announced. There was relief when it came up under the compartments category later. Both of us were admitted to B.Sc 2nd year at the same college. We completed the Course in 1975. Gul’s father managed a medical seat for Gul in a Madhya Pradesh MedicalCollege. My father managed an Assistantship for me at his office where I worked for nearly six months before joining the University in July 1976.

Pilgrimage

During the four College years I went on pilgrimage to the holy Amarnath cave thrice. The annual examinations used to be held in March-April, and the results used to be declared in July-August. The students had ample time during summer months to visit places. I used to go to my paternal aunt’s village, Khayar, every summer and spend a week or more there. My father’s cousin-sisters, Janaki and Chanda, were married to two brothers in the village. Khayar is situated at the foot of a hill that attracted me. My village has majestic river lidder on the west and paddy fields to its east.

The first trip to the holy Amarnath cave was suddenly planned. Two of my senior cousins - Roshan and Bhushan - were inclined to go on a pilgrimage to the holy cave. My father’s cousin-brother Radha was posted at Sheshnag en route the cave. My two cousins managed to rope in Radha’a elder son Bharat, me and my brother R and the five of us set on yatra. We managed to hike up to Sheshnag where we stayed at Radha’s place. He was staying with some of his colleagues and they had ample provisions to feed extra mouths. During the night it began to rain postponing our further hike. A couple of days later, my uncle Radha hired five horses, one for each one of us to go ahead. He also arranged light rain-coats for us. We had a splendid Darshan of the Ice-Shivalinga a couple of days later. We returned to Sheshnag after four days. My uncle’s colleagues treated us very well at Panchtarni where we stayed for two nights during our longest ever horse-ride-journey. We came back to Sheshnag where from we descended the mountains on foot. We reached Chandanbari after sunset. It was raining heavily there. Some jeeps were plying up to Pahalgam at Rs. ten per passenger which was a huge amount those days. Bhushan’s elder sister’s (Shori’s) family was placed at Pahalgam. His sister’s husband Omkar was a high school teacher posted at Pahalgam. We reached their residence when they were half asleep. Shori cooked for us and after breakfast next morning we boarded the bus to go home.

My second and third pilgrimages to the holy cave were quite adventurous. My classmates Roshan and Makhan from the adjoining village planned these trips. Roshan was well acquainted with the terrain as well as the art of packing clothes and eatables as shepherds in the area do. Shepherds those days used to herd sheep and young cows to pastures in the mountains during summer months and the cattle-owners used to pay a visit or two to the pastures carrying salt for their cattle. They packed things in a woolen home-woven blanket that kept them warm and reduced the load too.

Upon reaching Chandanbari we unpacked, cooked our meal and slept in the huge hall of a Government constructed Sarai.  Next morning we had a quick meal and packed our belongings in the woolen blanket as directed by our team-leader Roshan.  The police constable at the exit point-the bottom of Pisu mountain- was cleverly made to believe that we were not pilgrims but village boys with ration for our cattle up the mountains. Roshan did all the talking. Pilgrims those days were disallowed to visit the holy cave before the yatra. Thus our ascent to Pisu began. Half way to Sheshnag we cooked and ate. We reached Sheshnag in the afternoon, took a bath in the holy spring and spent the night in another Sarai there. Next morning we made the ascent to Wawbaal and Mahagunas mountains to reach Panchtarni, the next stop, in the afternoon. From there we climbed the last mountain to have the darshan at the holy cave. We had another bath in the ice-cold water of Amravati , the stream that flows at the bottom of the cave.

We followed the same routine the following summer with a larger number of youth from Anantnag town in the group. This could not be repeated once I completed college studies.

Our B.Sc final results were declared towards the end of August, 1975. I had managed to succeed. There was a technical flaw though; I had mis-spelt some name in the examination form. Hence my result was withheld. I went to the University office at Srinagar for the first time to get my results. I was quite nervous.  The in-charge there wrote something after I requested him to correct the form and declare the results. I got the certificate in my college at Anantnag over a week later. I joined my father’s establishment in Dec. as his assistant. We were staying in a rented accommodation at Anantnag and sibling K was studying at a High School there.

The sibling R too studied at Anantnag when I was still in college but I forced him to do all cooking that should otherwise have been done by me, that wasted his time and he could not do well at school. He was subsequently shifted back to the village under my suggestion/advice and he was admitted to the High School at Siir, nearly three KMs away from our village. Sibling K too was admitted at the same school but his poor health did not permit him to walk the distance to and fro and he was admitted at Anantnag a year or two later after he had lost a lot of weight. The youngest sibling D was initially admitted at the same place after her Primary education but she suffered from typhoid so frequently that she too was later on brought to Anantnag after I had joined higher studies at Kurukshetra University and R had joined Anantnag College in the Mathematics stream.

