Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The furnished home of the homeless.

Pooja Shali
The same number began to flash on my phone, as usual. A number that I answer to, every year. The caller is all prepared with the question and I have my rejection in place. It is an invitation I ought to refuse…

The sun has rolled itself into the earth with jarring precision this year. The heat has taken its toll and citizens of the capital are packing their bags to head to more serene landscapes. The traffic, the ghastly pollution and unbearable heat are only excuses to reach for the mountains. The options for a vacation are galore in this vast wide world. Like every year, I choose only one option from my list but that unfortunately remains only on paper. This time too I have decided to step into Kashmir to feel the soil of my sensitive roots. For the very first time.

My friends in the valley who are fortunate to have their homes in Kashmir (for whatever reasons) do not look for an option. They do not have to decide. They do not have to think twice before packing their bags. They do not have to convince their parents to let go of the fear of fanatics. They do not have to make bookings. I, even though from the same land, have to undertake all of this.

…my phone is still ringing…

Every year I am ‘invited’ to Kashmir. Invited to a home, half of which I believe is mine. Jawahar tunnel is the passage into my huge living room. My hall is painted in colours of sensual blue that appeal to the eyes instantly. Behind Dal Lake are the paintings of snow peaked hills on the wall serving as highlights of the dining hall. On the treacherous way to the bedroom is the Puja-ghar. The huge Shankracharya temple and Kheer Bhawani are bowed to and respected by all the family members. The bed room is my sanity haven. Next to a bridge, under the shade of a banyan tree is where I think I slept sometime ago. The green pasture is the quilt I am covered in, whenever sleep beckons me.

This is the home I am asked to come to. The invitation arrives with sugar coated pudding in words; others come as a colloquial reminder in conversations. Several are too emotional to be ignored while quite a few extremely derogatory.

The ‘invitation to come to my own home’ echoes sometimes through my friends, by tourist agencies, occasionally by separatists trying to project a secular outlook and often by the mother earth dying to take me into her lap. Till now I have ignored all the appeals. I had taken a pledge long back that I shall never take off my shoes on that gravel as a tourist.
As my Muslim friends reiterate that they are going home for vacations, I’d decided I shall never utter from my mouth that I am going to Kashmir for a retreat. It would be an insult to my whole identity if I did so. Like them I also wanted to exclaim ‘Hey, I am heading back to my home’.

As of now, happily into my early twenties that day has never come. Unable to again build a home in Sekidafar or Habbakadal, I am a restless soul. The home, of which I heard innumerable stories from my mother, also became lullabies to put me to sleep. Almost everyday, my mother refers to her Habbakadal home like a child who never forgot the one Barbie doll she owned. But any discussion of rebuilding that home would only show a trace of eternal fear on that forehead. This failure resultant of inherent pride made me take a resolution.

The pledge is losing its ground now. Forced to take my words back, I have decided to visit the valley and if the Ishta Devi wills I shall fulfil it this time. When will I again head back and whether that shall be as a tourist or not are some questions which remain unanswered as of now; but that will not deter me to keep enticing myself to go bare feet on that terrain.

Till now for me Kashmir has been like a fable. A land faraway from my current home, somewhere my parents once resided. The legends and stories not connected to mad rush of New Delhi. A land I am fighting for, believing it shall be of people it once belonged to. Till then I will have to visit the Chinar and come back and then visit it again.

The only difference from then and now will be the revelation that enlightened my soul about my home. The fact that it will always be mine. No hand can snatch it, and no eyes can make me a stranger to it- the shade under the Boueen(Chinar) tree, next to the bridge.

…before the caller disconnects the line, I better receive it and tell him I might be seen in Gulmarg this time around. But that is not accepting an invitation, that’s just a wish to come back.

If I do not gather the strength this time, for sure I never will. The fear lingers on in my parents’ heart, but I need to pack my bags and bring back for them the Prasad of Khir Bhawani. Only then may be, they will say once again’ “lets go home this summer”….

The writer Pooja Shali is studying Mass Communication at AJK MCRC, Jamia. She can be reached at poojashali@gmail.com


Aditya Raj Kaul said...

I felt a question deep inside me after reading the article the second time. We are strangers or better of now as tourists in our own land. We are far away from it, and always longing to be there in those narrow lanes, places of worship and mountain peaks, which we've only dreamt of.

Wonder when this longing will end.. our homeland awaits us!

