Friday, July 4, 2014

Kashmir’s Mediocrity



Book Review
Title: Our Moon Has Blood Clots
Author: Rahul Pandita
Publisher: Random House India, 2013, 2014  
ISBN: 978-81-8400-513-4
Pages: 257 Price: Rs 350

History has to be saved from the mediocre.  The mediocre rule the world.  And their vision extends little beyond their own noses.  Their memory goes as far as the comforts and wellbeing of themselves.  “… my memory must come in the way of this untrue history,” as Rahul Pandita paraphrases Agha Shahid Ali. 

The memory of those who find it difficult to accept convenient truths that ensure the present wellbeing must come in the way if history is to be redeemed.  Rahul Pandita’s book is an endeavour to redeem the history of the Kashmiri Pandits who were driven out by the Muslim fundamentalists.  The book deserves to be read by every Indian, especially by the Muslims of India.

Kashmir was a paradise where people belonging to two different religions, which later became bitter enemies, lived together in exemplary harmony.  The Brahmin Pandits of Kashmir shared much with the Muslims there culturally.  Mutton was not just a common food in that shared culture; it was a symbol of how culture transcended religious norms.  There was no Shivaratri celebration for the Kashmiri Pandit without a mutton dish.  There was no Islamic festival for the Muslims in Kashmir without sharing their roganjosh with the Hindu neighbours.  The Pandits taught the Muslim children in the schools.  The Muslims learnt as much as they could from the Pandits.  Maybe, the Pandits were sly or cowardly or vile.  And the Muslims were no different.  Both the Pandits and the Muslims are human beings, after all. 

Why was the fabric of that humanity torn asunder in the paradise on the earth?  Rahul Pandita gives us a brief glimpse into the past history of Kashmir in which people of all sorts invaded that paradisiacal terrain.  “From the fourteenth century onwards, Islam made inroads into Kashmir,” says the author.  Did Kashmir belong to Muslims before the 14th century?  What right have Pakistan’s Islamic fundamentalists to lay siege to Kashmir today when the people of Kashmir were originally not Muslims at all? 

This is the problem with history.  And memory too.  Who are the present citizens of Kashmir but people who were converted to Islam at different times by different conquerors?  Why do these people want to celebrate the victory of Pakistan in a game of cricket?  Ignorance of history or brevity of memory?

Rahul Pandita, the author of the book, is not a revanchist-fundamentalist.  In fact, he is an associate editor with The Hindu newspaper.  He had to leave his home with its “twenty-two rooms” in Srinagar and live as a beggarly exile in Jammu and later in other places for many years.  The book is primarily about the loss of home and subsequent exile.  The book is about rootlessness engendered by mindlessness. 

Unfortunately, mindlessness rules supreme in the world of mediocre people driven by selfish interests supported by religion.  The book shows how some people choose to run away in order to search for their roots when they are uprooted while some others accept a new root by conversion into the domineering religion.   One wonders why religion has uprooted so many people throughout history.  One wonders why humanity cannot transcend religion in spite of the bloody trail left by that mindless entity throughout the human history.

Losing one’s home and homeland can be an excruciating agony when it is engendered by a force that rapes you both physically and psychologically.  Rahul Pandita, the author, saw his own people suffering both kinds of raping.  That’s why he ends the book with a longing to return to Kashmir permanently. 

The book is written with a lot of agony in the heart.  It is also written with a lot of understanding.  Without hatred.  But with longing that intellectually (not emotionally) absorbs a tremendous lot of pain.  The emotions stand out in many pages.  And any intelligent reader can understand those emotions with the same pain that the author felt.  That is the success of the writer. 


Mediocre people should not read this book lest there be more fundamentalism on this overburdened planet. 

15 comments:

  1. Shall Grab a copy. Ty for sharing ! Right now I am reading book from Khaled Hosseini "And the mountains Echo" good wishes.

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    1. Inteligence matters, ruchi. What else can I say? I feel sad that there are so few intelligent creatures on the planet.

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  2. Seems the author has written the book with a neutral outlook. Very much needed at this moment of mindless religion based diversity....Nicely reviewed too..

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    1. The book disturbed me much, Maniparna. It aggravated my dislike of religions. But, yes, the book is commendably neutral.

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  3. sir, your writing is always so direct, smooth and informative. Its always good to read and it inspires my thinking.

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    1. My directness is blunt at times, I know. But I'm glad if I can inspire you ...

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    2. My directness is blunt at times, I know. But I'm glad if I can inspire you ...

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  4. I read this book when it first came out. Absolutely recommend it to all Indians and all people interested in knowing the recent history of Kashmir.

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    1. Rahul Pandita has done a great service to the Kashmiri Pandits by writing this book. Without this book, probably their history would have been forgotten.

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  5. I would definitely want to read this book.

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  6. I definitely look forward to reading this book. Havn't read a good book in ages after The Kite Runner..

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    1. The boos is easily available, Anu, with online sellers like Flipkart and Amazon.in. All the best.

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  7. The review blog maintains the same state of equilibrium that the author had in expressing the excruciating pangs of the diaspora. An inspiring review. Thank you.

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    1. Loss of homeland is a terrible pain when one is forced into exile unlike one choosing exile like in your case and mine. Yes, the author has displayed a lot of equanimity which I appreciate much.

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