|by Ramesh Manvati|
(On the thirtieth anniversary of the painful exodus of the tiny Kashmiri Hindu community from the then State of Jammu and Kashmir, we publish (as an exception to our norm) a poem of wounded yearning by one of the victims. The poet has dedicated it to all those who have suffered the agony and pain of living in forced exile from a much loved homeland, whose struggle kept the fire blazing to reclaim their lost roots – Editor)
This time, I arrived even much early,
with the hope to embrace you very tightly;
but, yet again, nowhere could you be seen.
Day in and day out, to meet you, I remain so keen.
I am calling you, O Pandit, again and again,
don’t you realise my incessant pain?
The winter has set in, yet again.
How long have I to continue to bear the pain?
I have called you number of times in the past,
Your eerie silence has continuously made me aghast.
Your over five thousand years old roots, continue to seethe in pain.
I have failed to understand – what is the gain?
For last thirty long years we have been living apart,
your journey back home, still, not yet ready to start?
Seems, I have to bear, eternally, your being so upset.
To welcome you back, do I need to re-assure you,
that I will lay my thickest and best ever velvety carpet?
On my very first arrival, this time, I laid a thick snowy carpet,
that too, much early, here in anticipation, gladdest,
to welcome you back, warmly, in your ancient nest.
But, your absence has put my patience to a cruel test,
Everything you have forgotten, so I genuinely feel,
compelling me to remind you, with yet another appeal.
On the onset of every winter, you would eagerly wait,
for my arrival, with much zest and zeal;
And on my arrival from the heavens above,
within the warm bonhomie of your ancestral homes,
peeping through the doors and,
through the windows – partly open,
or, many a times, from the ‘dub’ of your ‘bub’;
the leisure time you would enjoy,
gazing at my elegant movements in sheer joy,
“sonna sheen vollun dhaaray-dhaaray,
maharaaza raaza kumaaray aaw……”
Some would merrily sing; and, at times, many
sipping ‘sheeri-chaai’ or even, some hot ‘kehwa’,
in the traditional ‘khos’ or some in a prized ‘kenzi-khos’,
held on the sleeve of your winter ‘pheran’,
prepared in a ‘samawaar’ and served, generally, by a ‘nav-no’sh’,
with a ‘garma-garm’ ‘taeil-woar’, ‘tomlla-tsaot’ or ‘makkaai tsaot’,
or with it, even some enjoying local ‘soa’tt’,
With a cosy ‘kaa’ngar’ beneath your ‘pheran’;
The eldest among you, even smoking a ‘jajjeer’, through a long ‘nai’.
Infants you would shelter inside your ‘pheran’
with only the tiny heads peering out, of the babies?
Or, an occasional ‘shalfaa-malfaa’, you had
with your kids, to warm their hands and feet;
holding a ‘kaa’ngar’ beneath, giving the required heat,
While narrating, singing to them local fables and lullabies.
Every ‘nav-sheen’ you celebrated,
in the company of your kith and kin,
music and dance; well dressed and decorated,
with the choicest of your dishes; and,
a ‘welcome drink’ would not be a sin,
even in the ancient times; just recheck
from the treasure of your ‘Neelmat Puraan’.
Remember? On my very first arrival,
the new brides you would routinely tease,
forcing them to bring a ‘paschin’- raw or cooked,
from their ‘maaluen’ with much ease.
Children would playfully sing everywhere,
“sheena petto-petto, maama itto-itto……”
Even the stray dogs would dance merrily, here and there,
on the roads, in streets or outside your home in a row.
You could be so forgetful and apathetic, baffles me;
When I have not forgotten, how can you?
Walking, through your orchards, rice fields-spread across Kashyap’s valley;
towns and villages or through ‘Srinagari’ of goddess ‘Sharika’s seat;
through serpentine and uneven lanes and narrow by-lanes,
with a ‘khraav’ or ‘pullhor’ or a long boot or a ‘duck-back’ shoe
protecting your slipping feet; elderly, sometimes, supported by wooden canes;
Your daily routine, even though being hurt, once in a while,
because of pervading ‘tulkattur’- that exposed my frozen attitude,
would continue with serenity and admirable fortitude.
Even your cursing me at times – that, sometimes, I would mind,
while finding it difficult to move around,
still, my cool but peaceful white cover on the ground,
over the surrounding houses, trees and the distant mountains;
lovely winding streams, though in deep sleep,
would make you overlook my hurt and dirt;
No more feeling of being slighted, now again, I assure you.
Stray dogs, cows, crows and other perching birds,
religiously you would feed, without a fail;
all that I still remember in every detail.
In the plains or atop a nearby hillock, temple bells you would ring;
mornings and evenings, ‘ka’shri leelaai’ you would devoutly sing.
As a habit, whether young or old; men or women,
always busying yourself in the company of holy men,
keeping your household, body and mind-neat and clean,
and, often, you praised my beauty and the surrounding scene.
Forgot? My periodic arrivals and my stays,
long or short, you enjoyed and cherished too.
I too enjoyed, let me yet again, reveal to you,
your rolling me into a ‘sheena-mohneow’, inserting eyes of black hue;
inside your ‘waaeri’, in the streets, or in nearby open fields; and,
even the ‘sheena-jung’, you enjoyed with your ‘mohalla’ friends.
Vividly I remember, why cannot you?
