Monday, July 31, 2017



    (THE  DAL   LAKE  OF KASHMIR  FROZE   COMPLETELY   IN 1959, 1964 AND 1986 )

 In January 1959, I don’t know but many elders told me that Dal lake froze completely. It remained frozen for more than 30 days. The frozen crust was more than 3 feet in depth making it a solid surface that could hold the weight of a Moving jeep that Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad, the then prime minister of the J&K State drove over it. Many people have told me that he was accompanied by Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru as well. as well. Many people from Rainawari who were going to Badami Bagh for their duties, chose to go on foot using the shortest route that was over the surface of the frozen lake.

 The lake again froze in January 1964. It froze again for about 30 days. That winter, some police officials drove a vehicle over the frozen surface. I have heard it from many elders and houseboat owners in the lake. 

 In January 1986, I saw the frozen lake and walked over it. From Nehru Park, we went right up to the 'Bathing Boats' on foot. We saw some persons selling tea and cake pieces on a Reddi. We saw children playing cricket. football and hockey over the frozen surface. We saw a person selling roasted water chestnuts ( Singara ) on a Reddi over the frozen surface. A few tourists with cameras could also be seen that day. I also saw some persons enjoying a bicycle ride on the frozen lake surface. I believe the lowest temperature recorded during winter that time was something around minus 12 degrees celsius.

                                      ( Children Playing Cricket on  Frozen Dal Lake in Srinagar  )

My friend Rajesh Kaul has this to say:-

 " In 1986, I shot some scenes of my Urdu serial `KAB TAK` on frozen DAL and some scenes on frozen snow around some ruins under the nearby foothills and Hari Parbhat fort. The serial was telecast in early 1987 from DDK, Srinagar."

Noted Poet Farooq Nazki has this to say:-

 " I remember in 1964, our friend and M P Shamim Ahmad Shamim. cycling at Gagribal on the frozen surface of Dal lake. It became part of the documentary shot by Mr Kumar senior-most cameraman of the Department of Information "

Mukta Lall, daughter of poet Jagan Nath Azad has this to say:-

 " I remember our father telling us that in 1959 when the lake froze Pundit Nehru was also taken there for a ride in the jeep. He also commented that what a foolish adventure it was - just in case the lake surface cracked at any place " 

 ( Avtar Mota )

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                                        ( A Kashmiri Pandit  exiled family in a Tent in Jammu's Muthi area )
                             ( A Kashmiri Pandit woman Outside Muthi  Tent .. Photo Dr Kavita Suri )
                                                     ( An elderly Kashmiri Pandit woman )

                    ( Muthi Jammu ..  1990 Tented accommodation for Kashmiri Pandits   )
                          ( A KASHMIRI PANDIT WOMAN  IN EXILE )
                                                ( A KASHMIRI PANDIT WOMAN  IN EXILE )

                    ( kashmiri Pandit Refugees / exiles living in a Hall in Delhi )

                                         ( Kashmiri Pandit Ladies in a tent at  Muthi  camp )

                                                        ( A kashmiri Pandit woman )
       ( A kashmiri Pandit family camping inside Geeta Bhawan Jammu Feb 1990 )
                                  ( A kashmiri pandit woman in a Refugee camp at jammu )
                                          ( A kashmiri pandit  Refugee camp at jammu)



                          ( kashmiri Pandt Children outside a Refugee camp at Muthi  jammu 1991 )

                My short Story ' TARAWATI ' 

                           (TARAWATI )

After Ramesh Kumar, the youngest son of Rupawati was killed by terrorists in Kupwara Bazaar, her family felt frightened. Except Ismail Gujri, no neighbour or fellow Pandit visited their house to sympathize with them and offer their condolences. They could not weep or wail over this tragedy. Except for six families, almost entire Kashmiri Pandit population of the town and adjoining villages had already left in a panic when terrorists selected Pandits as their soft targets.

