|The write-up is about our young generation, their feelings about the state of our community and fears about the status of the future young ones who will be Kashmiri but not ever know what all it takes to be one. The subject required a careful handling and a deft dealing with the young minds with whom the author interacted before writing on this subject.
1st January 2008.
It is my Birthday today, my 18th Birthday. I have become an adult. I am now eligible to vote. I can go get my driving license and I can watch adult movies in the theater. May be I can also drink a beer in a bar. I do not like the smell of it though. I may develop a taste later in life as the little surprises in day-to-day experience bitters the sweetness of my tongue. I have invited some close friends from the college for a party. We debated over as to how we can celebrate the event. The reason that it happens to be the New Year’s Day as well as me being born on this day I feel someone special. We finally decided to grab some Butter chicken from the “Dhaba” near the campus and some “Tandoori Roti” as accompaniment. This being my first year in the Engineering College, having secured admission six months ago, I have access to some money that my poor old dad sends me every month from his meager earnings. I am a little frugal otherwise, but today is an exception. I will never forget the Butterflies in my stomach when I was born. I do not like to carry those butterflies with me no more.
1st January 2003.
Today is my 13th birthday. My mom and dad have bought a new dress for me and I will show all my friends today I am better dressed than they are. My dad will also give me some money to spend on candy in the school. I sure will share it with my friends. My dad told me to maintain a diary from my 13th birthday onwards, now that I am in my teens, and write down all things important to me including how I spend my pocket money. I start my diary today and before I start writing about my expense account I better start with who I am. When I think of my mom and dad I am reminded about their story about me and I must write what they did when I was born. But now I am excited about my birthday and I can smell the turmeric rice “Taher” that my mom will make me eat first thing in the morning with curds and some sugar after applying a “tilak” on my forehead and tie the red and yellow colored “Narven” thread around my wrist. She says this is a good omen and a tradition we follow. I sure am late for school and will write later.
11th January 2003.
I wanted a follow up on my last entry but delayed it for a special reason. I was watching TV and saw the first snowfall in the valley beyond that covered the ground in a white blanket. I have never stopped to wonder what the spectacle is like. I wish I could touch the white flakes that fall from the sky. I am told it is cold to the touch and the flakes melt in the hand. My dad says he used to make balls out of it and throw at his friends for play. He says they used to make a snowman and dress it with a cap on its head and gloves on its hands lest it get cold. They used charcoal to mark its eyes and other facial features. I see on TV the flakes falling every year in winter and am curious to know what it really feels like.
23rd January 2003.
I write my diary again today. You see I get so busy playing cricket with friends after school that I get tired and want to sleep soon after my dinner. Yes I promised I should write about who I am before I write anything else. The recount of the story makes me feel butterflies in my stomach, but I must reveal all about myself as I feel it is important you know who is writing this diary. Yes I told my dad about it and he said to go ahead and do it. But he says be careful and not write anything bad about anyone. Not even the bad men he encountered that fateful day I was born. And when it comes to timing the story it is strange it should happen around my birth month and also when it snows in the land where I was born. I may have come into this world on the 1st day of the year’s first month but I got banished only ten days later from the sacred hearth that my parents call home. It feels great that I still managed to live there for the first ten days of my life. I only wish I was sane enough to have enjoyed the moment.
26th January 2003.
The whole of the country is glued to the TV screens since early morning watching the glory of the Republic Day parade at Delhi, the capital city. I have been watching it for so long now that I do not even remember when I started doing so. I only wish I am there where the action is. My history teacher at the school explained to us what the ceremony is all about, but when I try correlate it with my own story I get distraught. I promise I will write about it when it is time. Today I am busy watching the Republic Day Parade at Delhi on the TV.
31st January 2003.
I do not want the month of January giving me the slip before I narrate my story. This is the month of my birth and this is the month my agony started. My mom was home on the first day of January going through the pains of bringing me into this world when a couple of goons arrived at the door of our house at Habba Kadal and threatened my father to leave town for good and save self and family from extinction. He was not surprised. Most of his neighbors had already fled. He was also planning so but my impending birth was holding him up. My mom was in no condition to travel. Dad asked them for some time to arrange departure and he got a reprieve. He was working for the Government in the Agriculture Department and had contacts to arrange things. One of his colleagues offered help and arranged transportation by a departmental vehicle returning to Jammu for uplifting yet another load of supplies from there. Dad says we packed few essentials and left home on the 10th of the month in a battered truck that dropped us at the Mishriwala Camp on the outskirts of Jammu, where all other Hindu families who had fled the terror in the valley were accommodated. Days that followed were full of turmoil and pain at having lost all that was ours. My dad had not even received his salary for the month of January and had withdrawn whatever little money he had at the bank. It later transpired that our house was targeted for a forced occupation by some bad elements and his colleague who helped with the transportation was an accessory at hastening our departure.
28th February 2003.
