Story of a Community

The mass exodus of the Pundits from the valley in 1990 physically separated the two Kashmiri communities, the Hindus and the Muslims but not their memories of each other. After all, they are one ethnic Kashmiri people, who share a common ancestry, speak the same language, eat the same food and are related by blood

The book is an inspiring story about the Kashmiri Pundit boy who defied numerous odds to survive and find his way back into the world. He was born in the Koul family of Malchamar, Alikadal, outskirts of old Srinagar in the early sixties. Being an only child of Jai Kishore Koul (Rani) and Jawahar Lal Koul (Boba) his mother Rani was home maker throughout her life. His father Boba is civil engineer by profession and retired as a chief engineer PWD (public works department) Kashmir. Bill K Koul’s religious philosophy contradicts with the rest of Hindus and Muslims, some regarding him as half Hindu and half Muslim. Bill considers that contemporary tumultuous humanity needs spirituality rather than religion. He was influenced by many saints and religious scholars of Kashmir like, Lal Ded (Lalleshwari), Shiekh Noor-ud-din-wali (Nunda Rishi) Allama Muhmmad Iqbal. He is also influenced by several Persian scholars like, Abdullah Shiraz, Jalaludin Rumi. He believed that Kashmiri communities are the branches of the same tree, included grafted branches; all of which receive nourishment from the common roots of that tree. Alien trees generally don’t bear fruit in Kashmir; it is prudent to replant and nourish the native trees instead. For their peace, survival and growth, Kashmiris values and spirituality. The book is not a work of fiction. It is based on author’s own observation, thoughts, life experiences and real events. There is no story telling in the book nor it includes any significant political content, however, references to the political uprising in Kashmir, in 1990, been included and the philosophy in support of the return of the pundits to valley has been included in the book. The book included seven chapters, the first half of the book provides a glimpse into author’s life experiences which he spent in Kashmir  and outside, which included his childhood days at his ancestral home in Srinagar his school days and his youthful days at Regional Engineering College (REC) and being a staunch vegetarian his intimacy with cheese pakora and having tea with his friends at Lal Chowk. It also includes his extreme passion for the game of cricket which he usually played both in school and college teams. The second half of the book presents his political, philosophical and spiritual perspectives about Kashmir and the world at large, as well as a commentary on a wide range of issues, which in his opinion confront Kashmir. The author significantly narrates the ordeal of Kashmiri Pundits which they faced after the mass exodus of 1990s, author is of the opinion that as long as Kashmiri

Pundits don’t return to Kashmir and reinstate the tapestry of Kashmiri culture and spirituality, the return of peace to the valley seems to be remote. A piece of cloth cannot be stitched without a thread, pundits will help to reinstate the unique Kashmiri tapestry, but at the same time author has doubts that if the pundits will ever return to valley, given the level of distrust in their minds. Pundits are not, and have not been at the mercy of anyone; they chose to leave the valley out of their own volition and return to the valley will always be their own decision. In the last half of the fourth chapter author narrates about the present institutional, social and ecological crisis in Kashmir, he believes that environmental and ecological vandalism undertaken by

irresponsible, selfish and mindless elements of the Kashmiri community, which seems to have accelerated after 1990. Author laments that a sharp and systematic erosion of the traditional Kashmiri values and culture, and introduction of alien cultures to replace them, which is driven systematically by the influential members of the community. It seems that Kashmiris are consciously trying their best to shake off their historical roots and wear a new (alien) identity. Author renounced the contemporary family size in Kashmir which shrunk considerably and which changed from traditional joint to nuclear family. Author lamenta that becuase of the change in the cultural practices, in the last few decades or so, a new attitude  of Manoo kee (none of my concern) has become prevalent. Author also deliberates on the crisis in the institution of marriage in Kashmir and is of the opinion that in older days marriages in Kashmir used to be arranged and would last for a life time. These days, a considerable number of young people choose their own partners. However, unfortunately, a significant number of those marriages fail soon after the wedding. He also has reservations about the present food adaptability of Kashmiri people which is much alien to its traditional food culture. In the last chapter of this book he has reproduced his recent conversations, on a popular social media application, with a number of people from both Kashmiri Muslims and Pundit communities. This chapter includes a series of general conversations that have taken place on January 2015, which marked 25 years of the exodus of Kashmiri Pundits from Kashmir. The conversation provide a snapshot of the kind of conversation the people of a certain educated and professional category among Kashmiris undertake today.

Bill K Koul’s book is interesting, humours and melancholic manuscript for readers in general and for Kashmiri readers in particular. The book gives a broad outlook about the life and times of traditional Kashmiri relations particularly between the Pundits and Muslims. It also narrates distressing and heartbreaking exodus of Kashmiri Pundits from their homeland. And the cultural and social crisis which contemporary Kashmir are witnessing. The book is softbound with

an impressive jacket with author’s introduction and photograph on the back side of the book.

Dr Ajaz Lone, is a postdoc research fellow at international Islamic University, Malaysia.