KASHMIR, ON GOING HOME

Kashmir

January 2009

The vale of Kashmir is a low-lying fertile Himalayan valley fed by many rivers. It is renowned for its natural beauty and quaint lifestyle; horses graze soothing green meadows, and gondolas float to the sound of adhans, the Muslim calls to prayer. Memories of a fairy-tale childhood drew me back to Kashmir, but not all is paradise here.

The Kashmir dispute began within weeks of the birth of independent India, in 1947. Indian troops fought invading Pashtun (also called Pathan tribesmen) who sought to claim the state of Pakistan. These were the first sparks in what has evolved into one of the lingest ongoing conflicts. The nuclear capabilities of both India and Pakistan have earned this disputed strip of land the tag of one of the world’s most dangerous place.

There is a sea of stories of atrocities, disappeared persons, absuctions, unidentified graves, killings, and mass migration of minority communities.

“I feel the need to unfold my past and be able to associate with the culture and the history of my ancestors. I hope that On Going Home will lead me in the direction of finding my true identity.”

(Sumit Dayal).

In the tales of Ghosts who want to be set free, what holds them back is memory. There is a certain grip about my childhood memories from Kashmir and a past I must unfold to know who I am.

Although I don’t remember much but I know that Kashmir is an integral part of who I am. In the past several years I’ve kept postponing my return because I felt I wasn’t ready to go back yet.

In January 2009, after seventeen years I returned home.

It is here at home I searched for the experience of being in a space as described in T.S Eliot’s famous lines:

“We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.”