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A PROFILE OF KASHMIRI PANDITS
B. L. Dhar
will not be lying when I say the most beautiful people in the world are the Kashmiris. Well, I mean the ones who no longer live in Kashmir and are now spread all over the world. If you look at the meaning of the word “beautiful”, it necessarily may not mean what the Oxford Dictionary has to say about it. Beauty does not confine only in the countenance but in the frame of mind and character as also the genetic hierarchy that has followed Kashmiris through generations. When I searched the web to find out the truth of this dictum I ran across statements that described Americans as the most beautiful people in the world. I traveled all over America to find out the truth. I was not disappointed to learn the facts that weighed against this statement. I do find many Americans beautiful, truly beautiful, but that may only be in looks. There are more accompaniments other than looks that a person needs so as to be called beautiful. I looked at the facts dispassionately and analyzed the data that further strengthened my belief. The conclusions I draw zeroed in straight at the Kashmiri Pandits who are the most Beautiful People in the world.
Before I venture into the methodology of my conclusions, I wish to boldly admit that the best thing that ever happened to this community of Kashmiri Pandits was their being uprooted from their ancestral abode of Kashmir. Their roots were so deep that they never ventured outside the place as they held these roots firmly and fervently for many centuries. For them life would have been meaningless and bereft of all its purpose if they were asked to leave their homes. What followed was simply shameful and I submit that all credit goes to the Government at New Delhi that silently watched the entire episode of their being displaced and but for that silence on their part the truth would never have been revealed. Today I call these Kashmiri Pandits beautiful is because they have proved it themselves beyond any doubt. No community anywhere in the world has withstood the acid test as positively as the Kashmiri Pandits have, and who else has faced such a calamity of being denied their place of birth. It is only this Kashmiri Pandit who for centuries has withstood the onslaught of invasion, conversion, desecration and migration. This rigorous tempering has hardened the resolve of this Kashmiri Pandit and turned him into solid gold. Why should not I call them beautiful people? Is not Gold beautiful?
History stands witness to the horrors this community has gone through the centuries indicating the greatest torment that a community has silently borne out of its nobility and faith that some day some God in heaven will listen to their cry and anguish and deliver them from this filth to be reborn as Beautiful People. And here they are and I make my reference to these Kashmiri Pandits when I say they are the beautiful people. For many centuries the Kashmiri Pandits were shackled in faith and belief that it was the inheritance of good culture and Karma that would finally deliver them from their miseries one day. How else would they have let the barbarians torment them? Some were out to convert them, some tried to change their appearance, some burnt their sacred thread in heaps to intimidate them and some forced them to abandon their places of worship so that they build mosques at those places. Their women were molested and children defiled so that they remain subjugate to their rule. History once again is a mute witness of the atrocities that were heaped on this hapless community. And one wonders how all this mistreatment was tolerated at all. It is true that by nature the Kashmiri Pandits are non violent and get easily cowed down by threats, but having to face such intolerant behavior over a long period of time was asking for extreme measures that has finally delivered them from their anguish. And what a relief they now feel at this deliverance.
The Kashmiri Pandit’s resolve is as hard as steel though his behavior is as mild as iron, which is malleable and ductile. What I see today is this resolve that has withstood the test of their endurance and the challenges thrown at them have brought out the solidity of their character that was hidden in the depths of their languid frames. I am happy to see today this community living all over the world and not confined to a few hundred square kilometers of space in Kashmir where hot threats breathed down their necks day in and day out. They now prosper and do well not only for themselves but for the communities with whom they share this world. They make us proud being hard working and intelligent. They are duly blessed by mä shârika or mä raĝnya or mä jwâla depending on which isht devis they owe their allegiance to. Today they are spread all over the world rather than limiting their activities in a valley which was treacherous to them all through the ages. This exodus has the blessings of their gods and this was the ultimate rescue of this community that was decreed for them by the mighty lord in the heavens above.