Ismail Gujri visited their house at night to offer his condolences. That night he appeared a changed man. No smile or the usual casual talk. In a hushed tone, he had said;

" I have grown up with your family. To me, Tarawati is like a mother . Late Bobju Ji ( Tarawati’s husband ) always treated me like his son. I need to tell you the truth. I have heard in the mosque that Ramesh Kumar was working as an army informant that is why he was killed. Pushker Nath and Makhan Lal could be the next targets. Why don’t you people leave this place to save your lives. Pandits started leaving in January and hardly six families reside in this area now. It is April now and things are going from bad to worst. Our children are moving with strangers now. We have no hold over these young boys. They hold a gun in their hands. They say all Pandits are Indian agents and work as army informants or Mukhbirs. I can believe that all the Pandits these young boys killed over here were innocents. I know Ramesh Kumar had nothing to do with the army but who will tell them. Better you leave this place as early as possible. I am helpless. I can not give you any shelter or assurance of security. Forget this house, Forget the orchard or the walnut trees or the cows and all material belongings. I will take care of your property. I didn’t come during the day time because we are under scrutiny ”

That was sufficient for Tarawati’s family to feel frightened . They decided to save their lives and rush to Jammu. Next morning, they left at 4 a.m. in a truck that Ismail Gujri arranged for them. The truck had two more Pandit families who boarded at Handwara town. The three families sat along with their luggage on the backside of the open truck. All along the road right up to Banihaal tunnel, the truck was subjected to frequent check-ups by men in uniform deployed at many Nakaas.

“ Who are you? “

"Kashmiri Pandits “

" Where are you going?"

“ Jammu “

" Move “

At Udhampur, the driver stopped the truck near a tea stall and suggested to the occupants on the backside to have tea or snacks and go for a toilet or washroom if they so desired. No one dared to come down from the truck. They remained huddled with their paltry luggage. None sitting in the backside of the truck knew where to go in Jammu. The tea stall owner brought some tea for the shell shocked families and suggested them to go straight to Geeta Bhawan temple in Jammu.

At about 7.30 p.m., they reached Geeta Bhawan temple. Jammu was hot even at that time. Tarawati understood how hot it would have been in the daytime. She was tired, hungry and disturbed. Death of a young son, leaving everything behind and then landing in uncertainty made her terrible. She had once been to Jammu on way to Haridwar. Jammu was a pleasant stop at that time. But now, Jammu appeared a place of embarrassment and suffering to her.

Geeta Bhawan was crowded with many families using it as a makeshift/temporary accommodation. Tales of pain and suffering were on display everywhere. You could see Kashmiri Pandit leaders managing cries and  queues. These leaders were flooded with requests for accommodation by hapless Pandit families pouring into Jammu from various corners of the Kashmir valley. Tales of killings, curfews, hunger and want all over. A hall partitioned with bedsheets and Saris. Kerosene stoves in the makeshift kitchens, whistling pressure cookers in open, men in sleep under fans, discussions, noise , news and leaders helping people to get themselves registered as migrants to avail relief and rations. For Tarawati, uncertainty hung on all sides.

After their arrival in Jammu, Tarawati had suddenly turned a recluse. Her world shrank to her sitting space inside Geeta Bhawan hall. Sometimes she looked towards the ceiling fan and sometimes towards the crowds around her. Unable to relate to the changed environment, she felt as if she was a prisoner or even worst than that. In Kupwara, her day started at 5 a.m. and she slept at 11 p.m. Everything in her family was under her command and control that included the kitchen, kitchen garden, rice , mustard crops, fruit orchard, walnut trees and the paddy storeroom. In Jammu, she had nothing to do yet her sleep had vanished totally. She had lost her authority and identity. It was Pushker Nath’s wife, her daughter in law, who took major decisions the day Tarawati’s family landed at Geeta Bhawan, Jammu.

At Geeta Bhawan, the family had to stand in a queue for use of washroom. And the only privacy the family had created in Geeta Bhawan hall was a cloth partition.  The mattresses, stoves, buckets and some bedding provided by some social organization were prized possession for Pushkar Nath’s family now. Ashoo and Dimpy, his children, were more than happy in the openness of Geeta Bhawan compound. Jaammu meant lack of restrictions for them. They were delighted to see busy Raghu Nath Bazaar, Parade Ground, Jain Bazaar, Raj Tilak Road and Sabzi Mandi. Cheerful faces on the  roads were something unusual for them . Quite often, Dimpy would pose strange questions to Krishna Ji, her mother :

" Mummy! Mummy! Why don’t people keep quiet on roads? They are always talking and smiling. Why are they talking in Matadors? Aren’t they afraid of the Mujahids? When shall we go to school? Who lives in our Kupwara house  now? Why didn’t you bring Lil ( fond name of the cow that the family had in Kupwara ) and  Nika ( calf ) to Jammu? We have no cow here. Why don’t people wear Pherans over here? I will also not wear it now. Please tell Papa to bring Amroodh ( Guava ) from Subzi Mandi. Why didn’t you get it in Kupwara for us? Mummy, Aashoo is eating Moongfali (groundnut ) that he buys from Reddiwala on the road. See his pocket. He will again get a fever ."