University

During Jan. 76 an acquaintance, Bharatiji-Principal of a senior secondary school-, stayed with us at our residence at Anantnag. Upon learning about my studies and job profile, he advised me to join linguistics at Kurukshetra University. That was the first time I heard the word ‘linguistics’. In Feb.76 I met one of my seniors Kantroo who was pursuing law at Kurukshetra University. I conveyed my intention of doing linguistics at his University to him. Kantroo is presently the Principal of a law college in Uttrakhand.

The whole episode had slipped out of my mind when suddenly in July 1976 I met Kantroo near the Bus Stand and he enquired about my plans regarding further studies. He was accompanied by another smart youth Maharaj who, as I gradually learnt, was doing linguistics at Kurukshetra University (KU). It was the end of July 76, Maharaj was leaving the next morning but he told me that admission to the Course could be managed if I accompanied him. It was quite tempting. But my father was reluctant; an affectionate father was not ready to part with his eldest son.  I, Maharaj, and my father were still in argument when suddenly Bharatiji appeared there. He knew Maharaj very well and he persuaded my father to allow me to go. I started the Bus journey from Anantnag to Jammu the next morning in the company of the large-hearted gentleman Maharaj. We boarded the Delhibound train at Jammuin the evening and reached KU next afternoon. Maharaj and I got down at Rajpura in Punjab in the early morning where from he went to Patiala to meet his cousin Dr. Koul who was the Principal of a Government institute there. I waited for him at the bus-stand. He returned and we boarded a bus that took us to Pipli in Haryana wherefrom we reached KU by Auto and Cycle Rickshaws. From Pipli we took an auto to reach the Kurukshetra city bus stand. From there Maharaj hired a cycle-rickshaw for onward journey to the University. It was my first ‘encounter’ with this special mode of local transport. For a minute or two I kept standing on the road. When Maharaj asked me to board the ‘vehicle’ I hesitated. I was unwilling to sit on a three wheeler driven by a human being. It looked inhuman. Maharaj told me that he too had similar feelings a year before when he had come out of the valley to join the University. I joined the M.A. Course within a couple of days there after. I met couples of acquaintances, Bhushan, Vinod, Girdhari, and Swaroop who too had come to KU to do Courses. Swaroop too joined linguistics; others did different Courses.

I obtained first class first position in M.A. 1st year among nearly 25 candidates. Maharaj completed his M.A. programme that year. During the second and final year of my M.A. Course I became friends with Samar, Jagdish, and Ramesh who were doing other Courses and belonged to Hisar, a major city in the state. I visited their places during Diwali festival that year.I completed my M.A. Course in 1978 maintaining my rank in the class that enabled me to join Ph.D programme, under the supervision of DS Dwivedi, with scholarship towards the end of the same year. Maharaj had joined a job at Kolkata but he too got admitted to Ph.D. during the same session.

During August that year when I was in my village, my brother came running to me while I was at a village-shop and informed me that I had a guest at home. I came back home, and to my utter surprise, I found Samar there. He had been asked to contest students’ Union elections at KU that his family did not like. To avoid election campaigning he ran away and reached my home. He stayed with us for several days and together we traveled back. This enabled him to learn about our family closely. His parents were also taken by surprise at his decision to travel to Kashmir . I was admitted to the research programme later that year.

Samar completed his M.A. Course in Hindi in 1979. He was desirous of obtaining a research degree. I accompanied him to Ujjain, a historic town in Madhya Pradesh state, where he was admitted to Ph.D. I submitted my thesis in October 1981 and traveled to Ujjain to help Samar do his thesis that was submitted some months later. Samar ’s oral exam (Viva-voce) was held within a couple of months and he was awarded the degree. In my case a report was awaited. During 1982 summer the TamilUniversity, Thanjavur advertised fellowships, I applied, so didSamar and both of us got it. Together we traveled to Thanjavur to join the fellowship. The project incharge Rajaram was very cordial so was the Department HoD Nambi Arooran. We hired a room in a Sarai in the town and used to take local bus to reach the University. One evening a thin young person, Mohan, interacted with us in the bus. Gradually our meetings became frequent. Mohan was jobless but he maintained his family well. We had lunch with him at his residence on a couple of occasions that enabled us to immerse in Tamil culture.

My oral exam at KU was fixed in early 1983. The examiner Vidyaniwas Misra could not reach the University that day due to administrative reasons in stead I was asked to go to Agra(K.M. Institute) along with the file to appear for the oral exam. Thus my oral exam was conducted and the degree awarded.  

