• Kashmiri Overseas Association of Canada

Treasure Trove

08 Mar 2021

Written By Vidya Bhushan Dhar

The moment Pyari’s eyes caught the site of be beautifully carved walnut wood door, it seemed to her as if someone’s squeezed her heart in an iron grip. She remained frozen for a moment and felt the ground beneath her feet was turning into an abyss.

This was not the first time when her loving eyes didn’t look at the large pomegranate tree or the marigolds or caressed the velvety roses or opened the lock of the red painted Letter Box hung on the picket fence as she did it every time when she along with her family will return from small vacations in the plains of Jammu or the hustling Delhi, every year, year after years, the routine. However, she knew in her deep self that this will be probably the last time when she will be seeing or feeling all this which was her own, created twig by twig like a sparrow over decades.

It was gloomy all over, deserted and in shambles. The flower beds were full of weeds and nettle grass, Pomegranate tree was bare with rotten fruits strewn all around. Rotten leaves were all over the garden and path and picket fence was broken at many places, even the custom made, hand painted letter box was hanging lose with no door. Her abode was looking like a haunted house with an eerie silence! 

She looked around once more and with a deep sigh, dug her hand in her hand bag to look for the keys and it seemed that the keys were also playing sinister games with her today as it took her time to find it. 

For the first time Pyari observed that all her neighbourhood was deafeningly quiet, next door neighbour Rahman joo’s house had all windows closed and Dr. Noor Mohammad’s house was quite too. It was for the first time, Rahman Joo’s elderly wife Halima Ji was not there to hug her nor did any youngster from the neighbourhood came running to help them with the luggage.  Oh! She must be naïve to think that as they had no luggage with them and, “who on earth will recognize us? She was fully covered in a burqa (veil) and her husband Professor Soom Nath was sporting a beard!

Silently she closed her eyes and prayed to her Gods, “O Lord Shiva, the lord of three worlds, let no one recognize us and let our mission be completed.” Thinking this, she opened the main door which needed a push to enter her home. In the hallway, she stood frozen staring at each wall and the mundane things around. She was blabbering with herself, “This is my home, my nest , our nest, no no, this was our home for 20 years of our lives , now it is not our house, it was our house. 

She was woken from her slumber when she heard Soom Nath ji talking to her in a muffled voice, “Sumi, we have very little time at our disposal,” Saying this, he hold her hand and bough her to the adjacent room “watoo”, “ please hurry up, Riyaz has allowed us only 20 minutes as he doesn’t have much time and it is dangerous too, pickup only the valuables as we do not have space for large items.” He left her in her frozen turbulence!

Sumawati came out of her slumber , “Yes, it is true, we have very little time to pick up the threads of our life, what do I chose to pick and what do I leave here behind for the looters to take away?” She sat down and pulled the trunks and suitcases which was neatly arranged under the large bed and sifted thru the contents. Every item was a story, an event, a celebration, a legacy and a piece of history! Pashmina Shawls of different colors, some with Jamawar work, some with golden and silver threads work and some with the fine needle work, some passed on from one generation to another and some prepared by her Mom when she was still in primary school. She caressed the Pashmina “Dussa” which was gifted to Soom Ji on their engagement by her parents and that silver tea set. “Oh God, she forgot that she had some gold ornaments also in one of her Trunks, “Matar Maal” gifted to her by her late mother-in-law when she came to Dhar’s as a newly wed. Last year only Soom Ji gifted her new “Ath t Athhoor” the ornamatic symbol of a married Kashmiri Hindu women as the heavy one was too much to handle and was an old design one. She loved it but after donning it on a few occasions, she put it back in the box and thought of gifting it to her only daughter, Simi on her wedding. “It must be in that large black trunk”, she got up to approach that trunk when she caught the glimpse of that large framed photograph of their house warming “Greh Parvesh” ceremony and it took her back to those days and she froze in the time. 

