On November 17, 2011, I had an appointment at a ‘special’ venue in New Delhi. I reached the venue almost one hour early. I went to the waiting hall and took a seat. After 15-20 minutes, one of the members in the organising committee announced that the meet was postponed by 90 minutes. Many, including I, were annoyed by this announcement. In the meantime, I was observing things in the waiting hall. A guy, Mr S, sitting next to me enquired about the meet. And soon our conversation started.
Mr S: So where is your home?
This question has always been a difficult one to answer for an exile doesn’t have a ‘home’.
I: At present, my place is New Delhi.
Mr S: Do you belong to Delhi?
I: No. I am from Anantnag, Kashmir.
Mr S: Oh great! I am from Srinagar.
And the conversation about ‘home’ has begun...
Mr S: Kar ousukh tormut Kasheer paetimi lyeat (When did you go to Kashmir last time)? I haven’t been to ‘home’ for last one year due to very busy schedules.
I: We were forced to leave Kashmir 22 years ago. Bu’ha tchus bhatt’e (I am a Kashmiri Pandit).
Then we both were silent for 10-15 minutes. Maybe he was thinking about the gloomy 1990s and the tragic story behind it.
Mr S: Tarun’uk tcha iraad’e (Do you have any intention of ‘returning’)?
I: Aa tarun tchu wapis.. Aj, pagah, suli tcheer.. Kasheer tchu panun ghar (Yes, we will ‘return’... Today, tomorrow, sooner or later... Kashmir is our home).
We talked about almost every ‘Kashmiri’ thing — pheran, tcheer chai, haakh, chakker, telwour, sheen, wazwan etc.
The fellow Kashmiri was a bit surprised to see me talking in Kashmiri. Maybe it was unusual for him to see a person brought up outside the vale speaking in the mother tongue.
And how can there be no discussion about politics. Every Kashmiri is a ‘political analyst’.
I: Why does a majority of the majority community of the Valley chant ‘azadi’ (secession from India)? It amazes as well as amuses me. More than two decades ago, the same wanted merger with Pakistan.
Mr S: Yes, many say so. Neither ‘azadi’ nor merger with Pakistan is the way forward for Kashmir and Kashmiris. At the same time, many things need to be set right. Justice has been delayed.
I was a little surprised to hear that. The fellow had studied in south India and had been to many Indian cities.
We agreed on the fact that the sooner justice is delivered to the people (living on both sides of the tunnel), the better it’s for Kashmir. Though at a community level, the majority and the minority differ on several issues. We had lunch in between. He narrated a few distressing stories and told me how Kashmir has become a lucrative industry.
I: Every Kashmiri has a peculiar story and a poignant one.
Mr S: I feel sad about the exodus of Pandits. It was a dark period in the history of Kashmir. Inshallah, you will return soon.
I: Amen! We will return on our terms.
We wished each other before we departed.
The meeting was fine. The postponement was a blessing in disguise, as it resulted in a ‘special’ meeting with an unknown Kashmiri. Was it a mere coincidence or more than a coincidence? I returned to my place and thought about ‘home’.
Varad Varenya is a Delhi-based writer
The views expressed by the author are personal