When I reached Thanjavur after the oral exam, I did not findSamar at the railway station instead Mohan was there at mid-night. He revealed to me thatSamar married Urmil so he could not come.I was astonished.Samar ’s wife was enrolled in research at Ujjain where they met during his several visits to the town. Because of their marriage we had to find a new place of residence with ample space for the four of us-Samar , his wife, Karamjeet and I. During December 1982 our Department organized a month long Course in Tamil Culture in which delegates from Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia,S. Africa , and Germanyparticipated. The Department also arranged a week-long cultural tour of Tamil Nadu as part of the Course. This gave us-Samar , his wife and me- besides others an opportunity to visit all magnificent temples in the State. At Kanya-Kumari I was thrilled at seeing sea-waves come and go. I immersed my feet into the sand to enjoy waves. The whole team, led by Prof. Nambi Arooran, decided to go for evening meals so that ‘tired- we’ could go to bed. I was left alone at the beach and I rushed to join them at the hotel.

By June 1983Samar planned to quit so did Karamjeet. They resigned and I saw them off at the railway station. Together they traveled up to Bhopal where Urmil got off to go to her parents’ place and the two gentlemen moved on up to Delhi where from Samar took a bus home (Hisar) and Karamjeet took another train to reach his home, Sangroor, in the Punjab state.  

During the winter of 1983,Samar and Urmil asked me to join them at Ujjain ; both were waiting at the railway station when I boarded off the train in the early morning hours. Samar ’s parents, especially his mother, were reluctant to accept Urmil as their daughter-in-law. He was undecided himself. The next day he received a telegram from his home asking him to reach back immediately because he had been appointed as a college lecturer in the Haryana Government. He took the morning train to Delhiand I took another back to Chennai (then Madras). He was posted at Kalka where after a few months he developed Schizophrenia which his family did not realize. He resigned from his job. Finally his parents asked Urmil to join him at Hisar. Subsequently, he was taken to psychiatrists and the treatment began. Meanwhile, I too reached their home. My presence enabled Samar to improve quickly but he abstained from the medicine prescribed by the psychiatrist very often which eventually made him a chronic schizophrenic. Some time later he and Urmil shifted to Indore in Madhya Pradesh but that too did not help. He is reduced to a vegetable now and stays with his parents under the care of his younger brother AJ and his family. His wife and two sons live in Bhopalnow. His elder son is an engineer but his younger son is handicapped by birth. A month after the departure ofSamar and others, I along with three other research fellows---Hayat, Raghu and Wang BoShru shifted our residence to a house owned by a retired Insurance employee near the Thanjavur MedicalCollege. Wang was a Chinese scholar who had joined the Univ. to learn spoken Tamil. He was the Dy. Director of Tamil Services at Radio Beijing. His knowledge of literary Tamil was excellent. He preferred to be addressed as ‘thongzu’- comrade.

The new house owner, Mr. Srinivasan, occupied the ground floor where he lived with his old wife, his divorcee daughter Nirmala, her Engineer daughter Anu Radha, and another grand-daughter, Dr. Chitra, who had completed MBBS from the Thanjavur MedicalCollege.

Upon completing my term as Senior Fellow at Thanjavur in January 1985, I went to Kurukshetra Universityto stay with my friend Vinod who was pursuing Ph.D. in law. Thanjavur taught me several things including enjoying Idli, Dosa, Uttapam and other rice-based preparations.

During summer I went to my home for a brief period as I was required to attend an interview for Associateship at the UGC that was eventually awarded to me, thanks to RN Srivastava. .Vinod got married during that period. Vinod and his wife are Professors in law at KU now.

I joined the Associateship in November 1985, and continued to stay in the researchers’ hostel till my marriage (1987).

Kashmir-Unrest

Kashmir began to become restless in 1986.Things were uncertain. My brothers’ marriages were held in autumn 1986 and our sister’s wedding was solemnized in autumn 1989 when the whole city was under curfew. The bride-groom’s party managed to reach our house with great difficulty, with hardly a score of people in baaraat. We had to run away for our lives in December 1989. My parents, brothers’ families, maternal grandfather shifted to Udhampur to stay in a rented accommodation. They had dinner under their own roof and next morning they were under the sky-roofless, rootless and homeless I was already placed at Kurukshetra. The sudden displacement was immensely painful. We had lost home, hearth and roots, homelessness is agonizing but media enjoy the sufferings of people by creating imaginary stories.

Marriage

In 1985Samar ’s sister, Prem, was posted as a scientist in the Krishi Vigyan Kendra at Kurukshetra. She has an M.Sc in Home-Science. I was already at Kurukshetra as I had been awarded research Associateship by the UGC. I was asked to look after her; a few months later, we decided to get married. After initial reluctance on the part of her maternal uncles, our marriage was solemnized at their place in 1987. My parents, maternal grandfather and uncle, siblings and cousins participated. We stayed in a rented accommodation near Prem’s office. Prem’s younger brother AJ came to stay with us a couple of months after our marriage. His presence converted our home into an extension of Prem’s maternal home. AJ intervened at every juncture in our mutual matters. His sister took him for a well-wisher.

In August 88 we got a daughter, Shephali. We went toKashmir on several occasions after our marriage and flew from Jammuto Srinagar when Shephali was less than two months old. AJ managed to become a history lecturer at KU in 1990. I too became a lecturer in linguistics there in the same year. We got a son, Abhinav, in August 92.