The housewarming or Greh Parvesh was the event of their lifetime, she wore a beautiful Pink Silk Saree with intricate silver thread work and she was the epicenter of that grand event as if she was once again a newly wed in the Dhar household. Badi Bhabhi and Pinky were busy with making sweet Pooris for “Satyadeev”. Roop Jigar was preparing the “wari” for the auspicious occasion and the rich fragrance lingered inside and outside their lakeshore single story house as “Hawan” was being performed in the would-be drawing room by “Baigash” Soom ji’s eldest brother who was as revered as his late father, the patriarch of Dhar family, saintly Pandit Madhav Ram ji!

She recalled how they made this house their home in a place which has been equated with the so-called Heaven on earth, amid so many adversities and personal sacrifices.

Thinking loud, Sumawati once again drifted in the distant past when they were a newly wed couple living in a Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood and Soom Nath Ji was a Research Scholar at the University of Chicago, life was a roller coaster of emotions; pursuing a PhD in his favorite subject from a premium University but away from loved one and Maaj Kasheer.  Soom Nath ji had submitted his thesis and he had an offer from the university itself, life was set as per mundane terms but Soom Nath ji was not at ease. One evening, when sipping his favourite “sheer chay” in his University Mug, he poured his heart to his soul mate, “Sumi, I am feeling at crossroads my dear and I need you to hold my hand and guide me to your best capabilities. I know we will have a good life here in USA and our children will get the best too, but I feel like an alien in this land, these are not my people, and this is not my mother tongue which I am getting used to speak too often now. I would not like to stay here for the rest of my life yearning for my land, the land of Rishis and great scholars. I am a proud Kashmiri Pandit from the land which is a heaven on earth. Those valleys are calling me back, the glorious dawn and the heavenly dusk of Kashmir is calling me back, the dal Lake and the lofty Chinars are calling me back, Mata Kheer Bhawani and Zala Bhagwati is calling me back. I promise I will make a house for us on the shore of Dal Lake with a Large Chinar and a Pomegranate tree. We will see the rising sun from within the mountains and its golden rays shimmering on the pristine water of Dal Lake everyday for the rest of our lives. We will hear the bells and conches from the Shankaracharya Temple and will have a view of Hari Parbhat everyday, we will have the best flowers and fruits trees in our garden, where beautiful butterflies will be chased by our little children.” 

 He said it all in a breath as if he was in a trance and as if really his own mother was calling him back. All Sumawati could do was hold his hands tightly and give him a sublime smile of approval.

After that, It happened so fast after that, he turned down the job offer from the university which came as a big surprise to his friends and colleagues and many called him an emotional fool but he had made his mind and they returned back to Kashmir in early 70’s and lived in their ancestral home in Habba Kadal. Soon she was blessed with a daughter Vitasta fondly called simi and a son Kalhan fondly called Sunny. Soom Nath Ji got a job in the University of Kashmir and was soon elevated to be the Head of the department. 

Soom Nath Ji was eager to fulfill his promise of having a house on the lakeshore, but resources were meager, and he was not in the business of private tuitions like many of his colleagues and close friends. He was always available to his students for any advise and guidance during weekdays and weekends. 

Time passed quickly, kids started school and Sumawati being a science graduate joined a private school and life moved on at their ancestral home at Habba Kadal till the day when that windfall happened. Soom ji’s father had married twice and his first wife was the only daughter of a rich land lord from village Magham, the poor girl passed away during her first pregnancy leaving behind a male child who was fondly called Baigash by his brothers & only sister “Benigash”. Baigash was a saintly person who loved his half brothers and sisters like his own and more. The news came that the entire property owned by Baigash’s grandfather at Nagham was bequeathed to Baigash and in true Sanatan values, he equally distributed the proceeds equally among all his siblings. Soom Nath ji also got a decent share and that became the seed money of their dream house. They purchased a plot of land near brein, not very far from the Mughal Gardens and Ishwar Ashram. Soom Nath Ji took a housing loan and still they were short of funds, one evening when they were sipping their favourite evening tea “Sheery Chay”, Soom Ji very hesitantly braced the subject , “ I know Sumi dear, I haven’t been in a position for year to buy you a decent gold ornament and I know you been saving for it , I mean…..she knew what he was asking for and lovingly she said “warkar” . Next day she handed him all her savings including some crumpled US $ and the work began on their dream home reveredly named “Madhav Kunj” after Soom Ji’s revered father. 