The vacations, children spent in their ‘maataamaal’,
during the stay of my age-old friends, including the naughty
‘chillai-kallaan’, or ‘chillai-khorrud’ and ‘chillai-buchcha’.
The sheer panic of being caught red handed,
upon the sudden bursting of a stolen egg-
hidden inside the embers of your cosy ‘kaa’ngar’;
or, making and eating of a ‘mallai-kulfi’ on ‘braer-kanee’
of your abode; secretly, away from the caring eyes
of your elders, including, ‘bub’, ‘dyed’ or ‘baed- maej’,
‘faaka’ many of you kept, for the entire sacred month of ‘maag’;
‘kaa’ngaer mansaavaen’ on ‘shishar-sa’nkraat’,
under guidance of your family priest on the day;
And, his visit, as a routine religious duty,
on the eve of ‘gora-trai’ of this month
to your welcoming homes, with a purpose – so holy
to bless new brides and youngsters with his
hand-made pictures, like of ‘Saraswati’,
exhorting them to continue ancient tradition
of learning in the land of ‘Sharada’ devi.
I just have not forgotten at all, how dare you?
The hustle-bustle of the great ‘hayrath’ festival;
that ‘aalat kada’en’ of freshly baked earthen ‘vatuk’,
upon receiving from your neighbourhood ‘kraal’,
on any ‘auspicious’ day, following ‘hurri-okdoh’ – for all,
that marked the beginning of community yearly celebrations,
and thorough cleaning, within the days till ‘hurri-ae’ttham’,
including, the proverbial pin, of your entire household,
despite the prevailing harsh and icy winter cold.
“noashen, korren hund maaluen ya waerriv – yunn ta gatsun;
dal-nadde’r, doo’en waalyen ta gaada-ha’nza’nyen hund challay-jaav’
Those scenes just refuse to leave my mind,
O my dear, when shall I, that activity, again find?
‘hayrath-pooza’ was incomplete till, some of you, made my use.
That I had to be there, even, in the summer month of ‘haar’,
to defeat the evil designs of a tyrant Afghan ruler – Jabbar Khan,
and to uphold the sanctity of your sublime sacred faith, the popular tease –
“wuchutoan yi jabbar jandha, haaras ti korrun vandha…..”
is an ample proof of my historical claim;
I am just reminding you, to escape a later blame.
Even performing of your annual ‘jattae’n-ttae’n’ on ‘teela-aettham’-
the concluding day of the joyous festival of ‘hayrath’;
Or, distribution of ‘doo’en’ to ‘hae’nz’ children,
curiously watching on the ‘yaarbal’, weak and thin;
and, also offering of burning ‘tsa’eng’ to flowing ‘vyeth’-
‘kashmira’- incarnation of Shiva’s consort, in evening of the day,
making onward journey, floating on individual ‘aari’- made of hay.
Have you so conveniently forgotten?
I have not, in spite of your depriving me of such times, for so long,
O my dear, it does not behove you!
The aroma surrounding many of your winter festivals, and
rituals like ‘khetscri-maavas’, ‘gaada-batta’, ‘kaaw-punnim’;
Or, ‘shishur’ of a new born child or a ‘na’v-no’sh’; also,
the twenty three day long ‘hayrath’ celebrations,
makes me nostalgically gung-ho.
You still must be observing in your exile,
such ancient festivities, so I earnestly continue to hope;
now scattered over a larger land, though, I realise once in a while,
how difficult, it must have been, for you to cope.
A mere thought of the special dishes, as per your strict ‘reeth’,
you prepared on such holy occasions, always waters my mouth.
O, Pandit! Come, treat me back to that unique aroma and couth.
Ever since you were forced out of the valley,
In the year nineteen ninety, exactly on 19th of January,
everything seems to me, absurd and silly;
My ears have not heard even once, incidentally,
“hayrath maej aayay, martscha papar kyaaway…”
or, “tthukk-tthukk, kuss chuv….…”
Neither have I seen anyone playing with traditional ‘harra’,
nor, even heard any Lal-Vaakh.
“aami-panna’ sadra’s naavi chhass lamaan,
katti bozzi dai’y myoa’n, metti diya taar
aamen taaken pooen zan shramaan,
zuv cchum bramaan, gara gatsch’a haa”
I hear some retrograde ‘Article 370’, is now finally gone;
thankfully, they say, that has paved the way for a new dawn.
Please no more deprivations, I yet again, pray thee;
you cannot be, eternally, so cruel to me.
Holding back the tears and trying to be brave.
My children -‘shishar-gha’entt’a’, much grown now, and
many, many on their way, still hang in desperation,
for the warm kiss of your teeth, continue, as ever, to crave !
The winter has set-in, though as usual, once again,
and, this time too, I made my arrival quite early,
with the hope to embrace you even more tightly.
Sadly, nowhere are you to be seen;
Thus increasing my yearning more agonizingly,
O, Pandit! I am reminding you yet again,
Don’t you realize my increasing loss and seething pain?
I pray, let my recapping not go in vain.
Already three decades now, we continue to be apart;
Journey back home to your very own homeland in
-‘Pannaen Maej-Kasheer’, still, not yet, ready to start?
Deprivation and longing are making me insane,
I pray, earnestly, let my recapping not go in vain,
….. The Snow Is Calling Yet Again!