One will admit that their separation pangs are woeful and their cry of anguish loud and resonant and this has continued for over two decades now. Many could not recompose themselves with a new way of life and gave up their struggle. Some died in pain of separation from their motherland and some died because they were slaughtered for not towing the line of those who wanted them out. The theory of the survival of the fittest proved to be true and only the stronger survived leaving the others dead though not forgotten. It was after all the displacement from a normal routine that kicked in the trauma. Confined to a way of life that constituted their run-of-the-mill routine had teased them into acceptance of all forms of brute behavior. The Kashmiri Pandits were happy doing their chores that they followed for centuries till their impending death. All that mattered was to pray to their isht devis, participate in social and religious activities like marriage, birthdays, the ritual puja and remembering their dead. No other activity was either understood or known to them and for that matter no other way of earning a livelihood ever seemed likely, possible or warranted. All this has changed forever. The horizon has expanded to take in all forms of activity that no longer remains confined to a few selections known to them. In order to continue with some rituals that they are not comfortable to give up, these have now been replicated at new places where they live. They rebuilt their famous temples of their gods like Sharika, Kshir Bhawani, Zeethyar etc. all across the country where activities sacred to them continue as usual.
Those Kashmiri Pandits who could not sever their ties with the state are the ones who are in some way economically connected with it like having a business or a government job and have taken up abode at Jammu where they have converted this once sleepy little town into a bustling city with all sorts of activity and candor. Thanks to the younger generation that has eagerly taken on with building a new city with extended boundaries from where they can address their achievements and talk about good things. The natives of Jammu knew about these Kashmiri Pandits only when they were in town on a yearly transfer during winter while in the state services. Though their intrusion was disliked they would provide them shelter in their own homes at a price. Now they see these very people in hordes with their uncanny ability of building a vibrant city just because Kashmiri Pandits like to have their own home where they can practice their routine. It is another matter that this phase of their settlement is a temporary sojourn as long as the younger generation takes wings and hunts for better opportunities outside the state as jobs become scarce with the passage of time and higher expectations kick in. They are just as eager to widen these horizons and venture into new fields of activity and they no longer feel expendable. I have witnessed this in all the major cities of the country as also in the countries overseas. There is no place in the world where you can not find traces of this community living a serene life of their own and undisturbed now having unshackled themselves from the chains that bound them to the small confines of the Kashmir valley. With the broadening of their economic activities their vision has broadened as well.
The hurricanes having abated now, I look at the calming waters and get a feeling of peace that beckons these beautiful people. They have not given up on their motherland and will never do so, not until the last of the soul born there has gone into oblivion. What is assuring is that the new generation thinks a little different when they speak of themselves as World Kashmiris instead of Kashmiri Kashmiris. They are the ones who will one day rule the clans that got separated two decades ago. I have reason to believe that the bond will get stronger rather than disintegrate with the community spreading all over. Never before have I seen solidarity of this magnitude and coming together of minds to ensure a bonding even if they are separated in terms of distance. The resolves are firmer now than these were any time before. More impetus is given to retaining the cultural heritage and a stronger bond with their mother tongue that they now relearn (thanks to internet) with a script when it was until recently a spoken language only. I am sure one day these very people will call themselves as “Kashmiri Citizens of the World” rather than limit their boundaries to a valley that was cruel to them many a times and perhaps they may never set their foot on that soil again. The tradition will live on for it has foundations of lasting value. Whenever you meet this Kashmiri, think of him as an embodiment of a newer generation that is preparing to raise its foundations once again in a new order.
At the outset the Kashmiri Pandit is a phenomena that cannot be discounted and set aside. The people of this world will one day acknowledge the existence of this community and find solace in the fact that here is someone who will one day change the definition of living a meaningful life. I know for sure that there are some adjustments that have to be made to fit in the new order and the younger generation sure will take care of that, as it is impossible to change the mindset of the older one. A Kashmiri Pandit is a proud person, fiercely proud, and he will not give up that pride for anything in this world, not even for the demands that his young make at this juncture of transition. They are a bit emotional and at times cynical and they do carry a little ego, all traits that are a byproduct of the wounds of being alienated over a very long period of time. Now that they have the opportunity once again they will re-evolve, rise from the past and glorify their future. That is why they are the Beautiful People. Believe me that, I am not lying.
B.L. Dhar was born and brought up at Srinagar. He did his Master's Degree in Mathematics. For work he joined the Civil Aviation Department as a Gazzetted Officer and later shifted to a PSU, Airports Authority Of India from where he retired as a General Manager in the year 2000.
Since his retirement he has been writing articles and stories, some of which have appeared in Shehjar on a regular basis. He claims he loves writing right from his college days, but majored in Mathematics instead of English only as a challenge to his talent. He lives in Delhi with his wife, the children having moved over to the USA for work.
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