Truly this piece of land was a piece of heaven on earth, not very far from the world-famous Dal Lake but being on a slight attitude, Lake view was as clear as Soom Ji’s promise. There was a mid size Chinar tree on the plot as well. Shankaracharya Temple was visible on side and Hari Parbhat on the other. 

Simi’s Mamaji who was a Civil engineer in the local Public works department designed the house which was liked and approved by all. Family purohit Pt. Vasa Kak was asked to see an auspicious day and time for laying the foundation stone of “Madhav Kunj”. They would have never imagined the project of constructing a house will be a gargantuan one and that too a dream one. The project took an entire summer, work was suspended during the winter and again started in spring of next year, Life those days was spent running after carpenters one day and masons the other day. On one day, you will have surplus labor and some days even one was not available ; these folks from construction are so snooty , they do not listen to you, frown their faces if you tell them to make some amends and there was perennial demand for salt tea “noon chay” True it is no joke to construct a house and that too in Kashmir and that too when essentials like cement and steel are controlled by the authorities. 

It took mor than what was planned and estimated to finally build  “Madhav Kunj” paid and unpaid leave , the seed money from ancestral estate  was already consumed by the plot of land along with part of housing loan, next was GP Fund and a loan from Simi’s mamaji too but it was worth every penny , worth every pain as what finally took shape was a master peace and both fell in love with it. 

That auspicious day came in the month of April and the year was 1981 when the interiors were finished and again Pt. Vasa Kak was asked to find an auspicious day and time for the greh Parvesh or house warming, It was Wednesday May 6th. How can Sumi forget a milestone day of their lives , it was a dream come true, a dream which they both saw with open longing eyes and put in their blood and sweat equity into it. Their abode, their palace was ready to occupy. The old adage fitted this new abode of theirs fully, “A house is made with walls and beams; a home is built with love and dreams.

“Madhav Kunj” was always an abode of happy humdrum, occupied with loved ones from and outside Srinagar, who will travel to the valley away from the sweltering heat of Udhampur/Jammy and Delhi. 

From the extended family, elders and young ones loved every aspect of this place, its coziness, its location, breathtaking scenery around, evening teas in the garden or the morning walks on the trails. Younger kids on festive occasions would play cricket or a game of badminton and sometimes the elders will join them too.  This place became the meeting point for would be brides and grooms of the family and even sisters would stay after delivery for some time. A distant cousin’s engagement ceremony was also solemnized at “Madhav Kunj”.

The most loved places for Soom Nath ji in this house was his study, his “Thokur Kuth” or his beautiful garden. He was a ferocious reader and a deeply religious man. In his spare time, he will be either seen hidden behind his books or in meditation in his little but beautiful temple. This temple had a Shiva Linga which was part of their ancestral house’s temple and passed on to him as blessings from “Baigash”. Soom Nath Ji was passionate about history and from him, Sumawati came to know more about Kashmir which was not taught in any history books or ever discussed in schools or even university. 

She came to know from her discussions with her scholar husband that Kashmir is the fountainhead from which flows our Indian culture, in fact, everything that defines our identity as Indians. She had no clue at all about the significance of Kashmir vis a vis Indian history and that it was home to Panini, whose “Ashtadhyayi” is considered the most scientific and flawless treatise on grammar in the world.

She was introduced to Patanjali, who gifted to humanity his Yog Sutra. She also came to know about Sharangdev, considered the father of both Hindustani and Carnatic music.

She had goosebumps when Soom Nath Ji told her about Acharya Abhinav Gupt, one of the greatest scholars of all times, who wrote 46 literary classics, including the renowned “Abhinav Bharti.”. His principles of Ras are being taught in 80 universities around the world and unfortunately none in India.

Kashmir was considered the abode of Saraswati, the highest seat of learning in India and was also referred to as Sharda Peeth. So much so that when students graduated from Kashi, they took four symbolic steps towards Kashmir, denoting their aspiration for higher learning as almost the entire body of Sanskrit literature has its origins in Kashmir.