AJ’s intervention had become a menace. He got married in 93. My father got seriously ill the same year. I went to Jammuand brought my parents to Kurukshetra. My father’s illness took us to Chandigarh (PGI) where he was admitted in Jan. 94. He expired on March 1 1994 at the PGI and the cremation was held the next day at Kurukshetra. This was a serious blow to our family.

Kashmiri pandits mourn the death of a family member for thirteen days; the sons of the deceased shave their hair off on the 10th day. Elaborate Shrdadha is performed on the 11th and 12th days. 13th day marks the end of mourning. All this was done at my residence at Kurukshetra. But the behavior of Prem, her siblings, and parents was saddening and agonizing during the whole period. They hurt each one of us. A year later when my siblings had assembled, as per the tradition, at my place to perform our father’s first annual shraddha, Prem showed signs of serious depression. AJ had been poisoning her against me and our clan all through. He ensured that I would not take her to any psychiatrist; he advised her to go to her parents’ place in stead, which she did and it became a sad and painful exercise for her because she could hardly manage both the kids in a bus. I went to her parents’ place a few days later where a large number of their kin had assembled. Prem’s maternal uncle misbehaved with me in the presence of a home-science professor, Lali Yadava, from Hisar Agricultural Univ. No body was ready to listen that she needed treatment with a psychiatrist. A few weeks later they shifted their whole household to Kurukshetra where they had purchased a house after selling the one they had at Hisar. This made them permanent residents of Kurukshetra and greater interventionists with my home. When they shifted to their new residence, it somehow dawned upon them that their daughter Prem needed treatment with a psychiatrist and her father LD came to my residence to persuade me to take her to a specialist. He also sought support from two gentlemen NK Jain and Tarlok Singh, my advocate neighbours and friends. I did the job the very next day and LD accompanied us to the doctor. With proper medicine, the patient began to improve but her mother as well as siblings did not allow her to get cured. They continued to feed her with their imaginary stories. Consequently, Prem would give up medicine for days together and become sick again and again. I could see another Samar in the making. Since she had a decent job, her condition would not deteriorate so quickly. She became extremely sick again in 1997 summer and went to her parents’ house in the morning; the kids followed her the same evening. AJ had some serious differences with his wife and her parents sought legal remedy but compromised subsequently. Prem’s sickness and flight to her parents’ place gave an opportunity to AJ and his wife to defame me around the city. Both wrote a long letter to the then Vice-chancellor of the University against me.

My 8 year old daughter Shephali came back after a week. She looked emaciated. They had punished her for desiring to come back home. The kids, especially my little son Abhinav, were unable to grasp what was happening. I saw an advertisement in a news-paper for faculty positions in the university of Asmara-Eritrea. I sent my application. The interviews were held at Delhiand I was taken. At the venue of the interview I met with Professor Dhar who was also appointed.

I got my daughter’s passport in a very short time. We went to Chandigarh and Delhito complete requisite medical formalities. She did not reveal a word to her mother or grand parents although she would go there every week-end. They did not allow my son to meet me even for a split second. He suffered without being able to express it. Finally I and my daughter flew out of the country in Sept. 97. I dropped a letter to LD at the Delhi-airport informing him about our flight.

Shephali was admitted to an Italian medium school at Asmara and she enjoyed her studentship as well as the new place and people.   She began to pick up Italian quickly. She also made friends with a good number of families in the complex.

Dhar Sahab and I were asked to share the same apartment and we relished this companionship. TN Dhar was the professor and head of the department of English at the KashmirUniversityat the time of our displacement in 1990. His family was placed at Shimla later.  The University of Asmara provided semi-furnished accommodation to all foreign teachers at the Sembel complex nearly five KMs away from the University. It was a peaceful place and it seemed like an Indian settlement. There were more than forty Indian teachers, mostly with their families, located there. Professor Dhar brought his wife, Usha, after I resigned from the job and came back to India. Three of us, Dhar, Bhattacharjee and I, enjoyed our ‘single’ status. Dhar and I used to have Asmara beer regularly; we tasted almost all brands of scotch that were available there. On week-ends beer and scotch used to almost flow at our apartment.

Some six months later I sensed that Shephali was missing her mother and brother so I arranged to send her back along with another colleague, Chandrabhushan, who was visiting his family in Delhiafter suffering a major illness. The Asmara clime did not suit him at his age. Shephali’s mother and brother were waiting to receive her at the Delhiairport. Thus she reached back to Kurukshetra.

