Monday, July 31, 2017

MY SHORT STORY "TARAWATI "


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


                    ( Muthi Jammu ..  1990 Tented accommodation for Kashmiri Pandits   )

 Here is My Short Story TARAWATI.....





                                                                    (TARAWATI   )


After Ramesh Kumar ,  Rupawati’s  youngest son was shot dead  by armed Militants in Kupwara Bazaar  , her family felt frightened   .  Except Ismail Gujri , No neighbour or fellow Pandit   visited their  house   to sympathize with them and  offer   condolences .  They could not weep or wail   over this tragedy.  Except six families ,Almost entire kashmiri Pandit Population of the Town and adjoining villages had already  left  in panic when   armed Militants selected    Pandits as  their soft Targets 

Ismail Gujri   had  visited  their house  at night to offer his condolences . That night he appeared a changed man. No smile or usual  casual talk.  In a Hush Hush 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   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  own children are Moving with Strangers now. We have no hold on these  Young boys.  They hold a Gun in their Hand .  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 Army. I know But who will tell them . Better you leaves 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 day time  because we are also being watched . ”

That was sufficient for Tarawati’s  family  to feel terrorized . They decided to save their lives  and rush to jammu .  Next morning , they left at 4 AM   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 back side of the open truck.  All along the roads right upto Banihaal tunnel , The truck was subjected to Frequent check ups  by men in Uniform deployed at so 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 back side to have tea or  snacks and go for toilet or wash room   if they  so  desired   .  No one dared to come down from the truck  . They remained huddled with their paltry luggage .None sitting in the back side 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 Premises In parade ground jammu . 

At about  7.30 PM , they reached Geeta Bhawan . Jammu was  hot even  at that time. Tarawati  understood how hot it would have been at  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 pleasure stop at that time. But now , jammu appeared a place of embarrassment and  suffering to her .

Geeta Bhawan was crowded with  So many  Families using it as a make shift / 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 terrorized Pandit families Trickling to Jammu from various corners of the state . Tales of killings , Curfews , Hunger and want all over . A  Hall partitioned  with Bed  sheets and sarees  .  kerosene  Stoves in make shift Kitchens , Whistling pressure cookers in open , Men in sleep  under fans , discussions , Noise and  News. 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 AM and she slept at  11 PM . Everything in her family was under her command and control that included the Kitchen ,   kitchen Garden , Rice and Mustard  crops ,  Fruit Orchard, Walnut  Trees and family store room. In jammu , she had nothing to do yet   her sleep had vanished totally. She felt she  had lost her Authority  and identity as well.   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  toilet / wash room everyday. And the only privacy the family had created in Geeta Bhawan Hall  was a cloth partition  . Mattresses , stoves , Buckets  and some  bedding  provided by some social organization were  prized possession for Pushkar Nath’s family now.    Aashoo and Dimpy , his children ,were more than happy in  the openness  of Geeta Bhawan compound . Jammu 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 Roads was something unusual for them  .  Kites flying high in the  sky over Parade ground  attracted their attention.  Quite often, Dimpy would pose strange question 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 Gunmen and Mujahids  ? When shall we go to school ? Who lives in our House at Kupwara now  ? Why didn’t  you bring LIL (  fond name  of  the  Cow that the family had in kupwara  )  and the Nika ( calf ) to Jammu ? We have no  cow Here .Why don’t people wear  Pheran 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 fever ."


Post 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 )m 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 so  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 Government  . And then Vaishnavi ji  has already got  Both the nephews of Mata Ji Adjusted at  Pathankote and  Amritsar . He has provided them 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 in State Government . 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 from your meager 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 have a Vegetable Garden . you don’t grow  rice in your own fields. You don’t get firewood or kitchen fuel free . You don’t get  edible oil from your own crop. You don’t  have your cows to give you free milk. Think something about your own 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 you shall 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 so 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 Armed Militants .   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   ceiling fan hung  from the  roof inside the room  .  Pushkar Nath’s family was required   to share the  toilet cum wash  room  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 Land Lord  Balbir singh Manhas . Balbir Singh Manhas had removed all the broken furniture  from this  room . This  room  was being used as  store by him  for the  last so many years . 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 ,  younger Brother of Pushkar  Nath  who was unmarried. 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  ( no 33 ) in Kathua Industrial Estate. Two more kashmiri   Pandit families from Mattan already lived    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 Godown . The Hall had some rusted old  Machinery embedded to ground ,  old Tin Boxes  and  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 make shift  Toilet cum washroom near  this structure and restored temporary  electric connection for  use by the newly arrived kashmiri  families . The families  used a nearby hand Pump for their water requirement both for cooking and  washing. These families lived absolutely free in this shed  .