She also was introduced to “Rajtarangini” , an authoritative historical tome on the royal lineage of Kashmir, written by Kalhan in the 12th century, outlines the greatness of King Lalitaditya, possibly the most powerful Indian Emperor of all times, whose kingdom in the 8th century extended from the Caspian Sea in the North to the Kaveri basin in the South, and included Assam in the East. The couple was so much inspired by Kalhan’s work that they decided to name their son after the great scholar from Kashmir.

Their daughter was given the name “Vitasta” the Vedic name of river Jhelum which was, is and will be the lifeline of Kashmir. 

The two children of Soom Nath and Sooma Wati, Vitasta & Kalhan grew in this home, their laughter and tears, their games, birthday parties, their fights and truces, their literary discussions. Theirs was a loving, peaceful, and abundant home with beautiful hopes and aspiration of the future. The events and happenings of last two decades all flashed in front of her eyes and they welled and broke the barrier wetting her face.

Life was like a serene gentle river, full of love and blessings till it came to the winter of 1989 when everything great about their Kashmir was crushed and trampled by evil forces which engulfed the valley and whole of Kashmir. Islamic radicalization spread its fangs in the valley for being the most populous Muslim state in India. A call for separatism and creating an Islamic Caliphate was given by once defunct terror organizations and overnight the peaceful and brotherly Kashmiri Pandit became Hindu Kafir who was asked to embrace Islam or lave the valley. Once peaceful Kashmir became a bedrock of murders, loot, arson and barbaric rapes of Hindu women. Bomb Blasts and cold-blooded murders of Hindus started happening on a daily basis. The terrorists targeted prominent Hindus whose murder will become a news and scare the entire populace. Curfews, Hartals and religiously frenzied processions became the norm and harassing the minority Hindus became a routine. The ghosts of barbaric Pathans in the distant past came alive and once again played the blood curdling & life sapping games called “wotulbuji” where a Hindu was subjected to life threatening & Humiliating torture till he or she died a gory death.

They were scared for their lives in a Muslim majority locality but they were given full assurances by their next door neighbours that this will be a passing phase and soon valley’s situation will return to normal and they believed them and prayed for situation to back to normal. Professor Soom Nath was respected name in the valley, he was very popular among his students and staff and had contributed a lot of research work which was published in leading science journals globally. It was a folklore among his colleagues and new and old students how he refused a promising career in US and returned to Kashmir for his love of the land and he had attained a cult figure among one and all.  Many of his Muslim students and Colleagues paid him visit and assured the safety and security of his family. They told him that some misguided youth from the Muslim community had crossed the border to Pakistan and returned with radicalized mindset and arms and their mission is to spread terror on the behest of their handlers in Pakistan. Professor Soom Nath was confident that he will be the last person in the valley to be targeted for he being a teacher was harmless to their cause.

However, with passing time, this confidence started wanning as every other day they will hear from his own kith and kin were leaving the valley from different parts of the valley and then the day came which still sends chill down their spine. It was Soom Ji’s cousin’s, Saba Ji’s 50th birthday and they were invited with family to their ancestral home in Habba Kadal. 

It was the chilly morning of January 19th; University & Schools were closed for winter holidays. They left early morning in an Auto rickshaw to reach in time for the birthday ceremony of Sabaji. Pandit Vaskak solemnized the “preypyun” and they savored the yellow rice “Tahar”
with Roganjosh! Kashmiri Pandits most revered religious festival “Maha Shivratri” was around the corner so all of them played games with Cowries which was the tradition. They also enjoyed playing the Indian version of “Monopoly” and evening was well spent singing “Antakshari”. It was fun and frolic though the discomfort of downtown was in the air with some neighborhood houses already vacated by the pandits! They wanted to return back to Brein, but everybody wanted them to stay for a night! Evening dinner was more sumptuous than the lunch!  The beauty of having an extended family was simply divine. Bedding was arranged for all in the “Kani” the Hall or top floor of this five-story building which was constructed a hundred years back by great grand father Pandit Nanak Chand Dhar, an Excise officer during the rein of Maharaja Pratap Singh. It was fun time and suddenly the lights went off and no one was surprised as it power cuts was a normal thing in Kashmir even in 90’s, soon some candles and LPG petromaxes were lit and humdrum continued when suddenly there were announcements heard from Loud speakers of the neighbouring mosque “ Hum Kya Chatey? Azadi? What do we want? Independence! Suddenly the exhortations become louder and shriller. Three taped slogans were repeatedly being played “Kashmir mei agar rehna hai, Allah-O-Akbar kehna hai' (If you want to stay in Kashmir, you have to say Allah-O-Akbar); 'Yahan kya chalega, Nizam-e-Mustafa' (What do we want here? Rule of Shariah); 'Asi gachchi Pannuy Pakistan, Batao roas te Batanev san' (We want our Pakistan along with Hindu women but without their men). These slogans were not new to Pandits in Kashmir. However, the odd hour, the turbulent blow and unexplained cohesion of this cacophony between mosques on both sides of the river Jhelum where majority Hindus lived, all indicated that a storm was brewing in Kashmir.

