Poshmal is playing in her crèche, while her dad is at work at the municipal corporation office. Right then, her mom had got up from her desk at the State tourism department office for lunch break. She had cooked batt, nadir-daal and dum-aaloo. That’s how her husband liked it for lunch. But then, just when she was about to eat the first morsel, she bumped into this colleague of hers, a 30-something lady. She whispers something into her ear and they exchange terrified looks.

Looks like she will break down any moment. But she struggles hard, maintains her composure and swears under her breath. She has no time to ponder over the entire calamity that has struck; she has no time to wonder how it all happened. All she can think of is her husband’s safety, his well-being. After all, the lady just told her that his name was on the hit list! And, of course, she spares a thought for her daughter, playing in the crèche, oblivious to the impending dangers outside.

Her head heavy with turbulent thoughts, she keeps back the food in the box and starts wrapping up quickly. The thought of her little daughter scares her even more. She hurries with the packing and leaves. Her steps are quick but her thoughts slow; trying to gather all that has happened in the past few weeks. She finally gets herself out of the office and starts pacing towards her daughter.

She wants to call her husband meanwhile but alas! That wasn’t the year of cellphones. She will have to wait for another hour before she reaches his office. Thinking so, she quickens her pace when suddenly she sees that temple. She had been going there right since her childhood. That place had been special to her but today she doesn’t stop to seek blessings, well there is no temple there now. It had been razed a few days ago, just a few remains are left now. She curses under her breath at one moment and the very next moment, her eyes are filled with tears.

Slowly and steadily, the feeling had begun to sink in. It wasn’t random killings of Kashmiri Pandits here and there. It was complete ethnic cleansing; a planned massacre of her community. The sense of fear had been in the air for quite some weeks now. After all, it wasn’t without reason that she had stopped wearing mangalsutra and vermilion. There was a reason why she had stopped bowing her head every time she passed a temple on the road.

There was a reason why her husband used to leave for work at different times every single day and return home at odd hours. Her mother-in-law had stopped going out to buy grocery and the brave grandma preferred staying indoors. The family members would go off to sleep every night listening to the blaring sounds coming from loudspeakers. The life-threatening announcements scared her.

But she still went off to sleep like that on countless nights. But one morning, her heart heavy with fear, she was just outside her room when she saw her neighbour come out. She wanted to speak to her. They had been friends for quite some years now, or that’s what she thought at least. But sadly, Naseem just looked away; like she had never known her. That was when she knew, it was all over. Her homeland, her birthplace, her home, everything would soon be lost! She had hoped to see her neighbours, her friends, protest against whatever was happening but they chose to remain silent!

That moment scared her. She was still thinking about it when a sudden gunshot brought her back to her senses. She rushed to the crèche. Poshmal was still there doing her antics in the cot. She picked her up, ran out of there, went to her husband’s office, trying to keep a straight face. She didn’t trust anyone anymore. She did not want anyone to see the surge of her emotions, the feeling of being betrayed, that feeling of being rendered homeless, the feeling of hatred, and the biggest of all, that feeling of knowing that all she could take with her were her family members.

She walked up to her husband and gave him the news. They exchanged grim looks and left hurriedly. And yet again! While on their way back, they saw their small temple, the Vitaal Bharavi mandir, still not destroyed. The legend was no thief could ever enter that area surrounding the temple and it had held true all these years, but then how were these murderers allowed to come in? Who were they to throw them out of their homeland? Calling them kafirs and making death announcements over speakers; asking them to choose between bullets and their homeland, their sweet homes, their temples, their birthplace, their beautiful memories of a lifetime.

The couple looked at the deity and then at each other and walked past it. They went home, and even before the elders started asking them any question, they started packing up. Poshmal’s dad started giving instructions to all, quickly moving around the house and looking out of the window every now and then. He would see a few army jawans here and there. It gave him confidence. He said to himself, “I will get my family alive out of here.”

Thinking so, he got busy again, and all of them were done in a few hours. After all, they did not have a lot to take along, nor did they have the time to wait any longer. It was 10 in the night already. They had to leave under cover of darkness with the jawans posted there to make sure that the Pandits were taken to safer places.

Safer places meant, out of Kashmir, maybe to Jammu, Udhampur or anywhere; it did not make a difference. Anywhere out of the heaven felt the same. It was just Kashmir which felt privileged. Poshmal would never get to see where she was born, thought her mother. Like the others she would just have to be happy with the stories of the beautiful valley. They were leaving it all behind. They stepped out of the house, got into the truck, with a few other families and drove away. Never to come back to their birthplace. Never to come back to see how their motherland looked like, never to look at those lakes and never to experience the autumn season that looked the most vibrant only in Kashmir. On second thoughts, maybe they did experience the autumns again. After all, that is what they have been experiencing till date.

Like The Chinars that have fallen from their place

The valley too has lost its grace

The heaven doesn’t exist anymore

The charm is gone that Kashmir ever wore

The political gurus make claims lame and tall

The blood of our community is splattered on the wall

We rot somewhere; the media won’t say a word

This human rights violation, it goes unheard!!

(The writer’s email is sapna.mahaldar@gmail.com)

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