After migration, Pushker Nath wanted that all the family members stayed together at one place in Jammu. He desired to take a two-room set on rent so that his mother and Makhan Lal (his unmarried brother ) could use one room while the other could be used by his family. This proposal was summarily rejected by his wife when he tried to seek her concurrence. She had told him:

"Why do you oppose Amar Nath Vaishnavi Ji’s suggestion. Vaishnavi Ji knows many influential and helpful persons. He is, after all, a selfless leader of our community. He has already found a job for Makhan Lal at Kathua. Let Mata Ji and Makhan Lal go to Kathua. They will get monetary relief and rations from the government. And then Vaishnavi Ji has already got both the nephews of Mata Ji adjusted at Pathankot and Amritsar. He has provided them with free accommodation. I have heard all that he was suggesting about Makhan Lal to you. At Kathua, he was assuring you about some rent-free factory accommodation. Why do you oppose? You are not a gazetted officer You are a peon. You have your own family. You have to educate two children. That should be your priority now. Our life is over. How many mouths shall you feed with your meagre salary? You will not get any government relief. It was a different story in Kupwara. Here in Jammu, you don’t own an orchard. You don’t grow vegetables. You don’t grow rice in your fields. You don’t get firewood or kitchen fuel free. You don’t get edible oil from your crop. You don’t have your cows to give you free milk. Think something about your children now. I will manage in one room. Look for a single room at the moment. No one can come to live with us if we have one room. How much rent you will pay and then what shall you give to your family? Let Mata Ji look after Makhan Lal. Say yes to Vaishnavi Ji. Follow my suggestions else throw your own family in Tawi  river .”

A search for a suitable room had begun. Pushker Nath visited many localities in Jammu but nothing materialized. Getting accommodation was a tough job those days. More than fifty thousand families had suddenly come to Jammu from Kashmir valley after selective killings of Kashmiri Pandits by terrorists. When he saw a 12 by 10 feet room at Paloura top, he was more than satisfied. For his family, this 12 by 10 feet room was a future bedroom, living room, kitchen and lobby all in one. The room had one window (2 feet by 4 feet ) and one door ( 3 feet by 6 feet ). An old  fan hung from the ceiling. Pushkar Nath’s family was required to share the toilet in the courtyard with the landlord’s family. That was more than sufficient for Pushkar Nath at that moment. He immediately gave an advance of rupees five hundred to the landlord Balbir Singh Manhas. Balbir Singh Manhas had removed all the broken furniture from this room that was being used as a store . Had not Kashmiri Pandits arrived in Jammu, Balbir Singh planned to make it a cowshed.

After Pushker Nath moved to the rented room, Tarawati went to live with Makhan Lal, the younger brother of Pushkar Nath. At Amar Nath Vaishnavi’s intervention, A Social organization had secured a salesman ‘s job for Makhan Lal at a shop in Kathua market on a monthly salary of rupees seven hundred. Makhan Lal now lived in an abandoned industrial shed ( number  33 ) in Kathua Industrial Estate. Two more Kashmiri Pandit families from Mattan were living  in this abandoned structure that had three rooms and a small hall. Tarawati and Makhan Lal moved to the vacant room that must have been used as a godown. The hall had some rusted old machinery , old tin boxes , dusty cardboard boxes and some old unused wax candles. It appeared that shed no 33 had been a candle manufacturing unit. Everything was full of dirt and dust now. Khem Raj Gupta, a political leader from Kathua had built a makeshift toilet cum washroom near this structure and restored temporary electric connection for use by the newly arrived Kashmiri Pandit families.  For cooking and washing, the  inmates of shed no 33  used a nearby hand Pump . The families lived free in this shed.

It was June and unbearably hot. Despite that, Tarawati cooked food for Makhan Lal and washed his clothes. Quite often, she felt dire need to drink some cold water but there was no way out. Makhan Lal had purchased an earthenware pitcher and both mother and son drank water from this pitcher. She kept herself busy by cooking food and washing clothes at the hand pump. Two sets of Pherans, a PVC sandal and a photograph of Sharika Goddess was all that Tarawati possessed at her new shelter. At daytime, the asbestos sheets over shed no 33  brought all the heat down into the room.

