Kashmir is known as heaven on earth. And this picturesque beauty has prompted many authors, lovers and poets to write beautiful tributes about it. And when this land is wrought with terror, massacre and self-righteous cleansing of the native residents of that land hell is unleashed. This book is an account of those sentiments which dies a death every other day. Sentiments of those who were purged from their own land, those who witnessed the killings of their own people and those who were survived cursed by the memories of what happened.
The book begins with the author remembering an incident that had 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. The book also talks about the exiled families and how they cope with the drastically changed situation. The new living conditions were deplorable. 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.
This is a must read. It touched me like no other and better still it gave me a perspective I never had.