I came back to Indiaduring vacations in 98, and to my utter surprise, LD came to meet me to the place where I stayed near Brahmsarovar. He was accompanied by two gentlemen. They desired me to rejoin Prem who too appeared the following day promising that she would abide by the doctor’s advice without fail. She informed me that she had been admitted to the Ph.D. Course at Karnal. I decided to shift to that city so that she could do her research peacefully. I spent a handsome amount of money in shifting and admission of our kids at Karnal. A month later I went back to Asmara. They cried while seeing me off. I used to call them every Sunday and send a cheque every month. Her father LD was persuaded to stay with them a couple of months later. She developed the ailment afresh and I resigned from Asmara in the mid-session and came back to Indiain Jan. 1999. I shuttled between Karnal and Kurukshetra every day till Prem decided to quit her Ph.D towards the end of March 99. I shifted the residence back to Kurukshetra and re-admitted kids to the school there. The department of linguistics at Kurukshetra Universityhad been closed down during my absence and I was asked to teach in the department of Hindi which my wonderful friend LC Gupta was heading. He persuaded me to obtain M.A. in Hindi which I did that year. He further asked me to obtain a Ph.D. in Hindi and I was admitted to the programme in 2000 under his supervision. Other colleagues in the department were least warm towards me; they took me for an intruder.

Separation

The Banaras HinduUniversity, Varanasi advertised teaching positions including one in linguistics in 2000. I applied. The interviews were held a few months later and I was selected. But the appointment-letter was sent after over one and a half year and I joined at the new place on8/8/2002 . Misraji, the then Head, was very cordial so were many other faculty members including the Dean, MKC. I got a rented accommodation at Samneghat, some two KMs away from my work-place. It was a spacious accommodation but the area was mosquito infested and frequent electricity cuts made life miserable.

I visited Kurukshetra thrice between August and Dec. that year. Prem’s attitude had changed. She did not like my presence in the house. Soon after my arrival, she along with the kids would either go to her parents’ place or to her elder sister’s home some 100 KMs away.  Shephali was in the 10th standard then. I suffered from severe back-ache at Varanasi, Prem did not enquire even once about my sickness. Misraji and his family were a great support.  I met Prem and the kids last in March 2003. It was a horrible experience; LD came to tell me that I had committed a ‘crime’ in quitting the job at KU. He was polite towards the end of our ‘conversation’. He had been tutored to say what he said. The gentleman, I believe, has always spoken or acted under the guidance of his wife/children and has never intended to go beyond their brief but during our ‘conversation’ he had to speak politely after listening to me. I had to leave the same day. My kids accompanied me for nearly a hundred yards on the main road when I asked them to go back home. Little did I realize that that would be my last meeting with them? My daughter spoke to me when I called them upon reaching Varanasi; she told me that I should no longer visit their house as per the instructions of her mother and her mother’s parents and siblings. It shocked me. I visited Kurukshetra on couples of occasions later but stayed at the Government Yatri Niwas or Dharamshala to avoid unpleasant scenes that Prem and her paternal family could shamelessly create any time. I continued to be telephonically connected with my kids for another year till the phone did not respond. I asked an old friend of mine to find out why the phone did not work. He found out that the rental had not been paid for several months and that I was required to clear the dues without delay because the phone line was registered in my name. I sent a cheque to the telecom office requesting them to clear my account with the department. Simultaneously, I learnt that a new house was being built near her parents’ home. I had purchased a plot of land in Prem’s name at a different place; she had managed to sell that plot and purchased another one close to her parents’ house. A few months later I learnt that they had shifted to their new home. I stopped sending any money to them; and my telephonic contact with my kids too had ended. I had become a non-entity for them. A year or two later I received a legal notice, duly signed by Prem, seeking legal separation. I did not go to contest the case because her lawyer had leveled wild allegations against me. I wrote letters to her, her younger brother advising them to try to be sensible. When I did not appear in the court of law, separation was granted. I did not reveal this episode to any one. A year later, I received another legal notice signed by my kids seeking maintenance allowance. A couple of months later, in Jan. 08, my kids called me on my cell-phone and sought maintenance allowance immediately because their mother had become mentally sick again and she could not attend her office too. AJ too called the same day pleading the kids’ case. I began to transfer Rs. 10000 to their mother’s account every month w.e.f. January, 2008. In 2008 summer I went to Kurukshetra twice to meet AJ. He came to meet me to the place where I stayed but did not allow my kids to meet me. He tried to exhibit innocence and I, for some time, thought that he could be genuine but he fooled me again.

I wished to swallow it all as best as I could. But destiny had its own designs.

In September 2009 I suffered from brain hemorrhage, my friends AK Kaul and MS Pandey took me to the hospital and managed to get specialist doctors, Madhukar Roy and Vivek Sharma, to revive me. My mother and siblings rushed to Varanasi from several stations. I was referred to the SGPGI at Lucknow where I regained a lot of my sense. My University friend Maharaj was a great support. He introduced us to a KP, an officer at the PGI, who too was of great help. We came back to Varanasi towards the end of September. I was unable to walk or speak; there was limp in my left limb and weakness in the left arm; my right limbs had sensory problems.

