“Heerath”It Was Ours
By Hakim Iqbal
17 February, 2012
Kashmiriyat is a term which is alien to none across the globe. Our pluralistic culture, our ethos, our resilience, our beautiful past all stand as a testimony of ours as a great nation. When partition took the subcontinent by storm and human beings turned beasts, Kashmir was peaceful and Kashmiriyat did rounds in the literally and social circles of the subcontinent. It is a historical fact that seeing the tumult in erstwhile India , Gandhiji had cited the example of Kashmir and urged people to maintain brotherhood. Even in toughest of times Muslims did not sideline Hindus and Hindus reciprocated in vice versa situations with added fervour and the cycle continued. But yes, the fateful days which none expected to come to this Shangri-la showed its countenance. Kashmir had its rendezvous with ill fate in 1987 when anger won over peace, when falsehood achieved triumph over truth and when love was defeated by hatred.
Fatah and Saroj were friends since childhood. They shared their love, their tough times and their heydays together. They both are old now and have kids. Time separated Fatah and Saroj in space. Militancy brought trouble in Saroj's family and she left her ancestral house along with her family. Kashmiriyat was laid beneath the Sod on the night of Saroj's departure. Space may separate physical contact, but fatah's heart still throbbed for Saroj. She remembered how they both would play in the ground and go to the nearby forests to hear birds sing and dance, she remembered how they talked about everything from handsome boys to gullible classmates, from dishes cooked at night to bunking the tuition classes. The days of yore now left only memories to play with and think about. Ali was born to Sarah in 1989 and he does not know about the commotion of Pandit families. He is fascinated by the festivities of Heerat in the nearby locality where a handful of Pandits reside in government protected colonies on collateral. He asks Sarah about Pandits, Heerath, Pandit exodus and a lot of other relevant and irrelevant questions.
Sarah is caught in a catch-22 situation of how to answer these typical questions. She began to narrate to her about how she lived with Saroj and other Pandit families who lived across in the same streets where Ali now sees havens of Muslims.
Sarah: Pandits were because of us and we were because of them. We were two bodies and one soul. We thought alike, dressed alike, had same tastes, loved same colours of happiness and joy. But then, Heavens turned against us
Ali : If it was so, the why did they leave Kashmir
Sarah: Beta, no one knows the answer. There are only theories and theories. Rather they are all conspiracy theories. Some ominous rumblings of discontent grew and put all love in the sod
Ali: Where did they go?
Sarah : That too, nobody knows. Some made good fortunes but most of them suffered in alien lands. They could neither detach themselves from Kashmir nor find an abode for themselves anywhere else
Ali: Pretty bad. OK, tell me what they are celebrating today
Sarah: Beta, we call it Heerath. What joy would it bring in Saroj's life? Preparations of this festival would start before a month. Pushkar Nath Jee, Saroj's father, would make sure she has the best dress in the whole locality to wear. Ah! What a man he was. So learned and so humble
Ali : Is it like our Idd only?
Sarah : Absolutely, Heerath was as dear to us as Idd. Pushkar uncle would bring us all scrumptious sweets and take us for an outing. I would always yearn for this day to come. My father used to bring me new clothes to go out with Saroj
Ali : What used to happen during Heerath?
Sarah : Beta, Saroj's mother, Heemal aunty used to be on her toes all those days. The cleaning of home would begin before a week and my mother also used to help her as she did during Eid ceremonies for us. There was excitement, exultation and euphoria in the winds during Heerath days. Beta, there always used to be snow during Heerath and to your delight it is snowing today as well. There are many legends about snowfall and its relation with Heerath which I will tell you some other day
Ali: What else used to happen and what is it all about, Ummi?
Sarah: Heyrath symbolizes the wedding of Hindu God Shiva to Goddess parvati. Festivities would begin before 14 days. On the day of Heerath, Pandits used to do “Vatuk Puja” which was the puja of different objects in the house. Offerings were made to God's and Goddesses to keep them happy. Unlike other hindus, Kashmiri Pandits would only each vegetarian food on the first day and have non veg on the second day.
Ali: You also used to go na.
Sarah : Of course, the village celebrated the day together. Pushkar uncle was the Sarpanch of the village and thus there were even more festivities in Saroj's home. We all celebrated together.
Ali : what wonderful times you had Mom
Sarah: Yes beta. OK, enough for today. GO and study now
Time changed so much in Kashmir . We have lost everything but hope. We still wait for the day when Muslim neighbour would take a Pandit elderly on his shoulders to hospital; when a Pandit well off family would marry off a Muslim girl in their neighbourhood; we still wait for that joyous atmosphere when Azaan is called in Masjids by Muslims and tintinnabulation of temples resound the ears simultaneously; we wait for the time when believers offer Namaz for their sick Hindu friend, we wait, we wait , and we will wait.
Hakim Iqbal is an Engineer by profession
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