It is a simple write up, yet so much it has to tell for the generation who have been away from their roots. It tells the story of thousands of children who search for their identity, their land, theit pain growing into years.

This hour of pain, anguish and wait will come to an end soon. We'll go back to our own Kashmir. The land to which we belong.

No invitations. Period

RANISH said...

"Lets go home this Summer"

pooja i totally agree... i feel the same when my friends say - i m going bak home..

Nice write up..i like the way u mix words..


Rashneek Kher said...

Many years back I met Brijnath Betab.He showed me an invitation that he received to attend a Mushairia in Kashmir.
He wrote

Panunuy ghar chum saalas gachun...

(I am going as guest to my own home)

His words find echo in Pooja's post...Keep the flame burning

Sanjay Peshin said...

Simply Marvellous Pooja...We ll definitely go back to HOME soon & moreover without invitation..Keep this anger & pain alive within u..it wld lead us to our HOMELAND.

niharika said...

Excellent Pooja...one day i was thinking that why we are tourists in our home land ?????.it reminded me of our neighbour who migrated from kashmir who tells us about that cruel incident and then cries... we last went to kashmir in 2005 . our most memorable trip . we 1st visited khir bhawani. ya Gulmarg is very beautiful place the better day is the birthday of mata jyeshtha devi...(jyeth atham) just visit
Kashmir is our homeland and Kashmir is waiting 4 us.....

Anonymous said...


Thanks for sharing this entry.


Brilliant piece ... very simple, yet profound. The piece about how our Muslim friends say that they're going home and we are almost like tourists ... really touched me and yes cos its so true.

Keep up the great work!

Cheers n best,

Poonam Munshi

P.S. Adi - i did comment this time :)

Joydeep said...

Another great story that shows the deep sense of loss among the KPs. Though I'm not a KP, but I feel more drawn to their cause then ever before.

One day we all Indians shall celebrate the homecoming of the KPs in Kashmir. And believe me guys. That day will surely come!

Joydeep said...

Another great story that shows the deep sense of loss among the KPs. Though I'm not a KP, but I feel more drawn to their cause then ever before.

One day we all Indians shall celebrate the homecoming of the KPs in Kashmir. And believe me guys. That day will surely come!

MatuKoor said...

Good to hear your story. I do't know how to respond as my parents left Kashmir as kids...to me its very dear in my heart and soul and I feel the pain and anger.

But I wouldnt even know where to go, with no family or friends there, no sense of familiarity with the streets...whether I had an invitation or not. Even going as a tourist has been pooh-poohed by my parents...and I'm scared stiff to go the the place I've always been told is home :-(

Preeti said...

Its a very beautifully written article. Any KP reading the article will echo the same feelings as expressed in the writeup. For me too, it is like a HAVE to do thing in my life to visit Kashmir. I recently read Barak Obama z Dreams from My Father. He has written about how he somehow never felt complete and at peace till the time he went back to Kenya and treaded the same path as his forefathers...its amazing how your roots can be such an integral part of your mental and emotional framework!

Awesome article Pooja :) Let us know whenever you do visit the Valley.

I.D.K.P.Y.F. said...

Dear Sister ,
You have poured a strong sentiment in your write up,
Kashmir is our motherland and we surely will be back not as tourists but as permanent resident.
If you are able to visit valley this summer then memorize the road map of all the places for making life easy once we permanently return.
If you are unable to visit Kashmir this year as well take my word the pain and anguish you feel would even force heavens to grant you your wish.

Keep the fire alive,

Zagat Amba Bless Us All

Rakesh Gurkha

rahul thathoo said...

Nicely done Pooja. I especially liked the sentiment you were trying to show when you said: "shall never utter from my mouth that I am going to Kashmir for a retreat" - and i echo that sentiment completely. I would be anxiously waiting for your write ups from your journey to Kashmir this summer :-)

Indra Rajnikanth said...

Pooja.. i was in kashmir in 2006..it was my first time n still i cried ..some pain of that land gripped me n now i realize what it was..its sad..i think this calls for a major revolution ..we need to see the positives coming for and in favour of kps in our lifetimes lets strive for it..lets act towards this goal togather..as a friend im always there.

Indra Rajnikanth

Nikhil said...

it is a very good work, it links us to our base, our ancestral past. its not about one village or a city but about our lost tradition and heritage, that is some how stolen from us..
Kashmir is an intergral part of our nation and utilising it at the cost of the inhabitants is wrong.

Kamal Hak said...