At night they had to bolt their room door from inside. The lone door of their room could not be kept open for fear of snakes. Ventilation was poor. Shed number 33 was never built for human habitation. Tarawati could hardly sleep for a single day in this shed.

In the shed, Tarawati’s new neighbours were from Mattan. One family consisted of a father and son who were always on move. This family had no female with them. Their room was locked for about 20 or 25 days in a month. They were Purohits who kept visiting their Yajmaans in Himachal Pradesh and Punjab. The other family consisted of a husband and wife and a disabled child. The husband had been a peon in some private school at Mattan while his wife was a non-Kashmiri , a Thakkar Rajput from Paddar, Kishtawar. Her name was Pushpa. Pushpa understood Kashmiri words but could not converse in this language . No family had a refrigerator or a cooler to beat the intense heat of June in Kathua region of Jammu.

And then one day Makhan Lal told his mother that he had seen Monjji / Kadam ( Kohlrabi  ) in Kathua Sabzi Mandi.Tarawati was delighted to know it. It connected her immediately with her roots. She remembered how she would go to her kitchen garden in Kupwara and pull out five or six fresh leafy Monjji / Kadams ( Kohlrabi ) and cook them for the family. Every member of the family relished dishes cooked by her. She thought of her lost authority. She thought of her closely-knit family at Kupwara. she thought of Ramesh Kumar her youngest child who fell to the bullets of some cruel gunmen for no-fault. And Ramesh Kumar was fond of Kohlrabi and rice cooked by his Mother.

" I must cook Kohlrabi for Makhan Lal. I will also give it to the family living in the adjacent room. They will  relish it ." This thought suddenly cropped up in her mind and she decided to go to Sabzi Mandi herself.

The Gorkha Chowkidar of the nearby ice factory in the Industrial Estate was known to the the Kashmiri Pandit Families living in shed 33. He lived inside the ice factory along with his wife. Quite often, he would give some ice to the inmates of shed no 33 during evening time and that created a strong bond of goodwill between him and the Kashmiri Pandit families. This Gorkha Chowkidar was fondly known as Bahadur by many locals. None knew his real name.  Rupawati decided to seek help from Bahadur for buying Kohlrabi from Sabzi Mandi , Kathuaa. When she saw Bahadur, she told him:

" Bodhur , monjji sabzi mandi kothva me laata. Vathh na pataa “

" Bahadur, I want to buy some kohlrabi from Sabzi Mandi but don’t know how to go there .”

Bahadur didn’t follow what Tarawati wanted to convey. It was Pushpa who intervened and explained to Bahadur what exactly Tarawati wanted to buy.

Next day Bahadur sent his wife along with Tarawati to Kathua in an auto-rickshaw that had come to collect ice slabs from the factory. Bahadur and his wife would also go to Kathua Bazaar for purchasing vegetables once a week. Any auto-rickshaw or load carrier carrying the ice slabs from the factory to the market would drop them in the main Bazaar.

Inside Sabzi Mandi, Tarawati was delighted to see green leafy Kohlrabi..She bought 2 Kg. She also bought some Pudina ( mint leaves ),  green chillies, half a litre of curd and some bananas. Bahadur’s wife suggested that they return on foot taking a short cut via Parliwand as no direct transport service was available to the industrial estate. It was hot and the midday sun was just sending fireballs down from all sides. Bahadur’s wife and Tarawati walked about 4 Km in the open sun through dusty roads that had no shady tree. She felt an acute headache and got tired in this journey.

Entering  her room, Tarawati drank some glasses of water as she had been feeling a little thirsty and uneasy. She somehow managed to cook Kohlrabi and made Chutney from the mint leaves adding some crushed green Chillies and curd to it. It was 3 p.m.. She had no energy to cook rice or have her lunch. She felt her throat turning dry and  decided to lie down and sleep. She could neither sleep nor stay awake comfortably. With a rapid pulse, she thought she had a fever . Her body turned hot and her face red. She felt like vomiting and experienced a strange numbness in her arms and legs. She had often experienced headaches that resolved with a tablet of Paracetamol. But this time it was something different and her headache did not recede with Paracetamol tablet that she swallowed. She felt a state of confusion and tried to eat a banana but had difficulty in swallowing.

When Pushpa saw Tarawati, she understood that something was wrong with her. She told her husband who went to Bahadur’s room and sought his help. When Bahadur, His wife and Pushpa’s husband came, Tarawati had fainted on ground .She was breathing rapidly. Her entire body was red and dry.

