By Shivani Virani
Amongst all the hatred and violence that lives in us today everyone has a heart, everyone has emotions, feelings and most important is that everyone is human!
A beautiful valley that is being fought for, since generations does not want anything more, than to be left alone in peace and tranquility. A very happy place amidst the mountains still just wants its life of loving and caring for the smallest simplicities of life and thriving on its relationships of friend, family back.
Being a part of that world all my life and then being thrown out over night is a scar that will never heal! Not only for me but for the thousands of families like mine. All these years I believed or rather wanted to believe that the valley had forgotten us years ago and moved on but contrary to my belief it misses us more than we missed it and longs for our return.
Going back home after 22 years was the most cathartic time of my life. ‘Twenty two years’ ago when the valley went through its most traumatic time, everyone who was left behind hoped and longed for our return to make their lives feel normal and complete.
I was welcomed back with open arms by every person on the road. The chaiwala, the shikara walas who saw us grow up, friends and neighbours of course opened their houses and greeted us. They cried when we cried. It was a time that cannot be explained in words.
But how does one control one’s emotions when strangers cry together and share the pain?
A house that was sold to a complete stranger in desperation over a phone call, without us ever being able to say goodbye or take our belongings…wonder where my dolls are? How do you get a closure to a situation like that, was my biggest worry!
IT HAD TO BE DONE…Three days of living, two houses away we gathered our courage and decided to visit the home (not ours anymore). And as for the people living there it should have been an irritant, as we had no right to barge in and tell them after 22 yrs, “We have come to see our house”. But like every where else we were greeted with open arms.
Entering the house made me numb with all the old voices echoing in my ears, the sounds of our childhood and giggles of our teenage years deafening me. The now owners took us around obviously. It was totally different but still every little corner had something that we had left behind and maintained in the decor.
Moments passed and an old lady finished her evening namaz and came out, leapt into our arms wailing and apologizing for using the house and having to buy it from us in our bad times. The moment was like death had dawned upon us and all our friends who spent happy moments with us there and hadn’t had the courage to even cross the house, began to weep.
It was a moment of high strung emotions reality and to an extent a closure not from the place but from the anxiousness of how we will feel when this day actually came. The old lady told us that ever since she bought the house she has never prayed and not included our family in her requests. “Roz duah me mai ap logo ki salamati mang ti hu”.
She ran into her simple room and came out with a packet and told us that she has kept it, waiting for us to return one day. We opened the packet and it had all our photographs of ours, my mother’s and father’s childhood. We always longed for the pictures thinking that they were our only memories left and somehow we could get them. To my shock the old lady felt the same and saved nothing materialistic that could be replaced but kept our pictures, which she felt were the most prized moments of our lives.
In a world like ours where people don’t have time to look at their own old pictures or even keep them stored. People live with fear and hatred for humanity and violence. A world where children hear about 26/11 & 9/11 instead of fairy tales, people like this still exist who feel the pain of strangers and keep their belongings for 22 years are so human.
Walking in the lanes between the houses, the neighbourhood with our friends and aimlessly giggling was a routine. I tried to relive it, hearing our voices again our neighbours came out who didn’t even know us but knew those sounds and said “lagta hai aaj humara purana Kashmir laught aaya hai”….(“Looks like our old Kashmir is back”).
This is our real valley and its people ~ Simple, loving, caring, hospitable and peaceful!