Pooja, your writing gives me hope. It also allows me some comfort. It relieves some worry from me as well.It also gives me pride to know there is a generation coming up who do not want to forget the injustice suffered by their elder generations. The people who gather their grief and sorrow live to emerge victorious. Great writing. Keep it up. Orzu.
Kamal Hak

Nisha Dhar said...


Shiva Narayani Lux said...

Dear friend,

You have my force and energy, I only believe in Truth, Justice and Universal Love!

Love is Life, Om Namah Shivay!

Narayani Lux

Ritwik said...

Brilliant :)

गिरिजेश राव said...

Nationwide Kashmiri Hindus are known for their analytical mind and talent. By this post I'm making a call for you all:

'Pls. have faith in your destiny and file a well drafted, factual and charged PIL in supreme court under fundamental right of life and quality of living (I think the article is Art. 32). I know that J&K has separate constitution and Indian Constitution has limitation in applicability there but following the principles of Natural Justice and basic features of a welfare state, a well drafted PIL may do wonders. It'll also initiate discussion across world.'

Please come forward and do something. You have to be masters of your own destiny. I'll quote a Hindi poem in this regard.
"मनुष्य ईश्वर का विधाता है/ जैसे आँख प्रकाश की माता है/ जागो रचो एक नया ईश्वर/ अपने प्रश्नों का ठीक ठीक उत्तर/ जागता इंसान ही अपना त्राता है/ मनुष्य ईश्वर का विधाता है. - कवि गोपाल"

rahul said...

like every body else of my age i see around being a kashmiri was just a surname.but reading ur post i want to think again,

Urmila Dhar Zutshi said...

I love the way Pooja's poignant words have touched so many hearts and respect her sentiments which have been echoed by so many others. However I support what Girijesh Rao has quoted about being Master of ones own destiny...
"Kar Khudi ko buland itnaa,
Ke Khuda Khud bande se pooche bata teri raza kya hai.."
I feel we should not give up so easily and as such make a gift of our Kasheer We should take a leaf from the struggle of the Jewish Sabraa and fight for our homes. If this means going in as tourists first and then reclaiming our rightful place - so be it.. I am not advocating pandit militancy but it saddens me when I sense the defeatist attitude of our younger generation. Already so much has been lost of our cultural treasures... but its still not too late. Our motherland is full of opportunities for our young.. Careers / Entrepreneurship... We all know that the real enemy is Politics and our diseased corrupt politicians who have Self Interest as a one point agenda. We have so many bright young men and women who could form a core group and have a strong representation in Kashmir governance. The recent elections threw up so many youngsters ready to take up the reins. We must have countless youngsters as good or better than young Omar Abdulla. The net is a great connector. We dont need so many different KPAs - the need of the hour is a single Kashmir Pandit Movement of dedicated commited KPs without self interest or ego, with just one agenda "Ghar Chalo" The young can lead the old can advise. Stop crying over spilt milk & move ahead. With the Blessing and Grace of Maa Shaarika we will get there. LETS DO IT MY BROTHERS SISTERS AND CHILDREN... JAI HO KASHEER

vijay said...

Dear Friends
I had read the article of Puja, indeed it is a nice article, and the comments by Urmila , Rahul,Indra,kamal are really heart touching, i think all of us were kids when our parents left kashmir,and today all of us miss our beloved Kashyab Bhumi and everyone of us is keen to return our KarmBhumi, but tell me me friends is it possible as far as Muslims are there, the answer is simple No,But some of my friends will say that many of our Organizations like Pk is fighting for HomeLAnd, do u think we can get it by the way they are carrying out this struggle, no never, this whole thing is a Drama.
if we are keen to go back to our PitraBhumi, no one will give us it in alams but we will have to pay price for it,and its Price is BLOOD in our veins.
if we failed we will be guilty before God our ancesstors and our future generations, Before God because we failed to take care of the Gift(Kashmir) he gave us, before our Aancesstors as we failed to preserve out land for which they made greatest Scrafices and for our future Genarations as we will nothing left for them , no identity, no culture, no language and nothing the can fell Proud off


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Pallavi Shahi said...

:) very very well expressed, just like the ramblings of a child who goes on and about all that has managed to sensitise him, made him happy or made him cry.
This emotion, it feels strange. On reading it I struggle trying to understand how would it feel on a daily basis, for years together, at times for an eternity. My prayers and hopes are with you. May the next wiff of journey be the journey most certainly home-bound.