My siblings checked my files and found the legal documents. They were sad but furious that I concealed these things from them. Eventually my condition began to improve but the doctors said that further recovery could take even a year. My siblings, nephews and nieces called my kids at Kurukshetra but my son responded very rudely. A month or so later he sent a legal notice to my HoD asking him to furnish details about the arrears that had been credited to my salary account!  The HoD had to provide the details.

My mother and siblings began to advise me that I should find a companion for myself which is a difficult thing to do when one is 53 years old, yet I got matrimonial advertisement published in Naad, a community journal published from Delhi. No body responded.

Suddenly my mother became extremely unwell. The MRI revealed that she had developed tumor in the spinal canal. She declined to undergo surgery at Varanasi instead she wished it to be done at Jammubecause most of our kin are placed there after the 1990 displacement. I accompanied her to Jammuwhere my siblings had already arrived. Our sister D is posted there. She stays in a government quarter next to her office although she has her own home some 5 KMs away but being asthmatic she preferred to stay close to her office. Her husband Vijay Kumar is a bank officer.

Our mother’s surgery was conducted successfully within a week primarily due to the kind support of   Dr. KL Choudhury, a retired neurology professor placed at Jammu. She was discharged from the hospital after 12 days. I came back to Varanasi a couple of days later. Our mother came to Varanasi along with our sister and her son two months later . My brothers R and K stayed with her at the hospital. R, who is presently placed at Kathmandu-Nepal, spent the entire period of his stay at Jammuat the hospital. K spent only a couple of nights at the house during that period but he stayed on for more than two weeks after our mother was discharged from the hospital. His entire family, Bita, Priyanka and Nipun, came to Varanasi during my illness and then to Jammuwhen our mother underwent surgery. Priyanka is doing Masters in Pharmacy while Nipun is doing Civil Engineering. R’s son, Amul, is doing Aeronautical Engineering. D’s daughter, Sakshi, is pursuing Engineering in the IT branch. Her son, Sajjal, is a High School student.

Sajjal had been on an educational tour to Mumbai and Goa when I reached Jammualong with my mother in Jan. 2010. He brought Chetan Bhagat’s novel ‘The Story of my Marriage’ and a bottle of Goan Fenny for his maternal uncles. I read the novel and liked it. R took ‘Fenny’ with him to Kathmandu. He does not drink but small quantities during or after journeys help him in keeping his digestive system in shape. He looks older than his age but he does not reveal his problems, especially physical problems to anyone. As a student in the seventies of the 20th century, he got in touch with Marxist youth and also got to read Marxist literature. He has been a fanatic admirer of the theory as well as the theoreticians all through. Due to the influence of the theory, he quit his banking job inKashmir and nearly ran away toKathmandu along with his three year old son, Amul, in 1990. We could get in touch with him after the demise of our father in 94. Our mother managed to convince him to bring his son back and allow him to be with his mother, Usha. Amul is now a young man pursuing Aeronautical Engineering at Mumbai.

The youngest brother K graduated with commerce as one of the subjects. He was appointed in a nationalized bank and placed at Anantnag but a month later he was given termination orders! He had to wait for another year before he got the job in the AG’s office at Srinagar. D too was appointed in the AG’s office a few months later. Since R was already placed in a bank at Srinagar, the three of them stayed together in a rented accommodation. After our displacement, R quit his job. K was initially shifted to Allahabad, and D was placed at Gwalior. Several years later, K was permanently shifted to Dehradun and D managed to come back to Jammuwhere her in-laws are located. Being a bank officer, her husband is regularly transferred to various stations around or away from Jammu.

May 2010

May is a hot and dry month in the plains. I sensed that our mother found it difficult to manage day to day chores smoothly especially after the recent surgery that she underwent in Jan.10. My summer vacations were due to begin and I decided to pay a visit to Kashmir for the second time after our displacement in 1990. Mother agreed very happily. We traveled up to Jammuby train and took the less expensive flight, Spice Jet, from Jammuto Srinagar. My cousin’s brother-in law was waiting to receive us. We went to their residing place in Tulsi Bagh. After a quick lunch, rice with knolkhol, we went to the Jyeshtha Devi Templecomplex where a room booked a month back was allotted. The room is spacious and sufficiently furnished. The cooking gas connection and utensils too have been provided.It was the month of May but there were two quilts and two blankets in the room so each person could sleep comfortably. I obtained rice, moong-beans, onion, cooking oil from the complex shop that made us comfortable with regard to our dinner as well. I had a nice sleep and my mother too must have slept well. Next morning mother prepared yellow rice and took it to the Devi’s temple some ten odd stairs away. I had a nice bath in the geyser-fitted bath-room of the room that was allotted to us. Soon it began to rain and it did not stop for the whole day. We were forced to remain in-doors with electric heater on. Meanwhile my cousin called and spoke to my mother, his paternal aunt, and instructed that a vehicle was on way to the temple-gate to take us back to his place of residence and we were supposed to cancel our stay at the temple-complex immediately. I met with the president of the Complex to convey our decision to him. We were back at Tulsi Bagh by3 p.m. It rained for another two days making it impossible for us to move out of the residence. When the Sun appeared on the fourth day morning, a Friday, we decided to go to Mata Ksir Bhawani temple at Tulmul. My cousin arranged a taxi and we reached Tulmul atnoon . It was a moment of great pleasure to be there. The security from the outer gate itself is very tight.The inner compound was almost empty. We sat inside the temple for quite some time. The purohit who put tilak on my forehead seems to be a local youth who has efficiently remembered the mantra to be recited while doing the job.

