"Maji nish kar watak – when will you reach The Mother", asks my friend's father from Tulmul, a devout Muslim, on whose lips Quranic verses flow like molten mercury – for every dilemma that you hold in your heart, he has one verse on his lips. Before I reply, he answers, "ya naad chun'e – or She hasn't called you this year".
He doesn't give me time to ask him where his son, my friend, is – it is one of those typical weeks when he goes off everything; his Whatsapp is blind, his FB account limbless and his cell phone as good as not having one. "Rest, is everything else fine", he asks. "Yes, going on; tuhenz duwa haz gachi asin –must have your blessings". "Mine is always, Maji henz gachi asin –must have Mother's."
Last year, around the same time, we three had discussed a number of things, including politics, turmoil and tehreek, at my friend's beautiful first floor study overlooking their lawn dotted by koshur gulab hugging the brick wall in ecstasy and tall poplars with polished foliage better than green. "What are you watching", he had asked, "until the first flowers of my garden reach Devi's feet, I don't have my morning tea". Another verse and he had raised his hands in supplication followed by this line that had left me, his son and another friend, speechless. "Bhe chus maji hund paizar mal – I am nothing but dirt of Mother's feet".
Tulmul has been held by Kashmiri Muslims like him in as much reverence as Kashmiri Pandits like me hold Charar-i-Sharief and Baba Rishi, the shrines so sacrosanct that they are wed to our psyche. This has been going on since ages and will go on hence forth too. Come what may, there will still be one last person left, who would remind the rest that this shouldn't stop. It won't.
Some section of Kashmiri Pandits may call it photo opportunity or whatever they will, Maharagyna has the power to bring the likes of Yasin Malik, Shabir Shah and others to her doors; a naad that, for example, a mortal like me didn't have the privilege to receive this year. It is all about naad; nothing else.
Think of the flip side, despite many odds, she has been receiving them almost every year now. Devi has embraced them, she has hugged them, and they, on their part, have not been hesitant to bow there. Mother can't be indifferent to one child who erred to inflict a wound on another, the other child. Being bad is being bad, but expressing remorse and showing regret is being brave.
Mother is providing both a chance to meet in her darbar; to begin afresh, talk to each other, sort out differences, and tell them 'brother I have had many houses after I was deprived of mine, but I still want to be back in the one that I call my home'. I may be called sick of showing so much optimism, but defiance and pessimism hasn't led us anywhere too.
I certainly do mind you when you ask me not to hug people that Mother readily welcomes at her doors. My mother, who has cooked food for me throughout my life, has taught me that if nothing works 'lokchi maji hund gachi lagun – become son of a lesser mom', give up your alter ego and see everything will fall in its own place. Try it once, try this year, hug them once, set up your own darbaar of being lokchi maji hund, and begin a new chapter, begin talking; for they are the only ones that hold key to unlocking you from your unease.
India doesn't – because it needs you, as pawns, to continue its territorial hold on your sagacious history of 5000 years. Talk now, in case you don't want to be history. Tomorrow never comes. That's what Devi is signalling, but you don't understand.