This may be one of the most emotional reviews I have written so far. The book Our Moon has Blood Clots is a first-person account of the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from Kashmir in the 1990s. And the building up of the circumstances for the exodus. Exodus is something that we in India know about. Those of us who have lived in Delhi suburbs have seen Kashmiri colleagues and neighbors. We have seen the pain and a sense of loss in their eyes. But have probably been too scared to ask their stories. And they have been fighting to forget their traumatic past. And would rather choose to work on creating a future.
The author begins Our Moon has Blood Clots by giving a small intro to the Kashmir’s rich cultural and literary history, of Kashmiri Pandits moving their thousands of year back. Probably around the time when River Saraswati dried up. And the various rulers that ruled it over a period of time till 1947 happened. And the new chapter opened up in Kashmir. He then recounts the good old days of his childhood in the valley. His description of Shivaratri celebrations with walnuts soaked in milk and water brings alive the ethos of the community that worships Shiva. And small local rituals that defined the fabric of the culture. He describes Kashmir for you – its earth where you could get fresh water at an arm’s length, its rivers, its lakes, its fruits and its simple people.
Slowly he starts showing you the divide as it started happening between native Pandits and Muslim. And the first signs that author saw were at his school, during cricket matches.
Now that you are mentally in Kashmir, with paradise-like visuals, you start hearing the stories of how Kashmiri Pandits were tortured. How lists prepared for one who had to be eliminated as per plan, some died as part of a plan, others because they came in the line of a plan. Women were raped. Taken to another side of the border. Children orphaned. For a long time, Kashmiri Pandits believed that this is a temporary situation and things will get back to normal. They even moved to Jammu assuming that they would come back one day. Only to know that they will not even get to see their homes again. They will have to forget their prosperity forever. And live the life of refugees that too if they managed to escape the valley.
The description of refugee camps can invoke nausea. And the plight of people who were offered charity by the government or other people brings a tear to the eye. Those who managed to reach Delhi and re-start a new life in the city felt homeless forever. As Pandita says – There are many immigrants in Delhi. But they have a home to go back to. I have nowhere to go back to. Although it is just a perception you have when you land in a new city to start a career, even if you have a home to go back to, you hardly go there. And there are enough nomads like me who never have a permanent home. I know that those who have a parental home, always think of that as their home. And everywhere else a temporary arrangement.
The psychological and physical impact of the exodus on the people leaves a scar, that may take many generations to heal if at all it heals. Description of some of the killings is so gruesome that it can make you sad for many days. I found it difficult to eat while I was reading this book. The fact that neither is something being done for Kashmiri Pandits nor has they got a platform to tell their stories makes this book very important. As it documents some very crucial times in the Kashmir Valley. Based on the first-person account of Pandita’s own family and later his attempt to document the killings of as many families as possible. His attempt to meet some of those Muslims who were close to his cousin Ravi, who was killed, shows how the attitude still carries on.
Things may seem better on the surface. But have they really changed is something only the one who has suffered can tell.
For me personally, it took me back to a year spent in Naushehra in J&K, where my father was posted. It was a small little place where clouds used to enter our house and people had never seen a thief. Faces of all the Kashmiri friends came in front of my eyes. I remembered a friend who made the most delicious meal for me in NCR. Another friend who made all efforts to get out of India, another colleague who took out her frustration at the workplace. They never spoke about Kashmir or their families. But there was this emptiness in their eyes that haunts me even today. To a different extent, but I have seen the communal tension of Punjab from close quarters. During my school/university days, literally, anyone could come and threaten me. I would never know if the threat was real or not.
Though living in Chandigarh was far safer than the rest of the state. When Pandita describes his visit to his home in Srinagar after many years, I got reminded of my grandfather’s home in Punjab. The house I was born in, the house with its large courtyards and it’s huge Guava tree where my swing used to be. The house that my father had to sell for next to nothing during the times when Hindus were being pushed out of Punjab. How I wish I could go back and buy that house back. Maybe, Rahul, home is where you spend first few years of your life probably.
The only question I have for those indulging in displacing people – Forget about the ones you tortured and tormented, are you going to spend generations only hating others?
Our Moon has Blood Clots is a landmark book and a must read. Kudos to the author for writing it. Writing it without feeling apologetic, without the need to condemn the other religion, without the need to sound secular. Thank you for mentioning all the names and families. And not converting them into statistics or bundle them under a category. And Yes, I am waiting for pseudo seculars’ response to this book Our Moon has Blood Clots.
You may buy this book – Our Moon has Blood Clots The Exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits by Rahul Pandita at Amazon.