Echoes from the Valley


Rahul Pandita’s book ‘Our Moon Has Blood Clots’ unveils the truth of life that Kashmiri Pandits faced during their exodus. It looks at how they became refugees in their own country after the turbulent 1990s, writes Supriya Batra

 

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There are some books you read and then there are some which you experience. Our Moon Has Blood Clots certainly falls in the latter category. A lack of home, a lack rahul-panditaof time with the close ones, a lack of belonging, an abundance of anxiety, rootlessness, of what is not there anymore! Each page of Rahul Pandita’s book brings out the emotions of of loss and brokenness, a nostalgia about a lost homeland. It begins with the mention of tradition, history and the childhood of the author in Kashmir. Rahul Pandita was fourteen years old when he was forced to leave his home in Srinagar along with his family who were Kashmiri Pandits, the Hindu minority within a Muslimmajority Kashmir. The author has documented his own family’s experience and that of those around him. As one reads through the story that has been told in a simple language, the reader understands the agony and the ignominy of the Pandits, who have been forced to become refugees in their own country. The book tries to bring out the horrors that the people faced at the time of insurgency which are not entirely known and the real picture of which has never been openly painted before. Narrating the religious differences as well as the brutal killings, the book has sections so strong that they leave a reader unnerved.

By giving us the details of his first hand experiences, Pandita paints the wrath his community had to face in Kashmir and even in other parts of the nation. It explains how the situation compelled the Pandits to leave the valley and how after being disowned in Kashmir, they weren’t even accepted in Jammu, a place they had pinned all their hopes on. The helplessness, the loss and the heart-breaking nostalgia leap out of almost every sentence in the book. This untold reality is extremely important because it does not speak of Pandita’s family alone or their sufferings, which perhaps are minuscule as compared to some of their fellow Pandits. It paints a bigger picture where rehabilitation of those who were exiled is still an unanswered question.

The only critical point is that the book does not follow a chronological style which means that the reader has to often flip through the pages to go back to ascertain the timeline in the story. And as the book narrates events from a Kashmiri Pandit’s eyes, one can easily sense the bias towards the community.

The reader finds himself standing beside the author as Pandita narrates his father’s emotions on leaving his hard-earned home, outside the gates of their 22-room house, weeping, knowing that they will never come back to this home again. The story of a lost home is repeated over and again in the book, emphasising the pain and complete desolation of the exiled families. It makes one question the role of government, its policies and the apathy of the appointed leaders to human pain and suffering. The most important feature of this book is that instead of serving as propaganda for Kashmiri Pandits, it carries a subtle message of humanity and brotherhood.

The suffocation after being confined to the four walls of a city dwelling after growing up in the fresh open air of the mountains and that ever-elusive promise of ‘going back home’ evoke strong emotions in the reader’s mind till the end of the narrative.

While he keeps visiting Kashmir for lecturing and for his journalistic assignments, Pandita continues to live in hope and closes the narrative with “I promise there will come a time when I will return permanently.”

Thousands of Pandits still languish in refugee settlements. After more than two decades, the community has still not been able to return to their ancestral land. They are dispersed all over, from Jammu to Johannesburg.

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