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This is a story from the eyes and ears of a 5 year old Kashmiri Pandit girl who was extremely excited about her and her brothers WINTER BREAK in the year 1989 while there was a lot of political tension around.
I remember my Kashmir as HEAVEN ON EARTH. The joy of going every weekend to a new picnic spot by the river. Simple Joys, Simple Life – A 5 year old didn’t know that all of this was going to end very soon!
In Kashmir, we were very used to curfews and as kids we used to treat it like our special extra holiday. Little did we know as kids what was brewing...
It all started off when our winter break was approaching; the curfews had started happening way too often & there was a new feature in the evening prayer on the loudspeaker at the MOSQUE – KASHMIRI PANDITS leave or else they will be killed!
I remember us getting random calls on our landline and an unknown woman telling my mother that don’t step out of your house without a BURKAH or we will kill you & take away your two kids.
The unknown woman knew where we lived, what business my father had and what the timings were when my mother used to go to the market during the week or even step out with her friends.
First few times my mother ignored all these THREAT CALLS. But then, one day when my mother had come back from the market with her friends, a phone call came & the caller told my mother- why did you step out of the house with RED LIPSTICK & WITHOUT BURKAH.
My mother got very scared & immediately called my father & told him to send me & my brother at the earliest to JAMMU to our grandparents place & said that the situation is not at all normal & we all are not safe anymore.
Weeks went by and things kept getting bad to worse.
One day, my father had to go & drop my mother & our tenants to the airport as my mother was going to join us in Jammu & my father had to join us in a few weeks to be with the entire family.
My father was in his kurta pajama & had a black shawl around him. On his way to the airport, he was stopped at a check point (which was the usual drill those days) & the senior sardar officer turned out to be my father’s friend, asked him to step out to talk to him in private.
My father sat back in the car post talking to him, tied his black shawl on the side view mirror & drove straight to Jammu with horror & tears in his eyes. In our car, apart from my parents, our tenant and her children were also there.
My mother kept asking my father, why are you driving us to Jammu & not to the airport, kept telling him – you have to go to work in another hour & you have to speak to the house staff to instruct them to clean the house & cook dinner for him.
My father didn’t utter a word for few hours.He then told my mother that everything has ended – “if I would have gone back to the house then I would have got killed either today or tomorrow as my Muslim workers who were my loyalist were waiting to kill me - A KASHMIRI PANDIT."
My father drove nonstop and reached Jammu & never ever went back to Kashmir. We lost everything – Our house, our business, our ancestral properties in the village, acres & acres of farm land.
At the age of 32, my father was living a happy peaceful life with his family & friends with a flourishing business & two young kids who were well settled in the best schools In Kashmir till a few weeks back to being completely uprooted.
Wounds still feel so FRESH. Tears still roll down my cheeks as though it all happened yesterday.
I wish we could go back, I wish I could turn back time, I wish that my nephew could see where his father and Bua grew up, I wish my father someday can go back to his Kashmir…
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