Suddenly, Sabaji’s official telephone began ringing loud, it was another cousin from Jawahar Nagar reporting the same noise in a predominantly Hindu colony and then a few more phone calls confirmed that there is similar mayhem in the entire city. It was not just limited to mosque loudspeakers; an alarming scene was unfolding on every street, every by lane and every chowk of the capital city of Srinagar.

Instances on the streets, narrow by lanes and grounds in Srinagar city were to be seen to be believed. They could see from the curtained windows, a sea of Muslim population, young, old, children, and women came out of their homes in the dark night and congregated at the Habba Kadal Chowk, gesturing wrathfully and shouting slogans like aazaadi (freedom), Pakistan zindabad, Islam zindabad, la Ila ilallah, aazaadi ka matlab kya/La ila ha ilallah, Kashmir Banega Pakistan etc. 

These unruly crowds had come prepared as many of them were carrying firewood and with which they lit bonfires to keep their bodies warm. Frenzied mob yelled, performed  death dances, shook fists , made ferocious gestures as some people were seen with portable loudspeakers which blurred a mix of Quranic verses, revolutionary songs, anti-India acerbic and the supremacy of Islamic faith. 

For the frenzied mob Kashmir was a paradise created by Allah for the pure (Pak) and hell fire was for the kuffar (unbelievers) etc. Kashmir was Dar-ul-harb (those lands ruled by non-believers) as long as but-parasts (idolators) Hindus remained there and it was duty of every Muslim to cleanse them till it became darul salam (the place of peace). 

This rant continued till wee hours of the morning and every single soul was petrified beyond doubt, whole night there was an apprehension if the hate mongering mob attacked so men prepared the ladies and young women to consume poison (rat poison was always available in every Kashmir home) and men were ready to set the house on fire using LPG cylinders lest a person of fares sex becomes a victim of the lusty mob. 

The message for Kashmiri Pandits was as clear as it could be, Raliv ( convert), chaliv( leave the valley) or Galiv ( die).

Like terrified pigeons, they huddled up in their nests and kept vigil throughout the night. Not a single soul came out of his house. The night-long tirade against non-Muslims snatched whatever scrap of peace of mind was left with them. For the first time in the history of Kashmir since independence, this open and shameless tirade was let loose against them on such a massive scale.

It was decided by one and all, it is dangerous to stay on, they all need to leave the valley to save their honor and lives and thus he ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Hindus happened once again for the 7th time in less than 500 years, ever since Islam sat its foot in a Hindu Kashmir.

They reached back to their home next day literally hitch-hiking different modes of transport as the entire valley was under a lawless siege and mad processions were happening everywhere.

They were surprised to see their elderly neighbour Rahman Joo’s & Halima Ji waiting for them.  Rahman joo was looking sullen and had aged overnight and told Soom Nath ji that, last night some people were looking for him and left after knocking the door many times.  He advised Dhar’s to leave immediately before it is too late. He prayed current conditions normalize soon and they can return back to their homes.

