(Noonchai is traditional Kashmiri tea. It is made from special tea leaves, milk and salt. It is taken two to three times a day by Kashmiri people.)
‘Do not jump the gun like last time. Take time to observe how to respond. You do not want to repeat your mistakes.’ These thoughts were constantly running through my mind while travelling to Jammu to take an entrance exam. I was feeling nervous and these anxious thoughts kept coming back. Even though a road trip from Kashmir to Jammu is every traveller’s heaven and you cannot keep your eyes off the scenic beauty for a moment, I was ignorant of all the nature’s creativity around me. The bird’s eye view from the high mountains is truly mesmerizing but I was in a totally different world altogether.
I was not dreading my exams, I never have. I was dreading the moment of meeting new people. We were going to stay at my father’s best friend’s place and my experience in a somewhat similar situation had been abominable. Rewind to three years before and I am sitting at a family friend’s place in Delhi. His sister enters the room; I get up and walk to her expecting an embrace like we, in Kashmir, welcome our guests and she walks past me smiling. That was one of the most embarrassing situations of my life. Coming back to the present, I had made up my mind to maintain a safe distance.
We reached Jammu and finally the moment arrived. Abu entered before me and just I was about to enter, what I witnessed was pure magic. All his family members came upon us, embracing and welcoming us like we were just in another Kashmiri house and it could have been true if not for the fateful night of 20 January 1990. His father addressed Abu as ‘my son’ and his mother could not help asking me about everyone back at home. The house felt like a home to me and it was amazing how they had kept their ‘Kashmiriyat’ still alive. I felt ecstatic at that moment. I am awful at first time conversations but it was entirely different this time. Within no time I was talking like I knew everyone of them from childhood. Finally, it was tea time and to my utter surprise I was drinking the best noonchai I have ever tasted.
By that dazzling light
we see men removing statues from temples.
We beg them, “Who will protect us if you leave?”
They don’t answer, they just disappear
On the road to the plains, clutching the gods.
Agha Shahid Ali
I See Kashmir from New Delhi at Midnight
The Kashmiri Pandit exodus was an unfortunate incident. Due the despicable actions of some extremist forces, the humanity had to suffer in general. Living in an exile from your motherland is a heart wrenching experience and beyond comprehension for those who have not experienced it. The past has been horrifying and disheartening, the present is turbulent and we have to take steps to streamline our future and bring back hope to the people living in Kashmir and our brothers and sisters waiting to come back to their motherland.
Walo ha bagwano nav bahaaruk shaan paida kar
Pholan gul gath karan bulbul, tithuy samaan paida kar
Chaman varaan, wadaan shabnum tchatith jamae, pareshan gul
Gulan tay bul gulan andar, dubaray jaan paida kar
Come forth gardener, create the magnificence of a new spring
The flowers would bloom, with songbirds circling around them, create these things
The garden is desolate, the dew weeps, and with torn robes the flowers are distraught
Inside those lifeless flowers and songbirds, create a new life again