The blue of sky melted with the white of mountains. Trees were almost naked. People of all kind soaked warmth from the dead leaves. There was heart-warming peace.
Unfortunately, there was a scarcity of network that day in Tulmul. The only thing that Dad had asked while I was leaving for Kashmir was to video call him from this beloved temple.
My call connected after umpteen attempts. On a scratchy video, I could see he had left home for work and was on the middle of a road in Ghalib’s Dilli. He had left Chinar and reached Amaltas thirty years ago.
Straight after the salutation, I ambled him around the temple premises, in and out. He asked me to zoom in on the maata, take prakrams ( circumambulation) and show him the boonyikul standing witness to the collected memories of years. Believe me, he couldn’t breathe while he was on the call. Tears didn’t stop a second. In a broken voice, all he repeatedly said was, “balaay hai lagay maata, panyav kothyav neezyam (I devote this self to you. Bless me so I leave this abode without being dependent on anyone else.)”. Its vivid in my memory that I didn’t say bye to him. We both just sighed one after another, and I disconnected the call.
Just after I left the temple corridor, I sat in the front of a tourist car. I couldn’t make peace with what just happened. Something in me wasn’t feeling right. I generally take notes on my phone with questions. I try and answer them later. I have yet not settled that day’s score—What was he thinking in those moments? Where exactly were these moments taking him to? Why did a person with buckets-full-of-patience cry like a baby?
My family was comparatively rich in Kashmir. My grandfather was a businessman. He ran an exquisite carpet showroom dating Dal. We had our things sorted. He took my extended family to Tulmul in a big boat. Starting Porshyaar, Habba Kadal. Reaching Sindh, Ganderbal. Imagine a week-long feast. Excitement on the face of kids. Hymns everywhere. Mouth-watering food. Chinar. Slow time. Love.
What’s happening now?
Nothing, actually. Something, maybe. Hybridity has sunk in. One couldn’t have stopped it anyway.
Maa woke up early in the morning to prepare Kheer. Among other bhajans, Dad played ‘tulmulih naagas lagay paer paeri, maata zaar bauz saeniye . . .’ on repeat from the living-room speaker. Because I like to keep myself to my room, I plugged in my earphones to listen to ‘maej bhawani raut mayih myeh daaman’y.’ Sung by Inder Ji Kitroo and M. Yaseen of famous Inderkala group. Penned by Omkar Nath Shastri who wrote with the pen name ‘Alok’. It’s almost become a new ritual this day after exodus.
May Ragnya maata bless us all with wisdom to opt for peace, love and respect. May our minds be wise enough to reject hate and embrace empathy. History teaches to accept our mistakes and repair ourselves, for that’s the best option to live life.
As Babi would have said, had she been alive —ZeythAtham, Sarni Mubarak. Orzu. Dorkut. Aay ta Batt.