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The man who never left

Chaman Lal Kaul, 62, never left the valley when hundreds of thousands of other minority Hindus did in the early 1990s.

india Updated: Nov 25, 2008 19:38 IST
Ashutosh Sapru

Chaman Lal Kaul, 62, never left the valley when hundreds of thousands of other minority Hindus did in the early 1990s.



On Monday, the retired English teacher had a trophy to show me: the blue mark on his finger after voting in Kashmir's Bandipore town.



Despite two decades of turmoil, nothing has changed for him.



"I follow my normal routine, pray to God spend time reading books gardening and watch TV," he said.



He took me into his room in his typical old Kashmiri Pandit house. The only window had a nice view of lots of trees and a cool breeze blew in. I was given the kangri, the Kashmiri firepot. A black and white close up picture of Raj Kapoor wearing a red hat from the movie Shri 420 hangs framed on the wall.



Honour is what Kaul is proud of. Muslim neighbors give him the assurance that made him stay back.



"A simple life of teacher has helped me survive," he said.



His wife is also a teacher. The house has a small kitchen garden, and she offered me hak (green vegetables) for lunch.



Altogether six Pandit families live in their vicinity. The son and daughter-in-law of one of the Pandit neighbours have also returned to the valley, after they got teaching jobs in government schools.



The nearby Sharda temple has been maintained well. Kaul thanked the government, and said the roofing was changed and painted.



Is the Valley growing old? As Mr Kaul has, with youngsters moving out in search of opportunities, is the Valley just the home of an elderly?



I left with lots of unanswered questions.