I think I have already told you my story, but that is just the beginning. How my parents battled for survival in the displaced persons camp is so tragic that I fear to write about it lest I betray the feelings of my father who told me not to be cruel to people who may have in turn been cruel to us. The positive side of the story is that with an enormous effort and after a long passage of time my dad managed to reestablish contact with his department and he was offered to collect his salary at Jammu every month pending his posting at a new place. We left the camp and took a room on rent at Jammu where we stayed for six months before dad could afford a bigger accommodation upon his regular posting to the Jammu office. Somehow it was a little unnerving for the whole family including my grandparents to stay in just one room for so long. I grew in the meantime and was a five year old when my dad sought admission for me in an English Medium school. I am through with the initial years of primary education and close to the end of middle school. I am also pleased to see some of my relatives including uncles, aunts and cousins more frequently who had taken shelter at the camp and have now taken refuge at Jammu in rented premises. And to say the obvious I got a baby brother when my parents shifted to the new house. God, he really is cute.
13th April 2003.
Today is Baisakhi and we are celebrating the event among friends. My dad tells me about the “Navreh” festival back home that is similar to the event the rest of the folks do outside the valley. I am told about the beginning of the spring season and the flowering almond trees that lend a spectacular view all around. People of all faiths would gather in the “Devi Angan” at Hari Parbat and eat roasted “singhada” and “Nadr Monji”. I wish I had tasted the stuff and participated in this festival. For that matter I will say I should have participated in other festivals as well like the celebration of “Shivratri” for example, which is the most sacred event of Kashmiri Pandits. I can only imagine what it would be like back home.
10th January 2004.
As usual I celebrated my birthday on the first with all pomp and show along with my friends. This time around I understood why my mom celebrates my birthday twice. The other occasion varies as per the positioning of the lunar calendar and it is only then that the arrangements for the day are a bit more elaborate. Why I write this is to emphasize that I do not know all things that are important in the calendar of a Kashmiri and I am still learning a lot things more as I grow up. May be my indoctrination in this regard would have been more hasty and complete had I lived a community life back home under normal circumstances. I would have learnt more than what I discover now in a slow and drawn out process.
30th April 2005.
The results of my board school examination were declared a week ago and I topped the merit list. My grandpa gifted me a watch. I am now in the higher secondary school and ready for the challenges ahead. But some things keep bothering me and I intend to find out what exactly is the source of my discomfort.
15th August 2007.
This year I qualified in the higher secondary board examination and secured 91% marks in aggregate. This does not, however, place me in the top three ranks as my parents wished but I was close at the seventh rank. I got admission in an Engineering college at Roorkee and am doing well in my studies. I am able to write a few lines today, being a holiday. Yes, we are celebrating the Independence Day today. But solemnly, I ask, are we really independent? I still hear the calls for “Azadi” across from the valley where I am born and wonder why they utter that word. I sure asked dad about it and he explained the political aspect of it. I believe there is more to it than meets the eye. My heart goes out deeply for my ancestors who played their part and lived a humble serene life in the valley in difficult times. The place is mine now, except that I hardly know what it really looks like and the people who habitat it. I wonder sometimes if the present young of my land, who are my age at this time, have any feelings for the ones on the other side of the line. Do they know who we really are and do they care? We have drawn a line, a border and kept ourselves away from each other and let the distrust continue to grow between us. I see some guys shuttle between the two divides and yet I am not able to cross over and remain unaware of what happens in their part of the line. Must we not make some advances to close the gap that was created almost two decades ago? I heard the account that this perhaps would not be the first time that my community faced this kind of exodus and that it has happened earlier on as well. But did any of us try to determine if the dividing chasm could be bridged? My grandpa keeps brooding.
29th October 2008.
Today is Diwali and I am home for celebrations. The lights and the fireworks are subdued due to environmental issues globally and I happen to like the change of mindset of the people. Dad says Diwali back home was a somber affair and not as wild as it is in the plains out here. I have done a bit of study of our culture and tradition in the last six months and have gone through the text of so many writings that have appeared on the subject of our displacement and plans of a resettlement in the homeland. I think this subject was nagging me for quite some time and I kept collecting data from different sources to get at the details. What I learnt of our plight is a very prolific description of our anger as a community. There appears to be no political will to resolve the problem and all the political parties appear to distance themselves from this complex issue for fear of marginalizing their vote bank. Today I hear stories about our culture and customs and the language format but fail to fathom their actual impact on the minds of the young generation that has never set foot on the soil, my people call home. What comes to my mind is the impending emergence of a leader who will shepherd all the lost sheep back to their pen. It has got to be now or never as long as there are strings in the grasp of our elders to put back the flowers in the garland. We may otherwise end up as aliens in our land and drift further apart. Oh God! Let that not be true.
The boy is not identified with a name because there are thousands back there like him.
B. L. Dhar was born and educated at Srinagar. Did Master's degree in Mathematics. Took up appointment with the Civil Aviation Sector of the G.O.I. as a gazzetted officer and later joined the PSU, Airports Authority of India (AAI) from where he retired as General Manager in 2000.
At present residing at Delhi with frequent visits to the US and Europe where his kith and kin reside. Has interest in writing.
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