We started our return journey in the afternoon. A couple of miles away from the temple a group of youth stopped our vehicle. Our driver, Sahil, very politely agreed to turn back. He took a village route to the newly laid highway that perhaps connects Bandipora with the City. Once he sighted the highway, he felt relaxed. Then he told us that that was a normal thing on Fridays. Some youth in a few towns block roads after offering the Friday Namaz. A young bearded gentleman, Sahil has spent several years in places outsideKashmir . He had been an army recruit too but he had to quit.Sahil opened up and told us that he had a childhood friend who spoke very rarely and very little and whom people in the locality and home considered to be a lunatic. Then suddenly one day he along with a foreign national was blown up near an army camp by the explosives that he carried inside his pheran. Sahil was arrested to retrieve more information about his friend. “He knew nothing.” He looked sad and anguished for the suffering of his parents during the period of his arrest. It was 4 in the afternoon when we touched the City outskirts. Sahil on his own took us to Shalimar and Nishat Gardens and on our request to the ancient Shiva temple at Ishbari, then to Bhagwan Gopinath Ashram and the Ganpatyaar temple.

The Ganpatyaar temple is highly fortified. The KP houses in the vicinity have crumbled. I saw a dog entering a KP house through its window. I asked Sahil to come back the next morning if it was sunny.

We were back at the residence in the evening when three of my colleagues Roop, Maharaj and Mallikarjun from Patiala, Lucknow and Mysore respectively came over to meet me. They were in the City on an academic tour.

The next morning our vehicle came at about 8 in the morning and we took Roti and vegetables in our Tiffinbox and started our journey to Sonamarg. The route to Sonamarg passes through Ganderbal, Kangan, Gund etc. Sahil halted for breakfast at Gund where my mother purchased Shawls. I had a cup of Kahwa for Rs. 15! Upon reaching Sonamarg we asked the driver to be around. We enjoyed the breeze and the snow-clad peaks around the place. A jeep nearby fitted with a microphone and an amplifier was making appeals in Kashmiri to seek financial support for ‘orphans’. After nearly two hours we asked Sahil to drive us back to where we could eat our food. He brought us to a Government restaurant some 5 KMs away from Sonamarg. The place is quite picturesque, situated on an island at the bank of Sindhu River. The Manager there was quite cordial. He allowed us to eat our own food there. However, we purchased biscuits, tea etc. from them. After lunch we met a Shawl-seller who happened to be a boy from our native village! He was happy to know that we hailed from his village! Our return journey was quite comfortable. We were back at the hotel by6 p.m. The following day was a Sunday. We asked Sahil to bring his vehicle by around10 a.m.

My cousin and two of his brothers-in law agreed to join us the next morning. They prepared delicious food-items early in the morning and we started our journey by10 a.m. We reached Baba Rishi and went in there. There were another ten odd vehicles parked outside but we were the only KPs among the pilgrims. From there we went to Gulmarg where our driver parked at a height near the rope-way on the advice of my cousin. The driver left us there and went to meet his friends. It was a beautiful sight and quite breezy. The breeze made my mother uncomfortable. She wished to start the return journey immediately. My cousin and his brothers-in-law began to have liquor along with food. We finished our lunch by2 p.m. There was a brief drizzle that made the place even more beautiful. My mother was looking around for Sahil to appear who finally came at4 p.m. My mother did not spare him and he went on apologizing. We were back in the City by7 p.m. Mother asked Sahil to come to the Hotel next day after 11a.m.

Sahil, the vehicle driver, called next morning to inform that his vehicle-owner needed the vehicle-Mahindra Xylo- and that he-Sahil- had arranged for a substitute driver and vehicle that would drop us at Mattan- Anantnag. Mattan is my mother’s birth-place. Two of her brothers have been spending the summer months there for the last five odd years. They have repaired/redone some part of the house that is located opposite the first gate of the Nagabal (the holy spring). Besides, Mattan has been my High School town. The alternative vehicle came and we started our journey after lunch. We made a brief stop at Avantipore temple-ruins and then at Anantnag Nagabal. We reached Mattan at around4 p.m. Mamaji ,AK, was waiting. The following two days were rainy again, so we stayed indoors. Meanwhile the elder Mamaji, BN, and his wife too arrived. AK has a trusting young man, Altaf, from the neighboring family who does several chores for him. The rains halted life especially in the villages.

