Chaman Lal Koul
|Strange and unpredictable are the roads of life. Would fate be foreseeable, we might take remedial measures to prevent any negative eventualities. But alas, it is not so. Who knew that we would be hounded out of our homeland, our houses burnt, looted and our fellow men, labeled informers and killed mercilessly.
Strange! Fellow Muslims with whom we spend lives disowned us and stopped to recognize us. None came in our support and the state government and administration was hand in glove and even complicit as the so called Mujahideen worked on their agenda of ethnic cleansing of the Hindu religious minorities from Kashmir. I witnessed all happenings and in fact was the last Hindu to leave my neighborhood and my Forest Department office in Kashmir. The reason I stayed put at great risk of life was my deep love for my homeland. Even birds whose nests are destroyed try to build at the same place and migratory birds fly many thousands of miles to their regular habitats. So there need not be any justification for staying as long as I did, even at daily risk to my life.
When I got the final message, “Enough is enough and if you do not leave immediately....,” I still did not know what to do. Quite in a trance and with tears in my eyes, I took a taxi out. What next and where I was to go were questions I started to seriously think about as I crossed the Jawahar tunnel. Fortunately, events took a new shape and I was posted at Jammu by my Head of Department. Yet, I could not stop thinking about my own Kashmir. My inexperience with the Jammu weather caused painful rashes on my skin and made my mouth dry. I would see some of my relatives suffering unbearable hardships and would complain to God in despair and beseech him to come to rescue.
It so happened that I went on tours to Bhaderwah, Kishtwar, Doda, Ramban and other places. When I went to Ramban, my work took me upto the Jawahar Tunnel. I stood at the mouth of the tunnel and drank some water. I became visibly pensive as I visualized my nest in Kashmir. A BSF officer saw me, tapped my shoulder and asked why I was so sad. I told him that I wanted to be on the other side of the tunnel. He said that he could understand my loss and offered to come with me in my jeep. I told him that I could not take the official jeep to the other side as it would be out of my jurisdiction and in the event of any eventuality, it would reflect poorly on me. He made the push and I crossed the tunnel. I went around and captured views of the valley to store in my memory forever.
Would I ever see my valley again or another place as beautiful? This question was weighing on my mind. My son and daughter in law had been imploring me to visit them in Massachusetts, U.S.A and finally it materialized. What a beautiful place! Lofty, conical spruce trees standing majestically and I could find many plants and trees that are also in Kashmir. Kail, Maple and even the ground flora has similarities. Well preserved water bodies are a sight to behold and I was ecstatic when I saw a deer and a turkey in our backyard one day. I finally saw the seasons of autumn, winter and spring again. I saw snow fall on whatever exists on land and make it part of a pearly white landscape. As the seasons come and go, I get many musings and many times I stray to my nest in Kashmir. I imagine rebuilding and living there at my will. I do not have a plan though, just musings.
|Chaman Lal Koul was born in Kashmir, studied there and in Dehradun. He was employed by the Kashmir Forest Department till he was compelled to leave his nest. He got a posting in Jammu and worked as Principal of the Forest Training Institute there. Presently, he is in retirement and has frequent musings about living a full life in Kashmir.
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I can only share pensive feelings of Kaul Sahib for our lost homes for no fault of ours.
Added By pushkar ganjoo
Thoughtful and heart-warming.
Added By Chander M. Bhat