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Shortlisted for the Crossword Book Award 2013 in the non-fiction category, Our Moon Has Blood Clots tells the oft-ignored stories of Kashmiri Pandits, forced out of their homelands and with no end in sight to their struggle.
.. And an earlier time when the flowers were not stained with blood, the moon with blood clots.
This excerpt from Pablo Neruda’s Oh, My Lost City is where Our Moon Has Blood Clots by Rahul Pandita got its title. It is deeply evocative, and strikingly apt.
Kashmir is often described by many admirers as heaven on earth. This elysian land has the picturesque beauty that has prompted many authors, lovers and poets to write and sing beautiful renditions about it. What happens when this land is wrought with terror, massacre and self-righteous cleansing of the native residents of that land? Those very unspeakable sentiments, sentiments of those who were purged from their own land, those who witnessed the killings of their own people and those who were helpless, are captured in this tell-all book.
The book begins with the author recalling an incident that branded him as someone who had been exiled. He is given half slices of shriveled tomatoes which he compares to the lush garden his family had owned back in Kashmir. And the result is heart-wrenching. Just a young boy of fourteen, when hordes of lives were uprooted, the author self-admittedly does not understand the gravity of the situation and hence throws the tomato away. As the book moves on, the specifics of the killings are macabre. The book, written in first person, gives a blow by blow account of the mass killings, exodus and helplessness of the people.
The book is split in three parts. The first part tells us about the life in Kashmir pre-exodus. The author recounts an old fable regarding the creation of his community, and how their goddess always protects them. This is a strong bond that ties every Kashmiri Pandit together. He goes on to explain how Kashmiri Pandits prioritise education above all and familiarises the readers with the community by writing about a Kashmiri Pandit’s traits and way of life. Hindu and Muslim traditions and festivals were intricately weaved in everyone’s lives. The author’s family used to offer Shivratri delicacies to their Muslim neighbours and be offered delicacies by them.
Slowly, portents of the exodus started showing up on their doorsteps, literally. The Muslim milkman giving cryptic warnings, bouts of violence after an India-Pakistan match and other such spurts of disagreements, blew up to a forced mass exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits from their homeland, where they were born, nurtured and where their older generations lay to rest. The author describes the torture and carnage with ferocious detailing, which makes the reader cringe with empathy. The militants are foreign tribal invaders from across the border, feared by all.
The third part tells the story of the exiled families, how they cope with the drastically changed situation. The new living conditions were deplorable. Many of the rooms rented out to the people were shanties, with shoddy work done to convert it to a room, threatening to crash just with a little pressure. Yet, the people lived on, buried their emotions and feelings of homelessness. Quiet resilience was the order of the day.
The book chronicles those times and the unspoken words therein. It tells us about the apathy and indifference that Kashmiri Pandits faced and continue to face, by the media and government. The anguish and hurt are still burning. Even though it has been a few years, the wounds will always be open, albeit passively.
A sharp read, acquire this book for some insight into the plight of Kashmiri Pandits, or just to awaken your emotions. It doesn’t disappoint.
-written by Priyanka Pimpale