Hurriedly, they packed a few clothes in a suitcase and a few books, they had no cash with them, and banks were closed, they broke some piggy banks and like every Indian home maker Sumawati had some cash too hidden in the kitchen cupboard in many food containers. With tearful eyes and a painful heart, Sumawati locked her house and the family of four left for an unknown destination as they hired a taxi from Nehru Park Taxi stand and travelled out of Kashmir.

The journey toward safer zones on that fateful days was the most painful one as everybody kept quiet, tears were in abundance in Sumawati’s eyes while they were just pooled in Soomji’s eyes. Young children were skeptical of the situation, Sunny was busy listening to his favourite rock band of 90’s on his Walkman and Simi was engrossed in her new release of “Mills and Boon”. They had a quite dinner at Batote and tea at Udhampur. They decided to visit Soom Ji’s distant cousin Dwarika Nath Dhar who was settled here since 1970’s who was given a heads up on the phone from Srinagar only. The family was waiting, and the ladies cried their heart out. Their two-story house was already brimming with terrified people from the valley. They had horror stories to narrate how they many prominent Hindus were killed in cold blood and females raped and then their bodies mutilated. Sumawati was petrified to know that many Hindu girls were kidnapped, converted to Islam and married to terrorists. She thanks her gods that they took the right decision, but the future looked bleak as they had no clue what was instore for them.

They left for Jammu the next day by bus as luxury of a taxi was no more affordable. The city of Temples, Jammu, the abode of Mata Vaishnav Devi was brimming with refugees from Kashmir! They were lucky to find a one-bedroom ramshackle rental unit in the city and thus a forcibly displaced family at the hands of radical Islam once again started a new life. Soom ji got a loan from his cousin in Udhampur which was now a new seed money for another journey of their lives, this time an arduous one.

Their hopes of returning back diminished with passing days, things went from bad to worse in the valley as thousands of Kashmiri Hindus were killed, their houses and places of worship burnt to cinders, women and young girls raped at gun points and their bodies mutilated ! One evening, while sipping his favourite sheer Chay, the pink tea of Kashmir, Soom Nath said, “Sumi, you need to forget the past, just move on my dear, otherwise it will impact your health, we have lost mundane things and I am glad we are alive and away from that hell.”

She was in a trance, she blabbered with tears in her eyes, “ Soom ji, I just want to go back, once, just once, my possessions of my life time are their, I know how I made that nest and made that house into a home ! My life is scattered in every thing we got with love and sacrifices, our family heirlooms of Pashminas and Rafal passed on from generations,  our cherished books, our carpets , some of my jewellery and and “ and she rallied into a painful cry. “I fully understand your emotions and sense of loss as you made the home, I was only a medium, but it is better to forget that past and think we have just started.” Reassuring her, he gave her a peck on her cheek and left to attend the Kashmiri Migrant Teachers meeting fighting for their settlement in Jammu”.

It was sweltering hot today, may be the temperature was 45 degrees Celsius , Sumawati lied lazily on a folding bed with the rickety ceiling fan oozing guts of hot air and slapping her hard, she thought about her conversation with her husband, “forget it”, how easy it sound and how painful is to do it, she knew how she managed to run a bustling household with meager income and how she maintained the decorum and social status at the same time. She recalled, how they had bought some expensive carpets and a new color TV just last year and not to talk about Soomji’s new electronic typewriter. Everything she remembered give her heart a twitch. How much and how long will she forgive and forget. Bhagwat Geeta teaches us to let go but as a viceful human, it is not easy and she once again cried silently! 

Their small family starting picking up the threads of their lives once again , Prof. Soom Nath was adjusted at Jammu University as a migrant teacher , yes, it was true, forcibly displaced Kashmiri Pandits got a new name by the mandarins of the power, the local administration , though the irony was that the term migrant was insulting and painful , for migrants are those who move from a place voluntarily and for better and bigger avenues , here we Kashmiri Pandits have been forced to leave at a gun point after inflicting all kinds of terror on them reminiscing medieval looters of yore who plundered India to stone ages. Kashmiri Hindus were in fact, internally displaced persons and no one considered them so.  Children started their education in makeshift camp schools and life seemed to move on but for Sumawati, her yearning to go back to Kashmir strengthened with every passing day and Sumawati took this to her heart and he healthy started deteriorating. Soom Nath Ji and children were cognizant of her desire and they wanted to take her back but for horror stories coming back from the valley, abandoned Hindu houses were being looted of their contents then brick by brick till it was either raised to ground or even set on fire. Many Hindus who went back to pickup their left-over belongings were brutally killed and no wealth was precious enough to endanger their lives. 