 It was june  and unbearably hot  .  Inspite of that , Tarawati  cooked 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  now.
 At daytime , the Asbestos sheets over shed no 33  that were used to make its roof  ,  brought all the heat  down into the room. At night they had to bolt their  room door from inside . The lone  window  of their room  could also not be kept open  for fear of snakes . Ventilation was poor . It had to be as it was never built for human Habitation. Tarawati  could hardly  sleep  for a single day in this   shed.  

 In shed no 33 , 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 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 Thakkar Rajput  from Paddar . Her name was Pushpa . Pushpa  understood kashmiri but spoke very few words . No family had Refrigerator or 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 ( Knol-khol ) 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 ( Knol-khols ) and cook them for the family .  Every one relished  her  Cooked vegetables .  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 Kadam ( Knol Khol )   rice  cooked by his Mother  .

“ I  must Cook Kadam ( Knol -Khol ) for Makhan lal .    I  will also  give it to the family living in 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 near by ice factory  in the Industrial Estate  was known to  the three   kashmiri Pandit Families living in Industrial  Shed No 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 .No one knew his actual name .  And then Rupawati decided to seek help from Bahadur  for buying Kadam( Knol Khol ) from Kathua market.

When she saw  Bahadur   , she told him: 

“ Bodhur , Monjji,  Sabzi  Mandi Kothva  Me laata. Vuthh na pataa “
“ Bahadur , I want to Buy some knoll- khol from Kathua 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 Ice factory . Bahadur and his wife would also go to kathua Bazaar  for purchasing  vegetables once a week. Any auto rickshaw or Load carrier carrying Ice slabs from the factory to the market would drop them in main Bazaar. 


Inside  sabzi Mandi. Tarawati was delighted to see Green leafy Kadam ( Knol-Khol ). She bought two Kgs of kadam (knoll khol). She also Bought some Pudeena ( 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  Industrial estate . It was Hot and the mid day sun was just sending Fireballs down from all sides . Bahadur’s wife and  Tarawati walked about 4 Kms in open sun through dusty roads that had no shady tree  . She  felt acute  Head ache and got  tired  in this journey. 

 Once she entered her room in shed no 33,Tarawati  drank some  glasses  of water as she had been  feeling  a little thirsty and  uneasy . She somehow managed to cook Kadam ( Knol Khol ) and made Chutney from the Mint leaves adding some crushed Green chilies and curd to it. It was 3  PM. She had no energy to cook rice and have her Lunch . she felt her throat turning dry. She decided to lie down and sleep. She  could neither sleep nor stay awake  comfortably  .  With a rapid pulse , She thought she had  fever. Her   Body had also  turned hot and her face red. She felt Like  vomiting  and  experienced a  strange numbness in her arms and legs .  She had often felt  Headaches that resolved with a tablet of  Crocin. But this time it was something different and  her Headache did not  recede with Crocin 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 Emergency.

  Makhan lal was  normally expected to return to shed no 33 at    8 PM 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 Doctors who diagnosed her problem as  a case of serious 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 attending Physician   took Makhan lal to  a corner of the ICU  ward   and said :

“ Are  you her son ? Okay  . 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 fluid . We are trying our best to    lower her Body temperature by fans and cold water sprays  . She is totally dehydrated . Yesterday only four elderly Pandits died in  Jammu Medical College Hospital from this Fatal heat Stroke . You should not have allowed her to move out during  this mid day sun.  I believe  our Health Department needs to  come out with  an Advisory  In Local Newspapers to protect ignorant  people  from Heat  stroke ."

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 8AM. The brothers brought her to shed No 33 from hospital. 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 Patahnkote and Amritsar were also  informed from 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 but clever 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 a room to stay by the Ashram Management 


After  Cremation of Tarawati  was over ,the brothers left for Jammu  boarding a  Punjab Roadways Bus outside the gate of Industrial Estate complex .In 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”  newspaper  that carried an obituary like this ..

                                                            
                   Obituary 

Smt. Tarawati Pandita Wife of late Dina Nath Pandita Originally resident of kupwara Presently   Industrial shed No 33 (   old  Candle factory ) , Industrial Estate kathua left for her heavenly abode . She   Breathed her last In Government District Hospital kathua  on 17th  June 1990 .    Tenth day shall be performed on 26th  June 1990 at Canal Road Park    Ghat ( Opposite Labhu Shah Milk seller shop ) .   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 Pathankote and  Pran Nath Dass  Care  Kashmiri Shivala  Katra Sher Singh Amritsar .

Krishna Ji and Pushker Nath Pandita
( Daughter in law and Son )
 Care of   Balbir singh Manhas  Paloura Top .
Makhan lal  Pandita     
( Son )
Ashok kumar Dass
Pran Nath Dass
( Nephews )
                                                 
( Autar Mota )
 



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