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Capturing a lost way of life

SHUJAAT BUKHARI
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Serial ‘Raabtey' captures the bonding that once existed between Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims. SHUJAAT BUKHARI

basket bond A scene from ‘Raabtey.'
basket bond A scene from ‘Raabtey.'

T wenty years of turmoil in the Kashmir valley have given way to scores of stories. The tumultuous times have provided food for thought to writers and filmmakers who have focussed on the miseries of the people in this beautiful but embattled land.

The valley was once known for its rich cultural traditions and secular ethos. The way Kashmiri Muslims and Hindus, known as Pandits, lived together for centuries, was something to boast about.

But the past two decades have destroyed those relations and forced Kashmiri Pandits to migrate to other parts in the aftermath of the insurgency.

Identity crisis

Thousands of Pandits are still living in make-shift camps in Jammu. Notwithstanding the strained relationship between the communities, their cultural identity continues to remain the same. This disconnect has bothered writers and scholars. ‘Raabtey' or ‘Connection' is in a way a tribute to this “faded” relation.

Set in a typical Kashmiri village where both communities lived in peace, this 13-episode serial being shot for Doordarshan, is penned by prominent writer and filmmaker of Kashmir Fayaz Dilbar. Dilbar has been living in Noida for many years but has spent the best part of his life in Kashmir.

A journalist by training, he is also a poet, writer and director.

Many stories have been woven into ‘Raabtey' to highlight both the sufferings of the Pandits and their relations with Muslims.

The way Fayaz infuses power into this story is amazing. He uses a basket to show how two households lived and interacted with each other. One house had Muslims and the other had Pandits as its occupants, but the latter is locked now.

Exchange of gifts

Going back to early 1990s, the filmmaker shows how the basket tied with a rope to both the houses was the best way of communication between the two households. They exchanged everything they wanted and one just had to pull in the basket to the window to take out the stuff.

“This was an unprecedented practice between the two communities,” says Dilbar who has witness such practices during Kashmir's “good old days.” For this serial, he has roped in ace artists Mushtaq Kak, an NSD graduate, Ayash Aarif and Rani Bhan, both acclaimed television actors in Kashmir.

The story revolves round a Kashmiri Pandit Chaman Lal who now lives in Najafgarh and has left behind his “service book” at his home in Kashmir. Lal writes to his immediate neighbour to get back the book since he has retired from service and needs to get his dues.

The house with pictures of Hindu deities at the main door, is still locked. Rani who plays Fatima, sends her husband Mir Sahib (Ayash Aarif) and son Nazir to look for the service book. She manages to get it out and sends it to Chaman Lal.

Lal's wife Tosha and Fatima were once exemplary neighbours. “This has been the most rewarding role for me,” says Rani, who is a migrant Pandit herself. Kak plays Sid Bab a spiritual link between the two families.

The serial is a mesh of many realities, as Dilbar puts it. Its songs have been written by US-based Kashmiri poet Muneeb ur Rehman and noted singer Waheed Jeelani has sung them.

Actor Ayash is also overwhelmed by his role in this “unmistakably powerful” serial. “I have acted in hundreds of serials but this is surely different,” he says.

The serial is likely to be telecast in the coming weeks after its production work is complete.


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