The seers have said, if and when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”  Qayum, employed as staff driver the at the University in Kashmir visited them one afternoon. He was very close to Prof Soom Nath as a mentor and guide. He had got this job through his efforts and also on one occasion when his toddler son was sick and taken to Delhi for an emergency surgery, professor Sahib took care of the expenses and it was not just that, professor Sahib was a god father to many in his circle. They mourned over the situation and rejoiced the past when Kashmir was peaceful. Sumawati suddenly broke into sobs and tears welled her eyes, “Qayum Lala, I want to go back to my home, my Kashmir, my own Kashmir , just once, but your professor Sahib is scared lest we might get killed by a terrorist.” 

Qayum got emotional too, “sister, sure, why not? I will take the bullet first before those filthy creatures touch you, professor Sahib, it is not a big deal, you home is not in downtown and its is safer to visit but we will have to be quick because news of any Hindu returning back spreads like wildfire, I will rather suggest that you go in a disguise so that no one can recognize you. You can grow some Muslim style beard and I will arrange a veil for my sister” Let me know when you are ready, and I will come back to take you to your home. My heart rips, looking at my kind-hearted and noble sister begging to go back to her own home! Ya Allah, what happened to my paradise like Kashmir?” saying this, he left, wiping his tears with his hands.

There was a pin drop silence in the room after Qayum left and all were against the plan but Sumawati was adamant and determined so Somnath Ji had to give in and a day was decided and conveyed to Qayum over the phone.

And they were here in their nest which they enjoyed for over a decade and this was the last time, they will ever be back again. Situation has worsened in last few months as almost entire Hindu populace of Kashmir was uprooted from their herd and hearth! Hundreds more were killed in cold blood as the terror outfits wanted to ensure no one dared to return back!

“Sumi, we are getting late, what are you trying to do? Packing the lock, stock and barrel? You know we have limited space and on way back we might confront any of those gangs who might get suspicious to see a lot of luggage, please take only the valuables in a suite case or two, that is it and for Mahadev’s sake, hurry up, we are waiting.”

After some time, Sumawati came out of her beloved “Madhav Kunj”, she dragged a small suitcase towards the car and with Qayum’s help she loaded it in the boot of the car and sat silently besides Soom Nath ji. She looked back and tear rolled down her cheek and she sobbed, “Qayum Saba, let us go.” 

The return back was silent as no one talked except for the eerie silence was shattered by Sumawati’s cold sighs.! Who would have thought, they had to leave their own home like that? They were refugees in their own lands!


The rest of the journey was eventless, and they reached Jammy Safely and after pleasantries and a cup of sheer Chai made by Simi, Qayum left with a heavy heart.

“So, what now? I am sure, you are you happy my dear, your heart’s desire is fulfilled! I was scared, you took a long time! I am sure you got your treasure trove”. “Yes, my treasure trove!”, saying this she opened the suitcase and with a burst, hundreds of photographs laid scattered on the floor, black & white, colored and even some polaroid ones…albums of different kinds, and the thick red one of their marriage , slightly worn out now , children jumped with joy, their entire life was in front of them in many pictures saying a billion words about who they were and what kind of a journey they took together, photos of their US sojourn, children’s birthdays, school functions, picnics, marriages, their house warming , framed photos of their parents and loved ones . Sumawati mumbled, “I was torn between mundane things and precious memories, our life is summarized in these and will remain with us, our days and years, those precious moments, our home, our land, our youth our children and their growing years, our loved ones, I packed them all, did not leave anything there, I promise.” Saying this Sumawati cried our loud but a serene smile on her lips. They hugged each other, the pain and grief of being a refugee in their own land at the hands of their own people, melted away with the warmth of their love and they looked more detrimental to take another journey to the unknown with confidence and hope, their Treasure Trove was with them.