" Mata Ji ko loo laga hai . Hospital jaldi lena hai. “

“ Mata Ji has a heat stroke, she has to be rushed to hospital"

That was what Bahadur said when he rushed out and brought his factory’s load carrier. Supported by Pushpa’s husband, he took Tarawati to District Hospital, Kathua and got her admitted in the Emergency Ward.

Makhan Lal was normally expected to return to shed no 33 at 8 p.m. and so Pushpa’s husband went to his shop and informed him about this sudden development. Makhan Lal immediately rushed to the hospital. By then Tarawati had been examined by the doctors who diagnosed her problem as a serious case of Heat Stroke. Makhan Lal was confused to see his mother with minimum clothes on her body. She was lying unconscious. She was being given water sprays under a full blowing air fan. Dr Gupta, the  attending physician took Makhan Lal to a corner of the  ward  and said :

" Are you her son? "

"Yes sir "

"Your mother is critical. A miracle should happen for her to recover. Her brain, kidneys and muscles are involved. Her body temperature is 107 degrees Fahrenheit at the moment. We are giving her intravenous fluids. We are trying our best to lower her body temperature by fans and cold water sprays. She is dehydrated. Yesterday only, four elderly Kashmiri Pandits died in Jammu Medical College, hospital from this fatal heatstroke. You should not have allowed her to move out in heat especially at midday time. I believe our Health Department needs to come out with an advisory in local newspapers to protect ignorant people from heatstroke ."

Makhan Lal felt sad and gloomy with what the doctor had told him. He passed on this message to his brother from hospital’s landline telephone and Pushker Nath also rushed to Kathua hospital. Tarawati died next day early at 8 a.m.The brothers brought her body to shed No 33. Bahadur informed his factory owner about what had happened who in turn organized Tarawati’s cremation through some Kathua based social organization. Tarawati’s nephews at Patahnkot and Amritsar were also informed from the ice factory’s telephone.

Before cremation, Pushker Nath had spoken to his wife and advised her to inform her brother Omkar Nath about what had suddenly happened in the family. He expected some help from Omkar Nath at that critical juncture. Omkar Nath was a semi-literate  young man who had secured the job of a caretaker in some newly constructed religious Ashram at Dumana on the outskirts of Jammu city. He was also provided with a room to stay by the Ashram management.

After the  cremation of Tarawati was over, the brothers left for Jammu boarding a Punjab Roadways bus outside the gate of Industrial Estate complex, Kathua . Inside the bus, Pushker Nath felt sleepy but some thoughts kept disturbing him. Where shall he immerse the ashes of his mother that were required to be collected after two days ? Where shall he perform day today mourning? Where shall his relatives come for mourning as his 12 by 10 feet room was not sufficient even for his own family? Where shall he perform 11th day and 12th-day rituals of his mother?

All along the journey, Pushkar Nath felt miserable. He kept cursing his fate and also the gunmen who drove them out and put them in this great misery. He was hungry and exhausted.

Next day many relatives of Tarawati read about her demise in “The Daily Excelsior” that carried an obituary like this :


Smt. Tarawati Pandita wife of late Dina Nath Pandita originally a resident of Kupwara presently  Shed No 33 ( old candle factory ), Industrial Estate, Kathua left for her heavenly abode. She  breathed her last in  the District Hospital, Kathua on June 17, 1990.
The tenth day Kriya shall be performed on June 26, 1990, at Canal Road Park  ( opposite Labhu Shah's milk shop ) at 8.30 a.m. Mourning shall be held at Nirankari Ashram, Dumana Jammu (near Petrol Pump ). Mourning from Maluen ( parental ) side at Ashok Kumar Dass Care Royal Medical Hall, Dangu Road, Pathankot and Pran Nath Dass Care Kashmiri Shivala, Katra Sher Singh, Amritsar.

Krishna Ji and Pushker Nath Pandita

( Daughter in law and Son )
Care  Balbir Singh Manhas Paloura Top, Jammu.
Makhan Lal Pandita

(Son )
Care Shed no 33, Industrial Estate, Kathua .

Ashok Kumar Dass

Pran Nath Dass

( Nephews )

( Avtar Mota )              




( This  short story stands translated into Bengali  and is included in the Bangla compilation  of "Modern Kashmiri  Short Stories"  , a book that has  introduction  by Dr. Sugata Bose , Professor of  History , Harvard University , USA .)




Creative Commons License 
CHINAR SHADE by Autarmota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.
Based on a work at http:\\\.