My Downtown HOUSE
The weather-beaten walls of the house of my birth, held histories and spoke volumes
NOSTALGIA BY SAMEER KAUL
A rivulet dares to branch away from the mighty, meandering Vyeth (Jhelum). Here is ‘Hedwun’, the stark white buildings of Sri Maharaja Hari Singh Medical College and Associated Hospitals. And there is bustling Nawab Bazar, location of the once-famous Jamal Carpets. And there is the ancient ‘tekia’ – possibly of Persian descent, where cannabis-smokers once hung out.
On the shoulders of one outgrowth of the riverbank stands a heritage wooden Kashmiri house. It was commissioned by Pandit Ramchandra Kak, a staunch supporter of nationalistic Kashmiri ideology and the premier of the princely state of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh before accession
This house bears a bit of my history too.
For it is in this sylvan, wooden edifice that was hired by a certain Dr Shivji Dar, to accommodate his brother-in-law – and my grandfather - Shankar Nath, that I came into this world in October 1960.
The weather-beaten but elegant cedar walls of the house of my birth, held histories and spoke volumes.
When the alleged immolation of a notorious and tyrannical thief plunged Pulwama district into tumult, this period home provided the first urban refuge to Shankar Nath’s substantial brood, on the escape from the violent vigilantism that his extended family in their village Chakoora, too, had been an accomplice to.
But the wooden walls of the house on Sonar Kol, sometimes also reverberated with the shrieks of peasants being attacked by the marauding Mehsud and Afridi tribesmen in North Kashmir.
At others, such as when Maharaja Hari Singh desperately signed the accession document in 1947, they echoed sombre tales of perfidy.
An erudite and upright bureaucrat, Pandit Ramchandra Kak had advocated a bilateral standstill agreement. To brothers-in-arms Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah, such an agreement seemed inconvenient and blasphemous.
In return for his sincerity and love for his land and people, Kak got a wretched deal. While the Valley’s Muslims denied him respect, his own community of Pandits was sharply critical of his stand and dismissive of his existence as a historical ‘non-entity’. He was dragged through the streets of Srinagar – notably Hari Singh High Street - and showered with abuses and invectives. He passed away unwept and unsung for: a broken man.
The political history of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh is replete with instances of compromise at the expense of its inhabitants. For instance, the forced expulsion of Mirza Afzal Beg after the Indira-Sheikh accord in 1975. A lifelong association between Sheikh Abdullah and Beg was bartered away for mere, illusionary gains. Ultimately and despite all the fervent nationalism of the time and loud promises to translate people’s dreams into reality, personal glory and power prevailed and triumphed over idealism.
On the banks of the Jhelum today, we have the power of hindsight, and that in no small measure.
But is double speak really a thing of the past ? Or were Mustafa Kamal’s recent, utterances calculated to elicit the same old response ? Shall we, the masses continue to blindly trust our polity, only to fall on our faces time and again?
Or shall we open those old wooden windows for a breath of fresh air? And, in a last-ditch effort to save democracy, give serious, non-duplicitous governance a chance?
Sameer Koul is the Chief National Spokesperson of People’s Democratic Party, J&K.
Lastupdate on : Tue, 15 Nov 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 15 Nov 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 16 Nov 2011 00:00:00 IST
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