Kashmiriyat - her own flesh and blood!
Pointing her finger at a picture hanging against a wall in her house, an octogenarian woman started her candid conversation with deep sighs, sometimes, and being a flawless narrator of tales at other times. Kheer Bhawani - as told by the lady was the poster - which took me and my friend to the 'heaven on earth' - Kashmir.
Nurturing a keen desire to always converse and engage with and learn from sexagenarians and above, a sudden encounter amidst this hustle-bustle of metro life, I found solace and pain simultaneously in this fading fighter's voice. Solace - for I could share a little of her being, the feelings which are still her very life, and pain for the wounds which are still very fresh inside her flesh. Gradually as she could extend her heart to me, I paid heed to her words like a kid listens to tales in a mother's lap. And pain – for I could feel what she must have undergone.
Kheer Bhawani is a Hindu temple and 'isht' for the Kashmiri Pandits, located in Tulmulla area in Kashmir valley. Spread over a vast land, the temple is as holy for Muslims as it is for Hindus. “When it comes to following the rituals and prohibitions of the temple, Muslims follow it more religiously,” tells the octogenarian.
One can easily witness the cultural mix of the Sindh civilization and contemporary times. ‘Life is a bandwagon of several colors' is what this fading beauty told me. And I, myself being a keen kid of life, always seek life whatever way it comes in. Every single moment for me was as if it can't be framed in my heart again – “so don't even blink your eye, not even let your heart go close,” was the call of the few precious moments this 'buzurg' provided us. She went on flawlessly touching every nook and corner of her life, as we provoked her unfolding narration being keen listeners.
Her murmuring tale touched the royal heydays era when everything around used to nurture life with a fresh zeal. Palatial houses, vast fruit estates, luxury cars, mammoth dry fruits produce and prosperous life – these were a few luxury possessions this fading Kashmiri lady enjoyed being at her homeland, Kashmir.
As told by the old lady, her husband was an eminent journalist. Being so prominent in his profession, she tells us, he was respected equally by friends and foes. Walking down the memory lane, she shared with much ado an incident where in one of the marriages at her home saw both militants and government officials attending the event simultaneously. "It was a daily affair to meet the hardliners, radicals and militants, but we were never fearful as they never caused us any trouble," said the lady.
All communities and religions used to gel up so well that it seemed as if they were brothers and sisters. With a broken heart, whose pain I may say I could feel, but actually it is 10,000 times more than what merely 'I can feel' sounds like, she shares her salad days with us. "We had a palatial house, climate used to be at its best. The backyard was always over-heaped with dry fruits and our life was a best shot frame after frame,” she said.
Still today - when she knows well it's only a memory now - she boasts of her premier possessions, amongst which she talked about her mats the most. Though that pain is still residing there, though she has not forgotten anything as if it happened yesterday only, though her pain is extremely excruciating, she has reluctantly enforced her psyche to admit that Delhi is her abode now and was always. She carries a tormenting grudge - not against people who enforced it at her, nor anybody else, but for the traffic, polluted air and haphazardness of the over-crowded Delhi (might have compared it with everything in Kashmir).
When asked about the people there, back home (which was hers at some point in time), she still is in touch with the local residents, who used to be her neighbours once. Many of them, she recalls, call her back home and even take care of her home and belongings as well. She has that all which still can't be claimed to be hers and with an unwilling 'NO' to go back, she has no logical reason for it.
Refusing to share any greater details about who were responsible for all this, the lady signs off with a deep gasp, saying - it all happened! She misses that fragrant air of her very own homeland today - the valley extremely blessed with all the possible good things, but simultaneously has made herself understand the reality of life today.
A deep gasp again and she starts walking towards the door right in front. Leaving it at a note where I could neither be completely speechless nor say anything, it was only my expressions which responded to her all of a sudden moves. Bidding adieu to her, as I was sure to be lost in this fast-paced life again, but it made me contemplate excessively about life. It was a night different all together and I could not rest well. Having an intense urge to do something, I planned to weave her painful story in words. As a result, I too will sign off as I am done with what I felt like doing for this octogenarian.