Tag Archive for 'Rahul Pandita'

Left with no choice

A chilling account of the circumstances under which a Kashmiri Pandit family was forced out of the Valley. Excerpts from Rahul Pandita’s latest book, Our Moon Has Blood Clots, in Open:

19 January 1990 was a very cold day despite the sun’s weak attempts to emerge from behind dark clouds. In the afternoon, I played cricket with some boys from my neighbourhood. All of us wore thick sweaters and pherans. I would always remove my pheran and place it on the fence in the kitchen garden. After playing, I would wear it before entering the house to escape my mother’s wrath. She’d worry that I’d catch a cold. “The neighbours will think that I am incapable of taking care of my children,” she would say in exasperation.

We had an early dinner that evening and, since there was no electricity, we couldn’t watch television. Father heard the evening news bulletin on the radio as usual, and just as we were going to sleep, the electricity returned.

I am in a deep slumber. I can hear strange noises. Fear grips me. All is not well. Everything is going to change. I see shadows of men slithering along our compound wall. And then they jump inside. One by one. So many of them.

I woke up startled. But the zero-watt bulb was not on. The hundred-watt bulb was. Father was waking me up. “Something is happening,” he said. I could hear it—there were people out on the streets. They were talking loudly. Some major activity was underfoot. Were they setting our locality on fire?

So, it wasn’t entirely a dream, after all? Will they jump inside now?

Then a whistling sound could be heard. It was the sound of the mosque’s loudspeaker. We heard it every day in the wee hours of the morning just before the muezzin broke into the azaan. But normally the whistle was short-lived; that night, it refused to stop. That night, the muezzin didn’t call. That night, it felt like something sinister was going to happen.

The noise outside our house had died down. But in the mosque, we could hear people’s voices. They were arguing about something. More:

My mother’s 22 rooms

Rahul Pandita tells the story of a painful migration

I cannot sing the old songs, or dream those dreams again – Charlotte Barnard

There it is. Huddled among other dolls and a few shreds of cloth. It is wearing a blue dress. I don’t remember what mine wore, for it has been sixteen years since I saw it. It might not be there anymore, but I would like to believe that it is there, invisible to the new occupants of my house. It is a dancing girl made of earth, decorating a corner of my friend’s drawing room. Touch it a little and it will start dancing, moving her neck gracefully. My dancing girl, mother bought it, when I was a child, from a potter selling his stuff on a pavement in Lal Chowk.

And sixteen years later, as I speak to you, there is no significant noise outside my room. No guttural voice and no sound of my mother’s U-shaped walker making its presence felt through the small corridor of my house. Mother fell down from her bed again this morning.

23 years ago, in Srinagar, a team of health officials was to arrive at our school. Their aim was to administer cholera vaccines to children. But for that we were supposed to take the written permission of our parents. Back home I told my father and as expected he wrote ‘No’ on my home task diary. I found it very insulting. Tomorrow all my classmates would take the vaccine and sing laurels of their bravery. And me, I would be hidden in some corner, red-faced with shame. It was not acceptable to me. So I erased father’s nay and wrote ‘Yes’ on the diary. Next morning as the needle of the syringe pierced my left arm, I did not even flinch once. I became an instant hero. But as it is with most acts of heroism, I had to pay a price for mine as well. By late afternoon, a lump had formed in my arm. By the time I reached home I was feverish and drenched in sweat. As I pulled off my shoes, mother saw me and in one instant she knew what had happened. more

Sounds of silence

The cancellation of Kashmir’s first litfest, Harud, is a huge loss to local Kashmiri writers, but the greater loss is that of the readers and audience, a chance to hear seldom-heard voices from the troubled Valley. Namita Bhandare in HT

Autumn was to have been the season of hope; a time for words and ideas, listening and learning. A time for the Harud (autumn) literature festival which would have made Srinagar join that membership of cities in the region that hosts litfests — Jaipur, Kovalam, Karachi, Galle and Thimpu.

Kashmir is a long way from Jaipur where the same organisers, Teamwork Films have managed to achieve such iconic status that hardboiled journalists like Tina Brown call it the ‘greatest literary show on earth’. It was also at Jaipur this year where the organisers attempted a tentative test-drive with two sessions on Kashmir including one that featured Basharat Peer (Curfewed Night), Mirza Waheed (The Collaborator) and Kashmir-born journalist and author Rahul Pandita. more

The autumn of hypocrisy

Rahul Pandita, author of Hello Bastar and a member of the Harud Literary Festival’s advisory committee, laments the cancellation of Kashmir’s first literature festival. Those opposed to the festival have ended up strengthening radical voices in Kashmir, he writes in Open.

Tonight, they will raise a toast. Tonight, they will pat one another’s backs, and, in the confines of their apartments in New Delhi and elsewhere, may even take out victory marches. Someone might even hurl an imaginary stone, declaring that finally, the Internet Intifada has been successful. Congratulatory messages will flood Facebook andTwitter. After all, a sinister design has been defeated. The Harud (Autumn) Literary Festival, scheduled to be held in Kashmir Valley in the last week of September, has been cancelled. It was a State conspiracy, as they would like everyone to believe.

The truth is that the festival has been sabotaged. A letter circulated on the internet condemned the literary festival, claiming that it would portray a false sense of normalcy in the state. The group circulating the letter also had issues with the organisers’ terming the fest an ‘apolitical’ event. more

Previously on AW:

An Autumn of Discontent

A litfest for the troubled Valley