A young person, a tailor-master, from the neighborhood came to AK’s room in the afternoon. He got acquainted with me and a few minutes later, he narrated the story of his suffering. “He went to Srinagar to learn the art of tailoring. A young fellow one day came to that shop and sought stitched clothes from him. Since he was only an apprentice, he did not know anything about the customers or their clothes; the elderly tailor-master who owned the shop was elsewhere. When he could not satisfy the young gentleman, the gentleman threatened him. A week or so later the apprentice was arrested and severely tortured. Several months later, he learnt that his name had been given to the security forces by the same gentleman who had threatened him at the tailor-master’s shop where he had come to learn the art of tailoring. The small town boy after severe suffering in the custody gathered courage to tell the senior most officers to make the following enquiries from the informer: “How did the informer know me? Which place was I from? What is my father’s name?” The officer did the same and found out the falsity of all that the informer had been saying all those months. The accused was helped by one of his London-based cousins during the period. Finally he was out and he went back to his little town to do tailoring on his own. He has moderate earnings now.

Altaf helped us to hire a taxi from the town when it was sunny again and we went in a single day to Verinag, Kokernag, Acchabal, Nagadandi, Martand Sun-temple-ruins, and returned to Mattan by 7 p.m.We had lunch at Kokernag.

The following day the same taxi took us to Arau- ahead of Pahalgam- where we had tea. We met four young men- Shawl sellers- from our native village there. We returned to Pahalgam at lunch-time and had lunch at a Dhaba near the Bus- Stand. Then we went to the Mamaleshwar temple across the river Lidder. A local youth, it seems, puts vermillion on the pilgrims’ forehead at the temple. After4p.m. we started our return journey. We went to our native village that falls en-route Mattan-Pahalgam road some 18 KMs away from Pahalgam. We reached the house of the lone KP family in the village in the evening. Two of their daughters had arrived from Delhi/Jammu the previous day. My Mamaji and Altaf had tea with us and they went back to Mattan. My childhood friend Dar came to meet us the next morning so did another person, Mir, who was very close to my eldest paternal uncle’s family. Dar was aware of my illness and he as well as his wife was further shocked to see me with a staff in hand. Mir too was shocked as he learnt about the serious illness that I suffered last autumn.

In a matter of minutes, Mir told us that years ago he was asked to play his beloved musical instrument, Rabab, in a hall in a village five KMs away from our village. There were some more music-lovers and singers who too were persuaded to participate in the musical evening. But it was a conspiracy, said he. An hour or less had passed, when their instruments were broken into pieces and they (the players/singers) were given a severe beating by the men, then known as ‘cultural police’. During the subsequent days men opposed to ‘cultural police’ tried to probe them regarding the identity of the beaters but they did not reveal their identity to prevent further harassment to themselves. Being a music-lover he feels sad for animal or any killing. He asked me and my mother to stay on in the village and get a house constructed. He promised to extend whatever support he could.

I found that these boys of yesteryears, who are of my age or senior to me, have black hair and look much younger.

During the day I met a couple of state security personnel who reside in my younger uncle’s house. After brunch they bask in our kitchen-garden across the stream. One of them asked me to return and settle in my village. Yes, said I, but only after the fear /threat of any kind gets eliminated. “That will not happen any day”, said he.

I walked a couple of lanes, went to the Bhuteshwar temple across the stream and prepared to leave the next day. My friend Dar dropped me and my mother at Mattan where from AK’s younger son, my cousin, brought me to Srinagar. En-route Srinagar, he stopped his vehicle and paid a hefty sum in cash at a Durgah. I spent the following day at his place. Next morning he sent his friend, an MD medicine, who dropped me at the airport. The young doctor from the City believes that ‘the old peaceful days- that he has not experienced in person- shall come back’. At the airport, he put my suitcase on a trolley, and I said good-bye to him.

An hour later, I was at Jammu. In the evening I went to Chhanni, Sector 4 in a hired auto to wish luck to my paternal cousins whose sons’ marriage was in progress. They wanted me to stay for the night but I could not because the medicine that I take after dinner was not with me. One of the grooms dropped me back at my sister’s place at Shakti Nagar. The next morning, my sister and I went to the wedding of the daughter of a village girl, Lalli. It proved a good meeting place. We met a large number of men and women from our native village. The next afternoon, I started my return journey to Varanasi; my place of work which Dr. K L Chaudhary calls ‘The abode of god’- and reached here on Sunday. On Tuesday, I took over as the Head of the Department for the second term, an office that I quit in the first week of July.

Our mother wished to stay back in the Valley till the end of June but consistent wet weather made her sick and she returned to Jammu in the second week of June.

(Author is Head, Deptt. of Linguistics, Banaras Hindu University)

Source: Milchar

  

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